Gourdji Recognized With Air Safety Award

Credit: Nigel Howarth/AWST

Henry Gourdji, the long-time International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) executive credited with starting and leading the expansion of the organization’s state-level safety oversight program, was named the 2021 recipient of the Laura Taber Barbour Air Safety Award.

Gourdji, a former Transport Canada official, retired from ICAO earlier this year after more than two decades—most of which was dedicated to building the Universal Safety Oversight Audit Program (USOAP). Launched in 1999 with a focus on flight operations, USAOP was ICAO members’ response to growing concern over the ability and quality of safety-oversight systems in many countries. Under Gourdji’s leadership, the program has expanded into other industry domains, including air navigation.

Today, USAOP audits focus on an aviation authority’s "capability in providing safety oversight” by assessing how effectively ICAO’s standards and recommended practices and related procedures and guidance are implemented, ICAO explains. The audit focuses on eight “critical elements" that make up a safety oversight system, including “technical guidance tools” and providing safety-critical information. ICAO breaks safety oversight systems into seven general components, including aircraft maintenance manuals.

"The work we do is solely to improve aviation safety, and fortunately for us, it's not work when it's our passion,” Gourdji said. "So we strive for zero fatalities—zero accidents. Because one fatality, one accident is just one too many.”

Gourdji accepted the 65th annual Laura Taber Barbour award Sept. 22 during the 2021 Flight Safety Foundation International Air Safety Conference. Past recipients include former NTSB board member and airline maintenance expert John Goglia, former NTSB chairman Robert Sumwalt, and long-time FAA senior safety executive Peggy Gilligan.

Sean Broderick

Senior Air Transport & Safety Editor Sean Broderick covers aviation safety, MRO, and the airline business from Aviation Week Network's Washington, D.C. office.