Along with poor financial health, a shortage of experienced personnel, fatigue and tough work practices were considered the greatest dangers to air safety, mirroring concerns expressed in an Ascend survey last year. This year, fears over complacency had significantly increased.
The results come shortly after Captain Chesley Sullenberger’s comments that cost cutting practices, putting pressure on airline staff, are threatening safety. Speaking about his successful landing of US Airways flight 1549 in New York’s Hudson river, he said, “One way of looking at this might be that, for 42 years, I’ve been making regular deposits in this bank of experience: education and training. And on January 15th the balance was sufficient so that I could make a very large withdrawal.” Sullenberger is alarmed at practices, which he fears threaten that bank.
Ascend Safety director Paul Hayes agrees with the sentiment. “Industry cutbacks are causing concerns. Aviation personnel are aware that they are working harder for less money, and they link this with increased risks to safety,” he says.
“However, these views need to be balanced with the fact that safety is expected to continue improving over the next five years thanks to better technology and management accountability for safety. It follows that respondents overwhelmingly placed responsibility for continued improvement with management. They feared that inexperience, fatigue and complacency threaten the value of safety improvements.”
Almost 200 aviation insiders from over 40 countries responded to the survey, conducted in March by Ascend.
Ranking safety threats from 1 (least important) to 10 (most important), most insiders rated: a shortage of experienced personnel at +7; airline financial health +7, management experience and culture +8; fatigue/difficult work practices +7; and complacency +6.
“It’s important for aviation management to take these views onboard and respond accordingly, seeking to balance economic challenges with appropriate levels of safety training and sound work practices, says Hayes.”
Observations by respondents supported these views:
“Airline management irresponsibly views safety as an additional cost.”
“Safety is about attitude and accountability.”
“Cost is the problem in all areas.”
“Top down emphasis on safety is what brings it to the fore.”
“Pilots must be trained to immediately to go to manual to avoid secondary impacts.”
For charts on survey results: