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Posts Tagged ‘Transmitter Oriented culture

International commercial air-flights fatal accidents are related to “Cultural Differences”?

Three decades ago, International commercial air-flights of a set of countries exhibited a dangerous trend of high fatal accident ratio compared to another set of countries.

Commercial air-flights of Brazil, South Korea, Morocco, Mexico, and the Philippines experienced each over 17 fatal accidents per 4 million departures, compared to countries such as the USA, Ireland, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand. What were the problems?

Mind you that for a fatal accident to take place, at least more than 3 errors (technical and judgment) must occur in succession, each error in itself not being a potential fatal error. It is the combination of minor errors, minor technical malfunctions, bad weather, tired crew and pilot…that set the stage for a calamity.

In a chapter of “Blink” by Malcolm Gladwell, it transpires that 3 problems accounted for this increase in accidents:

1. Cultural communication transmission.  In the countries with the least accidents, the culture is “Transmitter Oriented”: The talker has the responsibility of  speaking up clearly and to the point, in critical moments so that the listener gets the message clear and loud. Many cultures are “Receiver oriented“: The subordinate talker has to convey the statements in hints, in indirect ways what he means to says. It is the responsibility of the listener, the boss, to filter out and attend to what the cultured statement is meant to convey.

In “Receiver oriented” culture, If the boss is tired or not focused on what is being said, the critical message is lost and not attended to.

In most accidents, flight crews, first officer and flight engineer spoke in deference statements to the higher in rank (Pilot Captain).  The errors and bad judgment of the captain were corrected in a polite manner (the danger was not stated unequivocally and bluntly), even when it was too late to respond and correct a fatal decision.

A Colombian plane crashed before landing in JFK simply because it ran out of fuel! The engines caught fire: The flight officer was very shy to tell the ATC that they are completely out of fuel and need to land in emergency. For example:

ATC: “…I’m gonna bring you about 15 miles northeast and then you turn back onto the approach. Is that okay with you? And your fuel?…”

First officer Klotz: “I guess so. Thank you very much. And ah, we’re running out of fuel, sir

Captain Caviedes: “Did you advise that we have no fuel?”

Klotz: “I did. The guy in ATC is angry”

All long-distance planes are running out of fuel before landing. After spending over an hour circling because of very bad weather, the flight officer must have said: “We are totally out of fuel. We request immediate landing…”

Airplanes were in perfect flight conditions, aircrew were without physical limitations, and considered above average in flight ability and practice, and still accidents happened…

A South Korea plane crashed because the flight officer and the crew failed to clearly and directly warn the Captain of the dangerous situation and that his intention of visual landing is not appropriate in the unstable weather condition.  The flight engineer said: “Captain, the weather radar has helped us a lot…” He meant: “This is not a night to rely on just your eyes for landing. Look at what the weather radar is telling: There’s trouble ahead…”

Several of these indirect statements of suggestion, hint, query, and preference statements were uttered with difficulty and hesitation in order to save the face for the higher up in ranking. After all, in the receiver oriented culture, the Captain is the sole responsible for landing the plane safety, and the fight crew are there to obey commands…

The work schedule was exhausting, and the captain was extremely tired and his cognitive mind was not attending properly to the statements that required analysis and consideration…Even “obligation statement” such as “I think we need to deviate right now…” was not in the repertoire of receiver oriented cultures…

2. The second cause is probably deficiency in speaking American English as ATC at JFK hear and understand…as the chapter in Blink want us to believe.

Do you know that the language of all international flights is English? All ATC in international airports should master English, as well as the pilots, flight officers, flight engineers, and flight crew…

The implicit cause is that foreign commercial flight-crew are not trained properly to be at the same wave length with communication culture and protocols as expected by ATC…

And why internal flights in vast countries such as Russia, China, India, Brazil…experience the same dangerous trend, even after decades of international safety regulations and rules? The language should not be the major cause, even though the US insist on giving priority to English as the first major step into training and practice…

3. The third main cause is most probably the exhausting schedule that flight-crew work under in order for commercial companies to generate the most profit… The flight-crews have to depart and land to several airports, and chain this process for several days before taking a deserving rest. Most fatal accidents are combinations of very tired crew, bad weather conditions, and crew well to apathetic to attend to minor errors or transmitting minor errors:  Silence in the cockpit is deafening in these situations

I contend that receiver oriented cultures train captains in separate training centers than the flight officers and flight engineer: These crews do not mingle naturally with Captain pilot and their training centers instill the hierarchy obligation privileges and deference…

I bet that international commercial flight improved their record simply because, in order to train flight-crew that they are all responsible for the safety of passengers and not just the captain, they must learn and train and practice in the same centers as the pilots and Captains…





January 2023

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