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PETE McCARTHY  PhD candidate, FRAeS



The Team

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Pete is Group Head of Human Factors following 5 years of research and teaching, in the post of Senior Lecturer in Human Factors and Accident Investigation at Cranfield University. During this time he has developed and presented safety and accident investigation training across many High Reliability Organisation (HRO) sectors including aviation and healthcare.


Prior to joining Cranfield University as an academic member of staff, Pete served for 32 years in the British Army. Spending 25-years as an army pilot and aircraft commander, he has seen operational military service all over the world. Fortunate enough to fly many different military helicopters, his last operational post was as the senior military instructor at the Apache Flight Simulator, UK Attack Helicopter Force (AHF).


Pete’s final military tour was as an Air Accident Investigator with the Military Air Accident Investigation Branch, working alongside the UK AAIB at Farnborough. As an Operations investigator he was able to put the Human Factors theory he has learned and developed over many years to good practice whilst investigating a number of serious, high profile aviation accidents. This prior experience included working as a Crew Resource Management Instructor (CRMI), Crew Resource Management Instructor Examiner (CRMIE) and senior Human Factors specialist.


Pete has a BSc (Hons) psychology, a Post Graduate Certificate in Education (PGCE), a Post Graduate Certificate in Safety and Accident Investigation and is an accredited Human Factors specialist with the European Association of Aviation Psychology (EAAP) and a Technical Member of the Chartered Institute for Ergonomics and Human Factors. He is currently working on a PhD research project, which addresses the following: “Investigating Human Performance in Complex Socio-Technical Systems” and maintains the academic status of Visiting Fellow at Cranfield University.

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Valerie has been flying worldwide for 28 years. Experienced on both Boeing and Airbus, she currently flies long haul on the Boeing 777 and has a background in flight operations risk and safety management, mainly in incident investigation, with experience of FRMS, wellbeing, safety training and promotion and evolving the SMS. Her external work includes working groups with ICAO, the Flight Safety Foundation and projects with the British Airline Pilots Association.


She is also the Chair, Head of Technical and Safety and a Liveryman for the Honourable Company of Air pilots Hong Kong region, a body that promotes excellence in aviation. She sits on their International Technical Forum and Training and Standards Technical Group. In previous airlines, Valerie was part of the crisis management team and taught security to air crew.

Valerie currently uses her Human Factors skills and aviation experience to develop ways to implement the latest science behind safety management and resilience engineering. Her aspirations are to better understand and increase safety in aviation and develop ways to bring the latest safety science into practice.

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Rick Howell is an accomplished professional with extensive experience in aviation safety and risk management. His career includes a tenure as the General Manager for Group Safety and Operational Risk Management at Cathay Pacific Airways, Cathay Dragon, and Air Hong Kong. His responsibilities included safety, security, quality, business resilience, operational risk and accident/incident investigation. Prior to his role at Cathay Pacific Airways, Rick served as the Manager of Airline Safety Investigation, where he conducted in-depth incident and accident investigations. His expertise and attention to detail were honed through earlier positions at the Hong Kong Government Flying Service, Royal Hong Kong Auxiliary Airforce, Air Europe and the Royal Air Force.

Currently working as an Independent Board Safety Adviser for the Qantas Group, Rick provides invaluable assurance to the main board through the Committee for Health, Environment, Safety & Security (CHESS). His expertise lies in identifying and effectively managing operational hazards, while also conducting thorough reviews of risk management processes to improve and evolve operational safety. Rick believes in fostering a strong safety culture within an organisation.

Currently, Rick also holds the position of Senior Vice President in Operational Risk Consulting (Aviation & Aerospace) at Marsh McLennan. In this role, he plays a vital role in assessing risk maturity for clients and offers support in establishing robust safety risk management and governance systems. He also provides valuable insights beyond traditional insurance brokerage services, contributing to the overall safety and success of aviation clients. With his wealth of experience and dedication to safety, Rick Howell continues to make significant contributions to the fields of safety management and risk consultancy.

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