Captain Niall Downey FRCSI

Pilot, Aer Lingus & Owner, Frameworkhealth

Combining his medical and aviation experience, Captain Niall Downey FRCSI is an expert in safety and error management and frequently advises governments, major corporations and the health industry on these subjects. Niall qualified as a doctor from Trinity College Dublin in 1993. He then trained as a surgeon and earned his fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland (FRCSI) in 1997. His subspecialty training in cardiothoracic surgery led to him working as a registrar for the National Cardiac Surgery Unit in Dublin. In 1999, Niall retrained as an airline pilot. For six years, he worked full-time in aviation alongside being an A&E doctor before fully dedicating himself to aviation. In 2010, after operating as a co-pilot on Aer Lingus’ European and transatlantic fleets, Niall qualified as a captain. He currently captains the Airbus A330 transatlantic passenger fleet. Drawing on his 35 years of experience, Niall formed Frameworkhealth Ltd in 2011, a company providing aviation-style safety training for organisations. Sharing aviation’s Safety Management System with all other industries, Niall aims to tackle adverse events, encourage companies to adopt a Just Culture, embed a systemic Human Factors approach and empower employees to speak up. In 2016, Niall became the Expert Advisor to the Northern Ireland Executive’s new Improvement Institute which sought to integrate aviation strategies into healthcare to address human error. That same year, he delivered a TEDx talk outlining how healthcare could use aviation’s experience to reduce tragic outcomes and improve patient safety. Niall has contributed articles to specialist journals and appeared in national newspapers such as the Irish Times. He has also been interviewed on RTE TV News, Virgin Media and BBC Radio. In 2023, Niall released ‘Oops! Why Things Go Wrong’, a book on the increasingly topical issue of error across industries and society. Sharing his experience, Niall delves into human error management and illustrates how individuals have become susceptible to mistakes due to new technologies and pressurised work environments. Niall is also a professional cyclist, having raced for 13 years at national level for Ilex C.C. in Derry, Orwell Wheelers in Dublin and Phoenix C.C. in Belfast. 

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