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Old 2nd Nov 2008, 17:43
  #2339 (permalink)  
Join Date: Mar 2003
Location: BC
Age: 72
Posts: 2,429

I have to say I'm 100% in agreement with alf5071h in an examination of common factors in both "accidents", (if you will).

I say this because done improperly, (under-resourced, data ignored, lack of coordination and/or honesty with POI), SMS is the de-regulation of safety - it is handing over monitoring and self-governing processes to those who's interests are contrary to conservative, (regulated, overseeing) approaches to flight safety.

The processes are exactly the same. Certainly the details, complexities, risks and outcomes are different but the principles are the same: When no one is watching management will compromise, cut corners, attempt to make the organization look good with candy-coated safety-board reports, ignore the warnings from FOQA/FDA, ASR and other safety programs in favour of commercial, profit-oriented/cost-controlling priorities.

It is not a matter of what Diane Vaughan called "ammoral calculation" - an intentionally-negligent act by management. The processes under the de-regulation of safety "feel" and "seem" natural and sufficient such that the notion of "compromise" does not even arise in the safety dialogue or if it does, the "deviance is normalized" to the point where it is acceptable.

Three main factors, (I know you know/understand this...I'm writing for all readers), are at work as the "new" standard is entrenched as "normal": Time, new managers with little/no experience (plus bean-counter pressure) and "success" - the "new, lowered standard has not resulted in a reduction in safety". Ignoring safety data or at least dismissing it as "suspect" provides comfort to such processes.

In terms of finance, all these factors were at work prior to the current world economic crisis and, in principle, they are at work at airlines right now - I have seen them, (and the consequent commercial decision-making), first-hand and have asked why FOQA data was ignored. The question itself was ignored and nothing has changed.

The factors and the pathways are as clear as a brightly-lit road and it was a matter of time until the sub-prime crisis back-flushed into the banks and out onto the streets. As we know, the seeds of aircraft accidents are similarly sown months and more likely years before the accident.

"Kiting" financial instruments is illegal for individuals but America's corporations and banks do it all the time with impunity. In flight safety work, "kiting" equates to finding compromise within the legal documentation such as the MMEL and the SMS audit process such that the operation may continue without apparent risk, all the while such risk laying buried in a stream of seemingly rational operational decisions.

The difference between the causes of this financial collapse and the increased potential for an accident under SMS is a matter of degree, not principle. Historically speaking, the roots of the present crisis may be found in "neoliberal" economics from about 1970 onwards where de-regulation, privatization of profit and socialization of risk which has morphed into the mad drive for pure profit at the expense of all sound financial principles. Nixon withdrew the US from the Bretton-Woods agreement, under tremendous pressure from corporations, in 1999 Clinton repealed the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 which permitted banks to engage in currency speculation among many other non-traditional banking activities and to create "value" through loans and home purchases by those who couldn't afford it.

Though not in the same league or playing field, these processes equate directly with SMS's first principle with is self-regulation, self-auditing and an absent regulator. We already have seen the results in the US in the FAA's "difficulties" when it's oversight of Southwest, United and other airlines was found wanting.

In my view, these similar principles will lead to similar outcomes - that's all that's being stated, not that Transport Canada is going to listen or change course and not that any airline is going to listen. To me and obviously to others, there are significant lessons for the airline industry both in Canada and the US from the greatest financial crash since 1929 and I think alf5071h hit the nail on the head.
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