Vale- Professor Robert Helmreich
Date: 21 July 2012
Dear AAvPA Members,
It is with significant personal sadness that I share the news of the passing of Professor Robert Helmreich.
Professor Helmreich was, without any doubt, one of the most influential scholars in the field of Aviation Psychology and Human Factors. In many respects, he was a visionary as one of the creators of Crew Resource Management (CRM) as we know it today – bringing his already considerable experience in social psychology to the early developmental workshops on CRM. After several decades of pioneering work in this area working hand-in-hand industry he was instrumental in bringing these forms of training interventions into the world of medicine and other high-risk domains.
His contributions spanned CRM development, understandings of safety culture, and more recently the Threat and Error Management Model and the Line Operations Safety Audit. Amongst other notable achievements, these contributions have clearly enabled aviation to become the ultra-safe system which we enjoy today.
Professor Helmreich was a very strong supporter of our association and was was a keynote regularly from the first AAvPA symposium in the early 1990s right through to his retirement. From the first symposium I convened, my fondest memory was of bringing Bob across to Adelaide after the event and facilitating a journey on the Ghan and a locomotive cab-pass to spend time with the drivers. Bob was a passionate fan of the railways, and also a fan of the Australian outback.
In 2007 I had the honour of representing AAvPA at Prof Helmriech's retirement presentation. This was not the first time I had the pleasure of visiting his lab in Austin, but it was certainly the most memorable. On this occasion a large group of aviation and healthcare safety professionals from across the globe came together to celebrate an outstanding professional career and respect the contribution he had made to safety in many industries.
His achievements were many, and his website quotes just a few of the many awards he received across his career "Helmreich received the Flight Safety Foundation Distinguished Service Award in 1994 for his contributions to aviation safety through the study and development of team training techniques (Crew Resource Management) for flight crews. He was also awarded Laurels from Aviation Week and Space Technology in 1994 and 2002 for his research related to human factors in aviation. He received the David S. Sheridan Award from Albany Medical College in 1997. He is a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society and the American Psychological Association. He received the distinguished service award of the Flight Safety Foundation and the Human Factors award of Airbus Industsrie in 2004. He is the 2005 recipient of the Public Service Award of the American Association of Anesthesia Nurses and of the University of Texas College of Liberal Arts Pro Bene Meritis Award".