Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Dr. Warren Jensen


The study conceptualized Safety Management System (SMS) initiative, self-efficacy, and transformational safety leadership as constructs that relates to safety behavior (measured by safety compliance and safety participation) when mediated by safety motivation using a concurrent-triangulation approach. The study also evaluated the relationship between safety behavior and safety -related events. Structural equation modeling techniques was used to derive a final measurement model that fit the empirical data and was used to test the study hypotheses. Utilizing a sample of 282 collegiate flight students and instructors from a large public university, a 46-item survey was conducted to measure respondent’s perceptions on the study variables. Semi- structured interviews were also conducted with 4 top-level management personnel to sample their opinions on the effectiveness of the SMS initiative. Factual safety performance data on the flight program over a six-year period was analyzed to complete a triangulation approach. The results indicate that perceptions of SMS policy implementation have direct, positive effect on safety compliance and SMS process engagement has direct, positive effect on safety participation. Self-efficacy had direct, positive effect on both safety compliance and safety participation. Safety motivation fully mediated the effect of transformational safety leadership on safety participation. Safety –related events did not fully mediate the effect between safety compliance and safety participation. There were indications that respondents were not familiar with the Emergency Response Plan. An ANOVA suggests that certified flight instructors significantly had better safety participation and safety compliance than pre-private pilots did. Senior significantly had better safety participation than juniors. A T-test of mean did not reveal any significant differences in safety participation and safety compliance between respondents with formal SMS training and those without. A review of factual safety data suggests a positive effect on the safety reporting and safety meeting attendance among respondents due to the SMS initiative. Interviews revealed that top-level management support, resource provision and resilience are key elements in the success of any SMS initiative. The theoretical and policy implications of this study to improve proactive safety in collegiate aviation are discussed.