Poised and trim, with close-cropped graying hair, Carl Gouaux, 51, has the bearing of a military man. He comes by it honestly, after 25 years in two branches of military aviation – Marines and Air Force.
Gouaux flew helicopters in the Marine Corps and in the Air Force flew C-5 transports, one of the largest airplanes ever built.
Today he’s Dominion Aviation’s Safety Manager, as well as a Captain on one of Dominion’s Gulfstream jets. He’s been at Dominion since 2015 and continues to serve in the Air Force Reserve, with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.
Gouaux oversees Dominion’s Safety Management System (SMS). SMS is not required by the FAA, but it’ an industry best practice that Dominion has embraced since 2006.
Dominion’s SMS began in the charter department and has spread to the fixed-base operation, so that everyone at the airport can benefit, said Mike Mickel, CEO. In addition to charter, line service, maintenance, flight training and even customer service participate.
Gouaux said Dominion’s SMS is organized a little differently from its military equivalents, but uses similar methods and goals. In both cases, the goal is to look for hazards, analyze risks and tactically reduce them.
“Aviation is fundamentally risky on a good day,” Gouaux explained. Yet effective risk management can make it the very safest way to travel.
Dominion assigns every charter flight a risk score before it’s ever launched. If the risk is too high, something in the flight plan has to change.
But safety management is more than assessing risk, Gouaux continued. “We also take a daily and weekly look at how we’re doing business and reduce risks before you even get to the risk assessment.
“We rely on the whole company to file [SMS] reports, spotting problems whether they can suggest a solution or not. That’s the power of the SMS program. It allows individuals to contribute to the overall safe operation of the company. The power of many can be a tremendous force.”
Gouaux’s job is at Dominion Aviation, but he’s a resource for everyone at the airport. “I invite other operators to communicate with me [on safety issues],” he said. “I’m sort of an ombudsman for safety, a clearing house. I may not be the final destination [for a question or concern], but I can get it to the right place.”