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Meet Our 2024 Safety Champions

Meet Our 2024 Safety Champions

Published 06-19-24

Submitted by American Airlines

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At American Airlines, there is nothing more important than safety — it’s engrained in every flight, every job, every day. American’s Safety Champion Award recognizes team members who go above and beyond in the name of safety. They provide ideas and insights and are leaders at their work location with one common goal: keeping American’s customers and team members safe.

On June 10, 40 honorees — who came from as far as Dublin, Honolulu and São Paulo, and represent numerous work groups across the airline — were recognized as 2024 Safety Champions at a celebration dinner in Fort Worth, Texas.

“From gestures like mentoring new pilots or participating in safety committees to helping develop bump caps that led to a reduction in head injuries — you are the best of the best,” said David Seymour, American’s Chief Operating Officer, who spoke to the group at the celebration dinner. “I commend each and every one of you for your hard work, and most importantly, dedication to safety each and every day.”

Meet five of the 40 team members who had a positive impact on our safety culture this year.

Charlotte Douglas International Airport crew group photo

Fred Butts — Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT)

Fred Butts is a crew chief on the ramp at Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT). He joined American in 2015 from the automotive industry where he also focused on safety. At American, he’s led various safety initiatives, including designing specific ramp markings for parking baggage carts in the gated environment. His work reduced traffic conflicts and improved safety when connecting baggage drivers deliver bags to the gate area. He’s also been recognized for his advocacy for hearing protection.

Two crew members talking to each other next to an aeroplane

“It’s not just about me. Everyone on my team is 100% committed to safety. When we bring on new team members, I sit down with them and find out what their commitment to safety is, too,” Fred said about the team he leads — which includes all ages and backgrounds. Fred says he wants his team to come to work every day and leave in the same condition. He owes his dedication to safety to his mother’s hard-working mentality, and an 18-wheeler accident his father was in when Fred was young.

Team photo at Dublin Airport

Leanne McGarry — Dublin Airport (DUB)

Leanne McGarry is the general manager for American’s Ireland operation. Leanne joined American in 2022 from a different airline, which she says is a “full circle moment” having begun her career with US Airways in 2011. With American’s return to Ireland post-pandemic, she hired a new team of 60 people at Dublin Airport (DUB). She saw this as an opportunity to build a new culture — one that’s based on safety above all else. “Planes will come and go, but if somebody doesn’t go home, that is a life,” she said.

Leanne McGarry stood in front of an airport window

Leanne strengthened American’s relationships with local law enforcement by proactively inviting them to provide training on how to better manage safety and security issues at the airport. This initiative, a first among airline managers at DUB, highlights Leanne's dedication to maintaining a safe environment for team members and customers. She also created an inspiring video focusing on ramp safety, when trying to teach her team and build culture.

Leanne owes her dedication to safety to a fatal incident involving the team member of another airline that operated at DUB earlier in her career. Her unwavering integrity, accountability and genuine concern for people make her a true Safety Champion.

Felipe Pierri Schmidt stood in front of an engine

Felipe Pierri Schmidt — São Paulo-Guarulhos International Airport (GRU)

Felipe Pierri Schmidt is a stock clerk at São Paulo/Guarulhos International Airport (GRU). He’s had aviation in his blood since he was young, as his father was a flight attendant for another airline for 35 years. Felipe joined American in 2010, gaining leadership in the safety realm and establishing a reputation for bringing ideas and suggestions that make our operations at GRU more efficient as well.

Two people stood next to each other smiling inside an aeroplane

For example, he championed using new protectors on forklift forks to prevent equipment damage and potential accidents. His idea not only improved team member safety, but also reduced material damage and waste.

To him, no detail is too small when protecting his team and the customers they serve. “Life is the most important thing. We all have family waiting for us at home,” he said.

A person taking a selfie in front of an aeroplane

Captain Bridget Van Scoy — Philadelphia International Airport (PHL)

Bridget Van Scoy is a Boeing 787 captain based out of Philadelphia International Airport (PHL). She’s dedicated to enhancing aviation safety and serves as the Deputy Chair of the Allied Pilots Association’s National Safety Committee. She prides herself on using a data-driven approach when it comes to improving safety standards at American.

“Maintaining a safe workplace and healthy environment for team members and customers is the most important thing we can do as an airline,” she said. “I am honored to be a part of developing and promoting initiatives to continually support the strong foundation of our safety culture."

Bridget is a true leader for female pilots. She even inspired both her son and daughter in their careers — they are now pilots for American as well. Her keen eye for all things safety makes her a clear Safety Champion.

Captain Bridget Van Scoy wearing uniform inside an airport

Gretchen Yerger — Lehigh Valley International Airport (ABE)

Gretchen Yerger is a staff assistant at Lehigh Valley International Airport (ABE). Having worked in safety roles her entire career, she started with American eight years ago. She takes pride in the topic and continues to take college courses about safety to keep up to date on the latest knowledge and best practices. “It’s a personal passion I’ve had for nearly 35 years,” Gretchen said. Before her time, there wasn’t a safety board in the hallway — which reminds team members of the importance of safety. She also created an award to recognize the “Safety team member of the month.”

Gretchen often takes time to teach her fellow team members proper lifting techniques, coordinate monthly safety meetings, run safety fairs and be an advocate for ensuring all practices are current. She won’t settle when safety is on the line.

“I always say people were put on this earth to live, love and give hugs,” said Gretchen. She claims that even on tough days, she encourages the team to find something to smile and laugh about. Her attention to detail is crucial to American’s ABE operation, and her colleagues agree that she’s helped build “an operation of caring and watching out for each other.”

Three pilots walking through an airport with their suitcases


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