ATC Watcher, yes, indeed it is a matter of organizational culture rather than national culture, on the provision that National Culture does influence the organizational culture, which in turn is unique.
One thing we are all missing in the discussion here is the role of the Regulator and its interaction with AF. In all fairness and without apportioning blame or drawing conclusions, I think there are tangibles signs of either negligence from the French CAA in their oversight of AF or there is a biased relationship due to years of doing things in a certain way (i.e. retired AF employees going to the CAA and the resulting conflict of interest).
In any case, the Regulator here has a major role and has clearly not addressed the problem correctly.
Lacey was talking very properly and technically about "identifying and mitigating risks", and couldn't agree more with you in that this is what safety is about...
Years ago I remember an accident in Mexico, where a DC9 was involved in a Runway Excursion. This airline (I won't say names) was in turn in a code share agreement with a major US Airline. Because of this Code share agreement and in order to maintain it, the US investigators from this airline conducted an independent investigation of the accident and concluded something that may help your thinking on this topic.
"Although XYZ Airlines is a Safe airline, judging by the audits conducted by the National Regulator (the Mexican CAA), the US FAA, ourselves (being them the major US airline) and Insurance brokers, XYZ Airlines does not have a Safety Culture".
In other terms, you can be a Safe organization, as shown in audits, but you may not have something more important that is a safety Culture.
Think what Qantas did after the QF32 incident in SIN, they decided to ground their whole A380 fleet until the manufaturers could pinpoint the problem. This is the reflect of a mature and predictive safety culture. You can draw the conclusions on AF yourselves...
I am not still sure if it relevant but I would like to put on the table the idea of national mentality of country and its impact on safety. Maybe the problem is with the French mentality rather with AF SOPs. The captain is always right and of course the union will make sure he/she is even if he is not.
Having lived in both Belgium and the UK there is a remarkable difference in the mentality of higher education professional for instance. In Belgium a student takes a lot of pressure for petty issues like poor language skills on a marketing report - without mentioning the instructors had an "I am God" syndrome, and that at a national diploma level. In the contrary in the UK professors are far more approachable, if one can say so, and they tolerate arguments poor language skills if the student's idea are correct.
I was also told by a UK professor that some national mentalities believe they are have the best competence in the world and they need no coaching. Hence the comment was generated by my experience in the French education system so hardly a racism rather a justified opinion. And please note that I do speak French fluently, I do enjoy my time in France and spending time with its nationals.
I would be glad to read your definition of racism and how my comments and others to this and the others AF threads relate to it!
Last edited by Rwy in Sight; 23rd Dec 2012 at 15:05.
Location: Quite near 'An aerodrome somewhere in England'
The different national cultures were explained to me by a German Airbus test pilot as follows:
"Let's say we sell the Brits, the Germans and the French the same type of aircraft. The Brits decide they want to use it for a particular purpose, so they check the Flight Crew Operating Manual for any limitations. If there aren't any, they go ahead and do as they wish"
"The Germans also decide that they want to use the aircraft for the same purpose, so they look through the FCOM for the relevant procedure. Finding none, they conclude that they cannot do it"
I am once again sadly surprised by the xenophobia by certain "so-called" professionals. According to BEagle all French pilots should not be trusted, only the Germans and the British are the supreme commanders of the skies. (Seriously mate, had a bad day, lately?) How can this board even consider using the title professional with certain comments like the above?
For all those that disagree, another indicator of PPRuNe's xenophobia is the yearly occurring "non-English" ATC thread, that occurs with such regularity that one can sing "Alle Jahre wieder". For some odd reason, I haven't seen one yet that doesn't accuse France. It makes me laugh, since my international flights go into Central and South America, and according to most monoglots roaming this board I am gambling with my life. None of those internet tough guys seem to dare to put their logic (whether I agree to it or not) into the Latin America forum, since this is an area quite larger than Europe.
To go back to the original topic "another AF incident", it lacks any comparison to one of its European competitors since we do not have complete data of incidents (including AF). No one can convince me that airlines like LH, BA, VS, etc have perfect ops every day. Just because an incident makes a news story it does not reveal the complete picture of that airline and even of its competitors or even the national mentality. As we know, national sentiments can go both ways. (as can luck)
Last edited by Squawk7777; 24th Dec 2012 at 12:28.
At my company, we are verbally saying such things as Runway 36L verified prior to entering a runway and it is also a checklist call. It is also best to check lights/paint when lining up. Blue/green lights are bad. White lights are good for confirming on a runway. Yellow paint bad, white paint good. Threshold numbers the best.
Plus we use the localizer(if possible) and heading for runway confirmation on low vis takeoffs.
If it is not your SOP, I'm sure most of it can still be done by silently.
Response to above.
Originally Posted by Piltdown Man
Come on chaps, let's get rid of pointless additional checks and crap arse-covering briefings. Just do the basics and do them properly. Briefings should be very simple - a basic intent and then highlight of the BIG risks. In the past I have been bored rigid with ludicrous drivel which near enough goes down to the colour of the bloody ink and the thickness of the paper.
Less is more (from the KISS principle).
It appears that the NTSB believes as I stated above. Sorry that you and FireFlyBob disagree with them.
As a result of the investigation of this accident, the National Transportation Safety Board makes the following recommendations:
To the Federal Aviation Administration:
Require that all 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91K, 121, and 135 operators establish procedures requiring all crewmembers on the flight deck to positively confirm and cross-check the airplane's location at the assigned departure runway before crossing the hold short line for takeoff. This required guidance should be consistent with the guidance in Advisory Circular 120-74A and Safety Alert for Operators 06013 and 07003. (A-07-44)
Last edited by JammedStab; 25th Dec 2012 at 11:32.
But the NTSB has to produce endless lists of checks. if they go for KISS then any fault that occurs will be countered by lawyers, "You didn't tell them" eventhough the response is, "They are/were pilots, employed by a company with legal obligations blah blah." If you have laid out a zillion rules and something went wrong, "We did all that we could."
For NTSB and similar organisations, this kind of action is a SOP.
What’s dangerous about this territory? Safety does not care about culture or political correctness. Anything not working to enhance safety should be named, be it even social culture. If you can’t cope with that, leave this profession, because you start being a liability to safety.
We should be allowed to point out weaknesses in company culture or manufacturor design without having the usual suspects to start trash up the discussion with their lobbying bs or the other protagonists bringing up political correctness to shut it up.
Genuine safety has little to no space for such oversensibilities.
On another note, I am with piltdown man concerning the SOP/briefings overkill of today. SOPs are necessary, but not for every obvious little move in the cockpit, please. And the modern briefings ……. They end up like life of an old couple: She’s constantly babbling the same stuff she has for the last thirty years, and he’s constantly uttering “yes dear” without listening the last thirty years. Our constant “checked, checked, checked” is no better.
Stick to the differencies, to the unusual threats and you will have my full attention.
Stacking up the AOMs with more and more SOPs just to cover any CP or company lawyers is another nuisance. It rarely enhances safety, on the contrary, it increases workload in the cockpit and is counterproductive. You can call a runway three times and have it confirmed by the PNF another three times, if its paired with todays a$$ covering, "standard call and don't you dare get one word wrong in the phrase" mentality there will be just as many runway incursions if your mind is stuck in the AOM instead being outside in real life. That seems to get lost.
Last edited by Gretchenfrage; 26th Dec 2012 at 05:21.
I don't think that it is xenophobic or French bashing in anyway to make it clear that the record of Air France over the last 30 years has been unacceptable. Air France have not matched the safety standard set by other equivalent airlines regulated within Europe. Whilst Korean air, who have a similar record, make clear steps to resolve their issues, it appears to me that Air France wish to pass the buck wherever possible.
Airbus is currently developping the TOS (Take Off Securing) function that will normaly prevent that kind of mistake. These incidents occur more than mentionned in medias.
This function was first implemented on A380 as an option and will be basic on A350. The aim is to give alerts - depending on the situation, Master Caution (amber) or Master Warning (red) - providing crew awareness like 'ON TWY', 'NOT ON FMS RWY', 'FMS SPEEDS DISAGREE', 'T.O SPEEDS NOT INSERTED', ect..
Let's hope that these function, which normaly must never appears, will avoid any take off in bad conditions (wrong RWY, invalidated take off speeds, ect..). However, I am wondering how is it possible to make this mistake. I did not fly into each ARPT in the world but it seems to be hard to not make the difference between RWY & TWY as lights and markings are different.
Last edited by SylvainCap10; 27th Dec 2012 at 17:18.
I am probably going to say this clumsily, but here's my first stab at this.
When you are inside of your own cultural assumptions, it can be difficult to see what someone outside of your cultural assumption sees.
The "face saving as a primary norm" culture is found in varying degrees in Asian countries. It is not unfair to consider this a culturally imbedded organizatinoal norm, which unfortunately is diametrically opposed to the humility and self-examination (and admission of fallibility) a sound safety culture requires in a successful organization. Lest any of our non-Asian compadres feel smug, elements of this world view can and will crop up in organizations based elsewhere. I ddn't grow up in the great 'save face' culture but was exposed to it early, in my teens while living in Asia.
Get mad at me for stereotyping if you like, but consider that when I returned to Asia in my early 30's, I got one of those cultural appreciation briefs and training that highlighted precisely that: the whole "save face" cultural norm that was pervasive in Japan.
Hold that thought for a moment.
There is a common sub culture, or set of norms, among high perofrming, type A personalities that promotes self-belief and self-confidence. Taken too far, it leads to narcissicism, which I have seen lead to some remarkable "blinders on" failures in self-awareness. From where I sit, this approximates some of the more dangerous elements of the "save face" style and attitude.
A cliche related to this is "better to die than to look bad" attributed to fighter pilots. The related sub genre I am more familiar with is the "aircraft commander/Captain is God of his cockpit/flight deck" attitude
I was swimming in that particular sub-culture in my first squadron, about the time CRM and ACT was taking hold for serious in the USN. I think it took most of a generation to get our service to change norms and cultural assumptions, thanks in part to repeated emphasis from the highest echelons of command and a well funded safety arm. Thanks are due to the airlines and what they learned, and lessons they shared, many of which were written in blood.
I will suggest that it takes a cultural baseline of humility and acceptance of fallibility to allow such changes to come to fruition. That seems to me to be where a crucial problem in the "save face" cultural baseline resides. It's a higher hill to climb to get to the same peak performance.
Arrogance, be it personal or cultural -- or maybe a bit of both -- is an obstacle to a solid safety culture. Yes, it can happen to any of us, anywhere. Problem is, in order to fly well, you have to have the self confidence to believe you can do something, to go ahead and master it, and to keep doing it. From self-confidence to arrogance to worse isn't that far of a progression in each step.
What I am trying to point to is that some baseline cultures (before you even get near an aircraft) present additional obstacles to the standard challenges all pilots share.
What's this got to do with Air France?
If you are inside whatever "French" cultural assumptions are, how clearly can you see your own cultural assumptions, and thus potential impacts on organizaitonal safety culture? (Fill in the blank with a given flag carrier if you like, and see how well it fits).
That, I think, is what some of the posters up above us are getting at in re culture.
OK, standing by for rocks to be thrown.
Last edited by Lonewolf_50; 27th Dec 2012 at 18:11.
Think you nailed it. . lived 12 years in France, loved it, but I could still be frustrated by some aspects of the French mentality. I can certainly offer "being French" as a casual factor in a fairly high number of French accidents. . .. . . but, as you say, we are not allowed to say that in this blinkered/politically correct world we habitate.
The problem for me with the clear issues that Air France have is not cultural to the country at all, but is cultural to the airline. Everything I read to do with the fatal accidents which Air france have had indicate that they can not accept any responsibility, they always try to place the blame elsewhere i.e. with Airbus, or continental.
Although I am sure that a lot has been done within the company behind closed doors to address the problems, I struggle with the fact that these are major safety issues and the problems need to be dealt with transparently. Pilots need to be able to look at Air France as an example and be able to say this is what they have done to deal with the situation. Korean air can hold its head up high and say this is what we did to create a safe airline. From what I can see at the moment Air France can not.
Having said all that the IOSA report must have been acceptable enough that other Airlines are prepared to code share with Air France. So they must basically be following international standards. I'd prefer if everything was clear though.
if the assumption of "goodness" is determined by the outcomes of the IOSA report... beware. IOSA looks primarily at documentation rather than implementation, and little meaningful correlation of actual system behaviour vs reports is conducted. What do I mean by this? The IOSA audit may find that the SMS is fine, however the incident reports do not reflect the policy of reporting vs QAR data capture... therefore there is a variation between the policy and reality/practices. IOSA AO are additionally paid by the parties that they are auditing of or for, and therefore have a dog in the fight, which is problematic. This may be well managed as a Chinese firewall, or not. The proof is look which airlines have gained glowing IOSA audits, and after you have stopped rolling around on the floor laughing, consider the implications.
If IOSA are using data, documentation, and foregoing implementation and correlation, then the product is nothing more than forensics without precedent failure. Is there a better synonym for 'standards' than minimum?
It is no mistake safety is best described as cultural in nature. It begs a synthesis of performance plus, and a format that is a foundation for surpassing achievement levels that are merely "satisfactory".
Safety is organic, and wants the kind of attention given to social endeavours.
The most important ingredient, therefore, is leadership.