By Check-6

Check-6 Co-CEO Speaks to Pilots and FAA Safety Organization

July 25, 2018—Houston TX—Maintaining mission safety was the theme as the former TOPGUN instructor, LtCol USAF (Ret.) Yarko “JJ” Sos spoke to pilots and the Houston area’s FAA Safety Team meeting. The event took place Tuesday evening, July 24th at the West Houston Airport’s Main Terminal Building. 

Sos is a retired Naval Aviator who once ran the United States Navy Fighter Weapons School known as TOPGUN. In his role there, he had the ultimate insider’s view of the importance of communication and leadership during strategic missions. 

“People assume TOPGUN is all about flying,” Sos said. “While flying is an important part of the program, the main focus is on creating experts at mission planning, briefing, execution and debriefing. A TOPGUN flight that lasts one hour will be followed by a 4 to 9 hour debrief of every aspect of execution. The debrief is where the real training occurs.”

Sos knows this from his personal experience in the Navy.  

“My first combat mission over Bagdad as an F-14 Tomcat fighter pilot in the 1991 Gulf War was a bomber escort mission.” Sos said. “The mission was flown in the middle of the night, and we assumed the threat to us was the large, and well-equipped Iraqi Air Force.  We assumed they would launch many aircraft and attempt to shoot us down.  We spent a lot of time briefing complicated tactics and Rules of Engagement.  In reality, by the third night of the war the Iraqi Air Force had essentially stopped flying, and we saw no enemy fighter aircraft that night, or for the rest of the war.  What we did encounter, however, was a lot of surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) and AAA (Anti-Aircraft Artillery).”

Sos continued: "Many of the aircraft in the formation became separated from each other and there was lot of confusion. When we debriefed the mission our squadron completely changed briefing priorities for subsequent flights. Instead of complicated tactics, we spent a lot of time talking about basics of formation flying, SAM and AAA defense, and good navigation.  We recognized the real threat, and adjusted our briefs accordingly.”

Sos says pilots and the FAA, like many government and private high-reliability organizations need to have consistent debriefs in order to decide:

• What went right

• What went wrong

• How can we do better in the future

High-reliability organizations can pay dearly when debriefs are ignored. Sos is Co-CEO at Check-6, Inc., along with formal Navy aviator Brian “Bru” Brurud. The company provides a wide variety of leadership, training and safety products for high-reliability industries. 

Scott Vaughn is the Lead FAASTeam Rep for West Houston Airport (IWS.)

“JJ Sos has a wealth of information from his time flying missions in the Navy,” said Vaughn. “His words brought to mind again the importance of consistency in the debrief, in order to provide safety on each and every flight.”


Yarko “JJ” Sos