I first met Bruce at an aviation safety conference circa the early 1990’s, in the days when airline safety departments consisted primarily of accident investigators waiting to spring into action at the next plane crash. By that time, Bruce was on his third career, having started as a mechanical engineer at General Motors and subsequently advancing to distinguished service as a pilot in the US Air Force. He was now taking over a leadership role in the flight safety department at Continental Airlines (see his biography here: http://www.sg-collaborative.com/bruce-tesmer ). As impressive as Bruce’s credentials were, I’ll always remember his insatiable curiosity and “out-of-the-box” thinking. Whereas many of our colleagues (at the time) were focused on what the industry could learn from accidents and mishaps, Bruce remained focused on learning what we didn’t know. It was often said of Bruce that he possessed a foresight bias. He was the epitome of being proactive. In fact, years later, when he started his own company, he named it “The Foresight Bias Collaborative.”
One of the many ways in which Bruce was unique was his way of seeing risk from multiple perspectives. As an engineer, the science of system design came naturally to him. But as he worked to more fully understand risk within aviation he mastered the discipline of behavioral science. Bruce had the foresight to invite legendary human factors pioneer Dr. Bob Helmreich into Continental Airlines, and together they advanced the science of Line Operations Safety Audits (LOSA) and Threat and Error Management (TEM), integrating both of these behavior-based strategies into Aviation Safety Action Partnership (ASAP) and Flight Operations Quality Assurance (FOQA) programs. By the end of Bruce’s airline career, he had left an indelible mark on how flight safety programs were run across the nation. And after retirement from Continental, Bruce and Dr. Helmreich, along with John Overton, MD, became partners once again as they worked to bring lessons learned in aviation directly into the healthcare community, where their work continues to this day.
On the morning after being informed of Bruce’s death by John Overton, I opened an unrelated email with a link to YouTube and a series of music videos. Thanks to the engineering magic of internet browsers (my Google account stores my preferences) the first artist that popped up was one of my favorites, Radney Foster, and a song called Angel Flight. It’s a beautiful tribute to our men and women in uniform. For me, the song will always remind me of Bruce, and his unwavering focus on looking ahead. And wherever we’re all headed after our time on earth ends, I have confidence that Bruce will have already arrived, and is working to make it a better place for all of us.
With respect and gratitude from all of us at SGCS,