Research and Inspiration

How Reliance on Resilient Performance ‘Hides’ or even Contributes to System Brittleness

Master Thesis, Lund University, 2021

Aviation is known to be safe, partly due to highly specialized pilots who undergo extensive training to fulfill and maintain their function at the sharp end.

More demands are placed on the pilots as complexity continues to grow in aviation. This is due to more technology, more rules of compliance, more diversity in operations, and less time to do it all in the aggressive competitive world of aviation. Alongside this grows the increase in demands on the pilot’s adaptive capacities to balance safety and productivity. But is work designed to support and assist resilient performance and consider the well-being of the humans in the system? What constraints influence the adaptive capacities, and what does this mean to the overall performance of a system? More resilient or more brittle?

This thesis explores these questions by incorporating perspectives from a group of pilots (micro-level), a safety department (meso-level), and a group of CAA flight inspectors (macro-level). This is done to better understand what it means to work in an airline and explore whether a ‘dark’ side to the resilient performance potentially influences the system’s overall performance.

Read more…

Is resilience the most valuable skill for a pilot?, September 4th 2017

After the German Wings 9525 crash in 2015 in the French Alps, a survey of pilots mental health was conducted among nearly 2000 pilots in the US and Europe. The results were then published in the Environmental Health journal in December 2016. One of the findings showed that 12.6 % of the pilots were on the threshold of clinical depression. The survey cast light on a reality distorted by taboos and the preconceived notion of what pilots are supposed to be like. Pilots, of course, are no different from other people, and they do experience the same ups and downs as everybody else.

Do personality differences in the cockpit impair performance?, October 11th 2017

Why did the first officer on Air India IX-812 fail to take over the controls from the captain after asking for a go-around 3 times? While multiple factors led to the accident, the crew interaction and personalities definitely played their part as well. I will get back to this later.

Most of my days on the job are characterised by good crew interaction where synergy seems to flourish in the cockpit, but some days are just more of a struggle to get through.

Read more…

Why is mental health stigmatized in aviation?, October 20th 2017

The stigma surrounding mental health issues among pilots seems to be a current topic in aviation, yet being open and honest is seen as a weakness, rather than a strength. Pilots especially are perceived as made of “the right stuff”. It sort of comes with the job, that you are capable of performing anytime, anywhere.

A few years back I attended my annual CRM recurrent training. At one point we were informed about the high numbers of cabin crew being sick due to stress. I asked: “How big a problem is stress among the pilots?” The instructor looked at me with surprise and replied: “We do not have any reports from the cockpit, you are the one who is supposed to take care of the cabin crew”. Nobody commented further on that subject.

Read more…