Australian aviation safety : a systemic investigation and case study approach
Aviation represents a complex socio-technical system in which a strong emphasis is placed upon safe operation. Advances in this area have traditionally been reactive following particular incidents or accidents. As the traditional accident causes (predominantly technical engineering factors) have become better understood, the need for proactive solutions to counteract the increasing proportion of human performance related accidents has grown. This thesis proposes and utilises case-study research methodology to examine the reasons behind Australia's good record for airline safety. At the time of writing, no lives have been lost in an Australian jet passenger aircraft accident. The methodology is designed to advance the application of systemic safety investigation in order to avoid the traditional "primary-cause focussed safety investigations" which are generally used following accidents. Having established the safety record for commercial jet RPT (regular public transport) operations to be above average, a number of factors which may have an effect on that record are reviewed. The analysis is divided into three main sections, namely the human, operational and natural environments. Evidence used comes from a variety of sources so as to ensure validity. Data collection methods included primary data obtained through expert witness interviews and attitude surveys of 2,600 Australian and British flight crew and air traffic controllers. Secondary data came from extensive literature reviews which have attempted to bring together existing micro-level research work in a systems context. Initial conclusions point to the existence of a number of natural environment factors which are perceived to have a major effect on flight safety. However, deeper examination has suggested that there are a number of cultural factors within the human and operational environments which exist at professional, corporate, industry and national levels. These have contributed to the quality and quantity of risk countermeasures which have been instrumental in creating the good safety record. This thesis explores the importance of these influences and how they may be changing in the current and future aviation environment.