Aircraft Accidents and Intensity

Two years ago, my experienced accident investigator friend, Bob, read my first book: The Air Crash Files: Jet Blast; Bob’s forgotten more than I’ll ever know.  We had lunch, where he stated, unequivocally, that my book did not teach him anything new about accident investigation.  I stopped his commentary, saying, “Bob, I didn’t write it for you.  I wrote it for people who want to read about the topic; people who have an interest in accident investigation.”

One of the reasons I write articles for my website is to speak to the next generation, the torch grabbers that follow my generation in aviation.

I received a video in LinkedIn; a motivational speaker, Simon Sinek, was communicating some points about Consistency versus Intensity.  I, however, unintentionally pulled something else from the video.  It had to do with applying On-the Job Training (OJT) – or any training – to the job; how and when to apply what is learned is just as important as the quality of the training.

Mister Sinek pointed out that we’re a passionate society, wanting instant results – intensity – because it’s easy to measure, paying the least attention to the details necessary for success.  He stated that management types attend seminars with a couple of speakers, everyone gets certificates and – BAM – they’re leaders.  Why?  Because the certificate says so.  But what have these leaders actually learned that’s applicable to the real world?

It seems, these days, that fewer people are interested in consistency, putting in the necessary effort over a longer period of time.  Even when learning a new job, many are too anxious to move past the toil of being properly instructed – I mean the Tab-‘A’-into-Slot-‘B’; righty-tighty, lefty-loosey, type of instructed. Too quick to break out of the gate, there are those unprepared for taking control.  Do these same people feel brave enough to admit when they’re overwhelmed, unqualified, scared?

It’s not always the fault of an overzealous personality; there may be incentives tied to being overenthusiastic.  In some areas of government, for instance, the desire for accomplishing all one’s training is encouraged by pay grade raises; not exactly a productive way to inspire one to learn their job.  First, one’s training is reliant on a senior trainer’s desire – to be ‘in-the-mood’ – to instruct, especially in some offices where senior trainers are not known for empathy.  In addition, what value is attached to training quality that comes second to rushing through the training process.

As those enter the workforce – or re-enter, as it may – what kind of trainee do we wish to be?  Do we want to get trained quick or do we want to get trained right?  I’ve stood on the flight deck three minutes to pushback; staring at the Attitude Indicator doing something silly; the Captain looking at me for answers; and I have no idea what the cause is.  I could have pulled a circuit breaker, reset it and hoped it made me look smart; hoped the aircraft didn’t fault in flight – or worse.  Or I could have done what I did, and say, “I’ll take the delay; I’m calling Maintenance Control for help.”  The Captain?  He looked annoyed.  But I figured: Hey, the life I save, could be his own.

In aviation there are several forms of training we employ: On-the Job Training, computer-based and stand-up (instructor-based).  I’ve been exposed to all three; they each have their strengths and weaknesses, but I’ve always felt that OJT has the longest lasting effect on the instructed.

I’ve sat through hours of computer-based training, listened to the computer drone on, often repeating irrelevant information while flying through the ‘good stuff’.  It’s not like sitting with the HAL 9000 computer, one that interacts, answers questions and can pull knowledge out of billions of files.  It’s a screen that’s the equivalent of a slide show.  There’s no feedback; the computer projects information, but can’t answer a simple question.

Stand-up-based instruction is better, lots of interaction, levity, war stories.  Most likely the instructors are out of the field for several years, retired and stayed, or are teaching, e.g. engine repair, lessons that they learned in a teach-the-teacher class.  They do, however, have the ability to get the class talking, perhaps help with questions they never heard before.  The fact is, it works because the class works together.

OJT is, without a doubt, the best form of instruction.  It’s hands on, get dirty all the way past your elbows, clothes stained, hydraulic fluid running down your arms.  All the while, the instructor is making sure you are getting it right; that, ‘though they look the same, a B737 and an Airbus A320 are very different, and here’s why’ kind of way.  And the more consistent you are in relearning the previously learned, the better you’ll be when you strike out on your own.

Of course, you may end up with an instructor with no sense of humor or one who feels they must torture you for being, oh, I don’t know, from New York (yeah, I spent seven years in Memphis; it’s a thing, trust me).  You might get instructors you don’t get along with, but you knew the job was dangerous when you took it.

In the end, if taught right, you do the job right, you learn your limitations and you make the world a little safer … okay, a lot safer!  There are too many accidents I know of that when one finds the cause of, the TRUE cause of, it’s often the training, or the lack thereof.

So, to those who are making their way into an industry, be consistent; be smart; be so safe.  Leave the intensity for … well, writers, like me; for tackle football, playing piano, mountain climbing.  Better yet, save the intensity for your Family; make intense memories, make for intense laughter, get into intense snowball fights …

Have an intensely Merry Christmas and/or Happy Holiday.

Be safe.

2 thoughts on “Aircraft Accidents and Intensity”

  1. Great article once again Stephen. I agree that On-the-Job-Training (OJT) has a very significant place in providing adequate trained personnel. However, as you know its effectiveness depended on the person doing the training. Because a person could learn how to do the job in the wrong way. Obviously, there had to be checks and balances to verify quality of training was there. Since this takes time and money, most companies have a very limited time in providing such training. It appears that other methods were needed to accomplish this training and maintain a low cost and availability of these employees. Most companies hold the individual themselves accountable to their training, but sometimes this doesn’t work either. I agree that doing the job right is the best way to minimize accidents and incidents, but it still goes back to quality in verifying it was done properly and correctly. In today’s changing technology, it appears that this will be affecting the way people are trained since there is teleworking and remote sited people at different areas of the world. Training still becomes a factor in the causes of some accidents. This is why changing the way training is accomplished must still be verified. The improvements in technology offer great advantages. It saves time and money for the companies, and that becomes a factor in balancing budgets. Training through the internet will be more prevalent in the future since we see colleges offering blackboard training which is a means of virtual or long distant training. These become high interest factors or selling points for companies since travel is not needed in accomplishing training requirements. However, the need for verification of this training should not go unchecked and therefore, quality will be the verification factor if it has the experience people to do that sort of function. Again, great article…. it touched something with me as usual.

    1. Thanks for the feedback Jose. You are right, of course, training is much more than just passing on knowledge; it has to be verified. We’ve seen too many accidents that result from half-efforts made to training. The efforts are made, but the quality depends on making sure it sunk in.

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