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I was booked on a nonstop flight from Detroit to Seattle to attend a biosafety compliance conference. Everyone had
boarded, and we were waiting for the crew to
close the cabin doors and push back from the
gate for an on-time departure. I was
enjoying that rarest of economy class
luxuries, an exit row all to myself.
Then the captain came on the
intercom and said there’d be a short
delay in leaving: A technician was
just finishing a repair to something on
the first officer’s side of the cockpit. A
few minutes later the captain was back on the
intercom and said that the repair was completed,
but the technician, who by this time had already
left, wrote on the worksheet that the repair
was done on the captain’s side of the cockpit.
The captain said he could understand how the
mistake happened, but the notation had to be
corrected before we could leave the gate.
It took another 20 minutes for the
technician to return and fix the paperwork
error. (The airline doesn’t have a large
presence at DTW, so it apparently outsources
its maintenance.) The captain could probably
have overlooked the incorrect notation, taken
off on schedule, and corrected the error after
landing in Seattle. What would have been the
harm of that? But he chose to remediate the
I wrote a note on the back of my business
card and asked a flight attendant to pass it up
front: “Captain, I appreciate your commitment
to maintaining accurate records.”
I’ve been wondering what drove this
insistence on doing the right thing, no matter
the inconvenience. Was it the pilot’s personal
integrity or corporate culture?
I checked the airline’s Code of Conduct
and Ethics. It says all the right things,
starting with a personal statement from the
Chairman of the Board and going through
Speak Up!, Prohibition against Retaliation, and
Non-Punitive Reporting. So there is a source
document that defines the corporate culture;
this pilot embodies it.
Postscript: We arrived in Seattle early. ✵
Personal integrity or corporate culture?
Robert Bienkowski, PhD, CIP, CHRC is the Director of the Office of Research
Compliance at Central Michigan University.