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Your help needed: BBC News questionnaire on flying hours

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Your help needed: BBC News questionnaire on flying hours

Old 14th Apr 2007, 13:44
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bermondseya, what a great post......

you have proven with one swift blow that this whole thing is a sham. the mans mind is made up, he is just collecting enough supporting facts to prove it. anything which goes against his opinion will be binned...i'm sure

i cringe every week when i watch how impartial the bbc are. the most recent thing that annoyed me was the labelling of the britich sailors held captive by the iranian authorities as "hostages". They were calling it a hostage crisis at one point. How disgustingly manipulative. Im sure the iranians would call them "prisoners". Calling them hostages implies they did nothing wrong...how can the bbc make that call.

They have for years decided which side to take in wars and then put labels on each side. Tell me, whats the difference between a "rebel" and a freedom fighter"? Its whether you support them or not. And the Beeb is often very quick to make these decisions.

Dont get me wrong shoey old boy, i support your view, I just dont support your methodology or your employers ethics. It is a shame that the beeb has reduced itself to the modus operandi of the popular press, but the fact that it (and it's employees) hail themselves as a mecca for unbiased truth on the back of its reputation is disgusting.

I would the truth about pilot hours to come out in a balanced piece of research, carried out by somebody who got paid to do it. Not somebody who wants to increase tam ratings, and then get a glory promotion. I would like somebody trained in the forgotten art of lateral thinking to look at this. Maybe somebody a little older than 31. Somebody with life experience, sound training and good ethics. Go meddle somebody elses career. I do not trust what you will do with the information. It will be twisted and pruned (pun) until you get what YOU want out of it. This can only lead to tears for the pilots, and glory and promotion for you.

You are a meddler, in something you know very lttle about. A quick chat with danny does not put you in any position to analyse this complicated data. Go away and pick on lawyers or nurses. Leave us alone, we will deal with our enemies in our own way.
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Old 14th Apr 2007, 22:40
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It is interesting - I mean if this BBC guy had said "I am going to examine the work hours of numerous professions and if things look amiss I will look at getting a commission for an investigation on it." - that would be ok, but when someone comes into the field and says "hey I know there is a story here, and I will find one, but I need a few surveys done to make the show" then that is different. It is all about approach and our wiley community has picked up on the slant that mr "i gotta make this show whatever, i really have" journalist has shown his cards way before he has made the deal. Premature factusmadeupus I think the medical term is...
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Old 15th Apr 2007, 12:03
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Are you lot thick or what?

Life is getting harder for pilots, especially if you work for a Lo-Cost airline. We all know it, we've all experienced it and here you are bi*ching about a journalist who's trying to find out what's happening.

Ian, ignore the comments from the obviously Daily Mail reading (and believing) commentators on here.

There is a story here and pilot's won't be hurt by it coming under closer scrutiny.

Fill in the survey and we'll see what the results are.
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Old 15th Apr 2007, 12:08
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The common mistake that people make is that the BBC is impartial. It isn't, never has been, never will be. No-one on the face of the planet is impartial. The BBC, unlike most other media outlets, is however, reasonably good at voicing divergent opinions.

That is all it can do. The content of any proposed programme is dependent on the people actually making it.

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Old 15th Apr 2007, 12:25
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My concern is that the structure of the questionnaire is flawed.

If just one person out of a thousand puts a response to Q 4.1a

"Has passenger safety ever been put at risk as a result of your fatigue?"

You can bet that it will feature in the article/programme. I am sceptical whether "99.9% of pilots have never had a fatigue-related incident" has the same journalistic appeal. This is known as 'counting the hits and ignoring the misses', is very unscientific and serves only to convince myself that this report will be biased from the start.

My own stats would show that my flying hours have increased, since in 2002 I worked for a 'full-service' airline with a union maximum of 750 rostered hours a year, now I work for a low-cost airline with a far better safety record but up to 900 hours flying a year.

What I don't do now are positioning flights, night flights, long taxi journeys around the country prior to flying and nights spent away from family - all of which , IMHO, have a far worse ultimate effect on flying fatigue. But the 'hours-related' survey won't show this.

You will almost certainly be able to prove that pilots are flying more hours now than in the past. However, this will not provide any direct causal link to flight safety, but I expect any programme based on the survey will be likely to imply this (irresponsibly, I believe).

We are
also very likely flying more now than 50 years ago, but there is no doubt that overall flight safety (accidents/incidents related to totla global/national flying hours) has improved.

We can also discover from the accident records that human psychological and physiological factors (of which fatigue is usually one) are playing an increasing part in aircraft incidents over the years - but the since the technology improves (GPWS, TCAS, better instrumentation) and humans don't (to the same degree), that is to be expected.

The important point is that overall flight safety is improving (in the UK, at least) in relation to the expansion of the aviation industry - which will not be demonstrated by the questions asked in the survey.

The very feature of the industry which optimises safety - the open and honest reporting culture and the understanding that humans are fallible - is the feature which is often exploited to sell newspapers/TV programmes. the medical profession doesn't have such a culture - do fatigue-related incidents happen in hospitals - almost certainly. Are there stats available? Almost certainly not. So can they do much about it? Not as much as we can.

You seem to have established a lot more credibility on here than may in your profession in the past, please don't betray the insight into the industry which you have been given by undermining the safety culture we have worked so hard to establish...it is not hard to imagine the pilot, who, after his employer has received a bashing in the press following a damning news article, decides he doesn't want to enrage his employers by calling in fatigued...

I hope I will be proved wrong, Ian, but since most of your colleagues seem no longer able to produce articles for the modern media without either a political/commercial (ie ratings) agenda or by dressing up this mornings corporate survey/press release as news I am not optimistic.

Good luck

Last edited by Gary Lager; 15th Apr 2007 at 12:41.
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Old 15th Apr 2007, 12:34
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The issue of fatigue is a lot more complex than the number of hours worked. I note the questionaire has no mention of rest periods!!

Missing out questions on rest periods is a fundamental error, it is one of the key items that has a DIRECT impact on fatigue.
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Old 15th Apr 2007, 14:20
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we are not daily mail readers. That is not the reason we are questioning what is going on. Please read the last 3 posts after yours. They are informed intelligent comments. They make very valid points.

My fear is that this is being looked at (and dramatised) in such a way to create a stark "wow factor" on a 60 minute documentary, by a BBC employee who already knows what he wants to say before the survey is complete (Can you imagine walking through a university and making that last statement....it would be laughed at by every bright thinking mind on campus!!). If there is public outcry after it the tv program then there will possibly be the usual inappropriate knee jerk reaction by the CAA and a drop in passenger bookings because people get a little sceptical about flying for a while

SAY AGAIN SLOWLY, please try to understand where we are coming from. This is not real research. It is lip service to research, so a headline grabbing statement can be made to dramatic music which will attract viewers.

Even a questionaire is a joke. If this were done properly then log books and rosters would be number crunched to come up with real data. Mr shoey is just looking to say things like "60% of pilots have felt fatigued enough that their aircraft was in danger"....what toss. This is a very complicated issue, not comprehendable by the public in a 60 min program, and not comprhendable by mr shoey in a few months of research.

This is more likely to damage our industry and our reputatiuons than help. And Mr shoey doesn't give a damn. He cares about his high flying Beeb career (my guess only...maybe he is a philantropist!)

SAY AGAIN SLOWLY, I think we have thought this through more than you know, and certainly more than the average DM reader!!! Please, I beg you, think it through.

Danny, I think you are right to allow this man to make a pitch. It is for us to decide to help or not. But I have made my views clear, and I will not be helping.
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Old 15th Apr 2007, 14:43
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Bomber Harris,
What I'm attacking is the instantaneous attacks on the BBC as a "left wing" organisation.

I have had a look at the questionaire and it is is missing a fair few points that would be useful IMHO.

However, whilst you say that any decent Uni student would laugh at the idea of having a fixed idea before starting research, this is true to a certain extent, but the same student would also laugh at the thought of using a survey as the basis for a piece of research.

This will survey would hopefully only make up a small amount of the "facts" with an awful lot more supporting evidence around it.

The fact that Danny and Pprune Towers are giving this their backing says a lot to me and I'll bet they've had a lot more contact with Ian Shoesmith than any of us.

Pilots are by nature a suspicious bunch, but this hounding does no-one any favours. If you don't want to fill in the survey, then don't, but don't let your preconceptions about the journalistic fraternity guide your actions.

There are scum bag journalists out there certainly, but in the same way there are some sh*thouse pilots as well.
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Old 15th Apr 2007, 15:25
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An interesting difference being that as a professional pilot, I have no ability to convey to the general public a belief that any or all journalists are incompetent.

The reverse is not true.

besides, I don't care about left or right wing politics in the meeja, I care about speculation and ratings grabbing, lowest-common-denominator dumbed-down sub-GCSE standard analysis being portrayed as fact and the BBC (or SKY, or CNN) as the last defender of integrity and public service.

I will add that Ian, or any journalist anywhere, is of course welcome to disagree - but as we know talk is cheap; my opinions are based on what I see and hear around me, not what anyone else tells me.

I do still sincerely hope that we eventually see some evidence that I have made the wrong assessment.
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Old 15th Apr 2007, 23:28
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Great points SAS. I have to agree that Danny et al who have met the jounelist would be better able to "get a feel" for his integrity.
However, you "sort of" implied that I think journalists are scumbags. Quite the opposite. I know quite a few journos socially, including a war correspondant for whom i have the utmost respect. Let me be clear about my opinion on this (and it hasn't changed).
1/ The beeb is not as neutral as it portrays itself to be (I can give thousands of examples but not going to! and i didn't actually say "left" )
2/ Mr shoesmith is not doing independant research. He is collecting facts to support a 60 min presentation orientated at an uninformed public, the content of which has already been decided. I dont appove of his methods.
3/ I believe a properply appointed research team conducted a review with the results directed at CAA, EASA, JAA and any other regulator you can think of!....would be far more beneficial to us as pilots than a TV "expose"
4/ Mr Shoesmith should be highlighting the lack of research and development rather than criticise the status quo (which i strongly suspect will be the main thrust of the show). However, I would prefer if he didn't highlight anything, because trial by media generally leads to inappropriate responses by our glorious leaders.
5/ once again...jounalists are good. i like them. john simpson....respect. paxman...let him have a go at any politician on my behalf!! I just dont like mr shoesmiths approach here. Am i making this clear. I like journalists, its mr ian shoesmith i have a problem with. if i met him i would probably like him and buy him a beer....but i do not believe he has any interest in the betterment of aviation and i would tell him that. he is interested in making an "expose". his information gathering is about that and i believe you and danny and towers etc are all making an error of judgment. But thats only my opinion.
I think i have made my pont and im going to bow out now. SAS Thanks for debating (rather than ranting). You are right, I will do what I think is right and so will you. I just hope i made a few others 'think' before they reacted. May I even made young shoey have a guilt pang
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Old 16th Apr 2007, 00:39
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As an ATCO looking in, I would advise you to tread carefully with journos, even the BBC. This is in light of the well known, but completely factually incorrect 'docu-drama- 'the 'day britain stopped'.

NATS offered to supply technical advice, and also objected to the inaccuracies that were portrayed; this offer was declined, but of course, the truth would have killed any 'story' and therefore would have made the programme pointless.....
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Old 16th Apr 2007, 02:02
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If this guy's mind is not already made up on the outcome of this documentary, why is he just looking at the CAA (UK based carriers on a BBC programme,makes sense) and the IAA ? Why the IAA?

Seems to me another spot of, rightly or wrongly, Ryanair bashing is planned.

Remember he is just looking for a way to prove it !! You can prove just about anything if you really want to......
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Old 16th Apr 2007, 07:41
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Look, lets be direct here.

A TV journalist believes that there is a safety issue with low-cost airlines.
As an industry outsider, this journalist hasn't just dreamt this up, he has been fed information/opinions.

Now based on the information before him, this journalist has made the correct moral judgement and wishes to expose the perceived situation to the public. Part of this will obviously involve research to (amongst other things)

a) confirm what he has been told and
b) try and make a decent, balanced but well informed programme

Now the decision before us imho is not whether we accept journalism as a bona fide occupation or whether journalists have in fact got fathers but rather whether those directly involved in this premise i.e. low costs are pushing safety to the limits and beyond, believe this to be the case.

Now the decision in my opinion is simple.

If you feel that low costs are pushing the safety limits in a negative direction then you should perhaps give assisting this journalist some real thought.

If on the other hand you are completely happy with the behaviour of low costs then ignore this request.

It just seems to me to be a pointless, double standard exercise slagging off journalists. When there is something positive we want in the press, who do we call......yes the journo's. Yet whenever they behave in a balanced manner and also report the down side, we question their parentage.

So in a sentence, just make a decision on the issue.
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Old 16th Apr 2007, 08:08
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So why is he basing his "safety concerns" around the LCC's ?

Why does he not concentrate on the so called majors. Far more steaming holes filled with their aircraft than the LCC's.....

Not got to look very far away from these shores before you will find some issues to report on. In actual fact I think France is actually closer to the UK than Ireland .......
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Old 16th Apr 2007, 08:25
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Not so. The United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland have a common land border!

If you mean Great Britain rather than the United Kingdom and Ireland as a whole then it's a mere 11 miles from the Mull of Kintyre to Murlough Bay.
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Old 16th Apr 2007, 10:08
  #36 (permalink)  
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Morning all

Have just had a trawl back through all of your postings on this thread, and there a few points I'd like to address.

"already has an agenda ... needs a few selective facts to substantiate his opinions", "looking to use us and twist our words to fit (my) report", and "anything which goes against his opinion will be binned":

Not so. To date, I have been in communication with more than 20 PPRuNers who convinced me they were commercial airline pilots; trade union officials; aviation medical consultants; occupational health specialists; other academics; and airline officials. Naturally, the range of views and experiences has been wide, and will be taken into account in any programme which results from my research.

"Questionnaire is not real research"

The methodology was largely based upon that used by Craig Jackson from the University of Central England. His findings were published last year in the peer-reviewed and highly respected academic publication the Journal of Occupational Medicine.
I accept that a questionnaire in itself would not be sufficient to base an entire programme. Of course, other journalistic methods are being used to test claims made to me by members of the aviation community.

"Tv expose ... Sixty minute documentary ... log books and rosters should be crunched"

Who mentioned anything about tv or 60 minutes? Not me. The research is continuing as it has done for the last two months. If, and only if, we have enough credible evidence to support a programme will the format and scope be decided. As for logbooks, rosters etc, have you not thought that this is an area which I've been pursuing?

"flying hours are not the only story"

A good point, well made by Gary Lager and Ex Crewing Bod I believe. From conversations with many of you, and others, I've learned that it's not just the total number of flying hours which may be a problem which needs to be addressed. Rather, it seems to be the intensity of flying hours, and hassle factors like proximity to base, roster disruption etc etc. Rest assured, this is something which will be taken into account.

"should be highlighting lack of research and development, rather than status quo"

Fair point and something which has become apparent: correct me if I'm wrong, but the vast majority of research into fatigue seems to have been carried out amongst longhaul pilots.

"focussing on IAA and CAA regulated airlines"

we have to limit the scale of our attention somewhere, and I would suggest the airlines registered in the UK or Ireland are the ones best-known and most often used by our audience.

Finally, let me assure you that I do not have a personal agenda here. I'm big enough and ugly enough to deal with any constructive criticism, but some of the comments made have been pretty personal, and often made from a position of ignorance. On all the threads I've started, I've been completely up-front and honest, and included my contact number and email address.

Our job is purely to collect as much evidence as possible, to seek expert analysis, and to present it to the public so they can form their own opinions. That's it.

Apologies for the somewhat lengthy nature of this reply, but I wanted to clarify some issues and, above all, to encourage relevant members of the PPRuNe community to fill out and return the questionnaire.

Best wishes

Ian Shoesmith
BBC News
07769 977665
[email protected]
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Old 16th Apr 2007, 11:26
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Thanks Ian.

I apologise if my scepticism of your intentions or my uninformed generalisations have seemed personal - they were not meant as such. Grumpy old man rant mode stuck on, I'm afraid.

I had a think about this last night, and had some thoughts for you (although you appear well involved in considering such factors).

900 flying hours a year is the legal maximum in the UK. Compared to an office worker, working 5 days a week with 6 weeks holidays, that equates to only 4 hours a day (or so). Add in time for briefing/de-briefing, we're looking at about 5-6 hours. Even on a 4 sector day, with 1 hour turnarounds (which provide ample break on a short-haul day - but who ever has that long nowadays?) then we're still looking at spending less average time at work than joe 9-5. So there must be something else at play.

As you've indicated, levels of pilot fatigue are influenced by other factors like:
  • number of consecutive duties (earlies/lates)
  • rest periods
  • quality of rest (hotel? home)
  • ability to plan for adequate rest and social life (roster stability)
  • local time versus body-clock (jet-lag)
  • company culture (pressure on individuals to perform)
and so on.

A good example is the recent media interest in the BA flight delayed by the crew's assertion that they received inadequate rest. Most populist media are sympathetic to the delayed passengers; large corporations (e.g. BA) are expected to provide excuses and are often treated with scepticism.

I would assert that a company where a crew feel able to state when they are fatigued, and are backed up by their airline and not pressured to operate, is a far safer one than where crews are put on the spot. Such pressure need not come from fleet managers, it can come from an awareness of what the Daily Mail headline will be the next day and the subsequent impact on their company's commercial success.

I feel it is misleading, although understandable, to ask if crews have ever put pax safety at risk due to fatigue. Some examples may well be very illustrative, and I have no monopoly on the facts, but as pilots we are all used to self-evaluation and can be very self-critical when mistakes have been made. That those mistakes only rarely turn into incidents or accidents can be credited a great deal to the systems and procedures that have been put in place over the years, but the survey can't illustrate this.

I sometimes make mistakes, and forget to do things in the flight deck - could these errors be due to fatigue? Yes, of course they could. Have I ever injured people or property as a result of my frequent (fatigue-related?) errors? No - because so far (touch wood) my colleagues on the flight deck , in ATC, in the cabin, or those who write the checklists or design the aircraft systems take into account the fact that I will, at some point, err. You could say 'the system works' although we will never stop trying to improve it.

You may have heard of the 'accident chain' concept of accident causal factors - I have had many situations where the chain has been broken, but to relate them all to the uninitiated would only serve to alarm rather than educate.

So, I would have to answer 'yes' to the question of whether I have put pax safety at risk. Without the context this is unhelpful information and misleading.

I am giving more thought to assisting, though.
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Old 16th Apr 2007, 11:54
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Yes, I'm another cynic, uniformed and maybe not best placed to comment.

"Tv expose ... Sixty minute documentary ... log books and rosters should be crunched"

Who mentioned anything about tv or 60 minutes? Not me. The research is continuing as it has done for the last two months. If, and only if, we have enough credible evidence to support a programme will the format and scope be decided.
So, if you are a balanced sort, only interested in presenting the facts, be they positive or negative, are you trying to tell us that if you find that everything is working swimmingly you will, perhaps, make a documentary entitled "Aren't Low Cost Airlines Great?" or perhaps "Why It's now safer to fly than ever?"

I really doubt it. Because that's not a sensational story at all. I am struggling to think of a Panorama based upon how fantastic an industry is.

I feel that there are two outcomes possible. Either a highly critical documentary will be made, or no documentary will be made. By filling in this questionnaire, you make the former more likely, whether intentionally or not.

Please be careful.
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Old 16th Apr 2007, 12:14
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What grabs headlines??

The beeb is left wing. That is not to say that this particular researcher is either left wing or a trot., but his organisation is incapable of being balanced. There was a fascinating piece in the Times a while ago about how difficult it is to be a journalist who does not believe all the Marxist mumbo-jumbo that the beeb is full of.

It has also released it own report about its pro-Euro bias http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/new...icle507564.ece

Even visitors from abroad note how left wing the beeb is:- http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/com...cle1522471.ece

So, how does that impact any future report on our sector?

Well, the fact that the UK has the best safety record in the world for commercial aviation does not grab headlines. However, an allegation that a pilot had a snooze whilst on cruise control could do.

The fact that 90% of crashes are caused by "human factors" does not grab headlines - mistakes by pilots and AtCos do. ....and so on.
I'd steer well clear of this and any other journo who is hust seeking "facts" to support his story.

However, as all property is theft, (the accumulation of previously expropriated surplus wage labour), then maybe he is right to tacle O'Leary and his US-owned (check the records) airline.
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Old 16th Apr 2007, 13:20
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I cant see anything wrong with the BBC,shame we dont see more reports from around the world from the places that wont let them film.Good luck to them.As far as this survey is concerned it is a bit of a non starter as most professional pilots in their right mind steer well clear of hacks.The exeption being alcohol,totty and channel 4 documentries.
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