Aircraft Accidents and Chocolate

Last month I participated in a panel discussion; I love talking aviation, especially the aspects of it I’m not as familiar with. During the Q&A, one questioner debated about information showing trends in aviation safety, how following the bouncing dollar sign can illuminate gaps in the safety net, thus preventing accidents. But is that realistic?
I’m sure that today everything can be reduced to a number; whether the number of hurricanes can affect the environment or how much chocolate is too much. But I’ve found the aviation industry is far too complex; its diversity is too unpredictable; the integrity of such an enterprise is not so easily catalogued.
Aviation is multi-faceted; the more one digs into, say, an airline’s structure, it’s like the Lernaean Hydra: when you cut off a head, two replace it. There are so many complicated levels to track, each feeding into another facet.
I remember the bean counters at my old airline, Brand X, tried to dictate man-hours for conducting maintenance. They averaged man-hours for specific tasks performed on, e.g. a B727 main gear lube. Something as common place as a gear lube is impossible to nail down to a time. Why? Because, for one thing, the gear lube task card includes visual inspections, which, on an old bird like a B727, is an adventure in the unexpected.
Ironically, the attaching of specific accomplishment times to a task card would have a counter-effect: it would force an up-and-coming mechanic to perform the task in the allotted time, thus missing out on identifying discrepancies found during a closer examination of the gear.
Did I just collapse my own argument? Can trend data be obtained by analysis? Perhaps, perhaps not. I don’t think it was how the questioner meant to make their point. Take the chocolate question above: How many conditions can you introduce that play havoc on the data? Is the test subject allergic to chocolate? Are they diabetic? Is it semi-sweet, dark, or milk chocolate?
Trust me, aircraft maintenance is a lot more complicated than chocolate.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *