I think the fact that a pilot was fired from the airline for calling an evacuation is all we need to know about their safety culture. Even if there is nothing wrong with an aircraft, a pilot should never be fired for doing what made him feel most safe.
See, now I totally disagree. Even this airline gave him a lot of latitude to do what he thought was best, even though it was highly-questionable whether in fact what he did was best.
What the guy did was divert for a passenger claiming to smell smoke that nobody could see and few could smell. Which happens a lot more times each day than there are diversions for it. But, hey, if he wants to divert because he's uber-cautious, okay, swell.
He then decided to stop on the active runway when there was no apparent reason to do so.
Then after being told by ARFF that there was no visible smoke or fire of any kind, he decided to pop the slides and evacuate on the active runway anyway. Not try taxiing to the gate with ARFF following him, or moving somewhere where the pax could be evacuated by airstairs. Nope. Down the slides on the active. Where people are 100-percent guaranteed to be injured. Now, me, I wonder whether this is some kind of stunt in pilot negotiations, but apparently the airline didn't fire him even for that. They took him at his word that he was scared.
What he apparently was fired for was the attitude that they got when they tried to retrain him that there are procedures that would have actually increased passenger safety that he should consider.
His actions almost-indisputably made his passengers LESS safe than they would have been had normal procedures for an incident like this been followed. To me, without all the facts, there's a strong suspicion that (assuming that he wasn't doing some kinda stunt) he got tunnel vision from the adrenaline or otherwise and carried out procedures as if the aircraft were actually on fire. Tunnel-vision. Brain-lock. Kind of like that guy in Hawaii who sent out the missle warning. (Further investigation on the Hawaii guy suggested that in several previous drills, where everyone understood that they were doing a drill, he had suffered a kind of brain lock in which he was convinced that missles/tsunamis/giant-green-monsters -- whatever they were drilling on -- were actually incoming. He then had to be prevented from firing off a real warning message. Stupidly, they didn't relieve the guy, despite the fact that something plainly was wrong with him, nice person though he may be. The airline plainly thought that there was something wrong with this captain, and they let him go.
It wasn't about firing somebody for acting at the highest degree of safety. It was firing him for his refusal to even consider that there were SAFER ways to react at various points of this incident sequence.
The bottom line is that the airline KNEW it was going to take this kind of crap from an overly-simplistic, sound-bite-driven, knowledgeless group of armchair analysts, and felt so strongly that he needed not to work there that they let him go anyway. It isn't that their safety-culture sucked; it's that knowing how this could be spun, they fired him anyway and upheld the firing upon review, because they didn't want a guy with whatever his condition is flying their aircraft.
That's my understanding of it, anyway. It doesn't help anyone if the crew pops the slides every time a coffee pot overheats or someone sees air conditioning condensation and thinks it's smoke. This actually imperils passengers.