Air travel is perhaps the only transportation mode which can be termed as the safest and the riskiest at the same time. It is safe since air traffic regulations and aviation standards are strictly observed by airlines and other aviation authorities, which minimize the risk, but at the same time, everyone is aware of the risks associated with an airplane accident and crash.
We all know that airplane accidents are mostly fatal, and even though the occurrences of airplane accidents are not as frequent, their consequences are often disastrous. Although the frequency of the occurrence of airplane accidents vary with each year, but roughly around 30 fatal airline accidents occur every year and accidents to private and jet aircraft are apart from that.
But that does not mean that aviation accidents always result in the loss of the lives of the passengers and the crew. Not every accident is serious, and most of them, about which we never hear in the news, are mild accidents, which only result in injuries. If you are confident about the quality of aviation standards and precautionary measures offered by your air plane, then you should know that the chances for survival are good and that an accident should only result in injuries.
But why should you suffer as a passenger from an air plane accident injuries when it was not your fault? Did you know that most of the airplane accidents occur due to human error? Although the environmental factors are always there as a threat to air plane traffic, but despite all the aviation standards followed by airplane crews, they are still not able to prevent the occurrence of airplane accidents from time to time.
Even if you have suffered injuries in a crash landing, or in a more serious aviation accident, you are protected by the law to be compensated for your injuries. And if you have lost a loved one to an airplane accident, the grieving family can also seek out help for the necessary legal compensation, which is their right. While going through the trauma, you should leave all your worries to a reliable airplane accidents lawyer to take care of all the legal subtleties in helping you out with your goal. Not only will that offer you the moral support you need at a time like this, but will also fulfill the purpose for which you engaged the services of an aviation accident lawyer.
Organizations are in desperate need of creating predictable outcomes and managing the risk inherent in almost all of their project management initiatives. This is true whether they are designing products, performing services for clients, managing technology, implementing a government initiative, or any of a number of different projects. The purpose of this white paper is to identify five lessons (there are many more) that project management can learn from the aviation field to accomplish this objective of predictable outcomes and managed risk.
Aviation is a rich source of information because it has already gone through the pain and consequences of not having predictable outcomes and has largely come through the other side. That is not to say that aviation is perfect, but aviation has done a stellar job of taking an inherently risky activity (flying) and creating safe, predictable outcomes. It has learned what is necessary.
Project management does not pursue predictable outcomes to the same degree as aviation has pursued them. This may be due to the fact that the consequences of a failure in aviation are far higher than the consequences of a failure in the typical project that we manage.
This idea of consequences is we target aviation as a good source. Aviation has been forced to develop methods of dealing with risk and creating predictable outcomes. Many of these same lessons that aviation has already been forced to learn can be applied directly to project management.
Implement Predictable and Standardized Processes
When you fly, you cannot do things on a whim. There are specific procedures that you must follow. When an airliner comes in to land, there are certain things you do at certain times – when the flaps come down, when the landing gear comes down, the specific route to fly for a specific airport. If there is an emergency, there is a procedure for it. Pilots do not wonder what to do. They have been trained to follow certain procedures.
Aviation has recognized the great importance of creating these predictable processes where risk is involved. For example, when approaching a major airport, there are documented, published procedures that every pilot must follow called Standard Terminal Arrivals (or STARs). A pilot will review these procedures even before they take off. When they are assigned by air traffic control what the currently used STAR procedure is, they know exactly what they will do and how they will fly. There is no “I wonder how we should fly into Atlanta today?” Project management cannot create predictable outcomes if it does not similarly implement predictable and standardized processes to deal with normal operations as well as contingencies.
Here are some of the specific guidelines we can learn from aviation as to the implementation of these processes:
The processes must be well documented and accessible.
Everyone must follow the processes.
Everyone must be continuously trained on the processes.
The processes must be continuously evaluated and improved over time.
There are several advantages to implementing this in our project management practices. These advantages include:
Eliminating confusion (everyone knows the proper steps and activities).
Providing a clear plan for how to produce a desired outcome.
Communicating the desired outcome.
Reducing workload by eliminating needless communications, decision making, and activities that should be routine.
Just like aviation has created standard procedures to create the predictable outcome of landing at a major airport (thus making it safe and routine), project management needs standard procedures to create the predictable outcome of a new product, a customer implementation, a new service, or whatever your desired outcome happens to be.
Defining Clear Roles and Responsibilities
Clear roles and responsibilities are critical in aviation. Each pilot knows their responsibility for each phase in flight and for every contingency. For example, when an airliner takes off, one pilot is the flying pilot and is focused on flying the airplane. The other pilot is the supporting pilot and does almost everything else such as talking with air traffic control, calling out airspeeds, and raising the landing gear and flaps at the appropriate times.
In the Hudson River incident for US Airways flight 1549 was ditched in the Hudson River, there was a brief but interesting exchange on the cockpit voice recorder transcript. First Officer Skiles was the flying pilot, but after the incident with the birds, Captain “Sully” Sullenberger said “My Aircraft.” No additional explanation or instruction was given, but both pilots knew that their role had just changed. Captain Sully was now the flying pilot and First Officer Skiles focus shifted to getting out the emergency engine out checklists.
The reason for these clear roles and responsibilities is because of the repercussions when they do not exist. In a lesser known event during the Apollo space program, Gene Cernan and John Young found their Apollo 10 lunar module (the one before the moon landing) spinning out of control. They were able to correct the situation, but the root cause was a simple misplaced switch. One pilot put the switch in one position. The other pilot inadvertently put the switch in the other position, not realizing what the first pilot had done. There was not a crystal clear distinction on who would throw the switch.
How many times in project management has there been a lot of unneeded activity, lack of decision making, duplicate effort, or competing initiatives simply because roles and responsibilities have not been clearly defined? Aviation’s experience would offer valuable lessons to implement in project management including:
Documenting roles and responsibilities (as opposed to assuming).
Setting roles and responsibilities for every project.
Setting roles and responsibilities for every process (that may be used across multiple projects).
Routinely communicating roles and responsibilities (instead of assuming everyone knows and understands them).
Continuously reviewing and updating responsibilities as needed.
Making sure that someone has the authority to make a decision.
There are several tools and methodologies for accomplishing this, including creating a RACI (responsible / accountable / consulted / informed) matrix.
A common argument is that people do not have the time for such definition. However, that is one of the benefits of doing so: to eliminate all of the time wasted because people do not understand everyone’s role. Additional benefits include:
Understanding who has the authority to make a decision.
Preventing competing activities.
Knowing who to keep informed.
Implementing proper accountability.
If your projects seem to be slowly spinning out of control, defining roles and responsibilities may be a good place to start.
Aviation does not assume that everyone is following the standardized processes and maintaining their responsibility. It implements accountability measures to ensure that this is the case.
Pilots are required to attend training regularly where they learn new procedures, but they are also evaluated to ensure they are following proper procedures and have maintained a proper skill level. It doesn’t stop there. New pilots initially fly with an instructor pilot to ensure they are following what their training taught them. All pilots must occasionally fly with a check airman who evaluates the pilot’s performance in real-world operations. Captains hold First Officers accountable for following proper procedures.
When procedures are not properly followed, there is a clear course of action. That may be as serious as action from the FAA, or dismissal, or perhaps a visit to the airline’s chief pilot’s office.
Accountability is sometimes a bad word in project management but it is equally important. If people are not held accountable for following standardized procedures, how valuable are the procedures? Not very. If you are trying to implement predictable outcomes, how can you predict the outcome of a series of activities where people are not accountable to perform those activities in any sort of predictable fashion? You cannot.
Accountability provides many benefits to project management as it does to aviation:
It provides a clear view of what is expected of everyone.
It provides a clear understanding of what happens when the expectation is not met.
It ensures that activities are performed in a predictable fashion, thus contributing to a predictable outcome.
Employ Effective Training
Most people assume that the pilots that are flying their airliner have been properly trained, but they do not give it any more thought. The fact is that training is a huge part of the aviation paradigm and for good reason. Who wants to go on a flight with their family and put their lives in the hands of poorly trained pilots? There are a couple of key facets of aviation training that stand out:
Training is continuous.
Training is comprehensive and diverse.
We often view training as a one time event in project management. We train on a new system or to get a certain certification or learn a certain methodology. In aviation, training is a continuous part of the culture to create a safe, predictable outcome.
Pilots go through weeks of training when they first hire on with an airline. After that initial intense training, they perform additional training through on the job supervision and one on one training. It does not stop there. At least once a year, pilots are required to attend extensive classroom and simulator training.
The continuous training they undergo is also comprehensive and diverse in scope. It is not focused on a single area, such as technology or how to fly an airplane. Training includes at a minimum the following aspects:
Training on policies.
Training on standardized procedures.
Training on rules and regulations.
Training on roles and responsibilities.
Training on cockpit resource management (how to work better together).
Training on how to fly the airplane (skills).
Training on how to utilize the technology in the cockpit.
Training on the aircraft systems of the aircraft they will fly.
Training on contingencies.
Our training in project management is often a single event or is focused on technology instead of on ensuring that everyone has the knowledge and skills to create a predictable outcome for the organization.
Applying the experience of aviation, our project management training should turn into a continuous program. That does not mean it needs to always be formal training, but it does not to be continuously intentional.
Training also needs to cover the following essential areas:
Training on the organization’s standardized processes and how to follow them.
Training on roles and responsibilities.
Training on skills (how to be a good project manager or team member).
Training on the technology that will be used to accomplish the processes and predictable outcomes.
You cannot expect a predictable outcome if you do not regularly train people to create that predictable outcome.
Utilize Proper Tools and Technology
There was an article in a recent aviation periodical that referred to a newer generation airliner as a “650,000 pound laptop.” This referred to the fact that there is a lot of technology in today’s airline cockpits. In fact, when a pilot moves to a new airplane, much of the training is not on how to fly the airplane but on the technology and aircraft systems that need to be mastered.
Aviation uses technology to perform a number of support roles such as providing situational awareness during each phase in flight, and performing routine tasks that can be automated.
If we take this lesson in the perspective of what we have learned so far, it should also be recognized that utilizing tools and technology is an important but balanced part of the predictability of aviation. This simply means that:
Technology is not put off as not important to the overall goal of predictable outcomes.
Technology is also not overly emphasized over other aspects such as creating standardized processes.
There are clear lessons to learn in project management. Too often in project management we either focus too much on the tools and not the processes, or we focus on the processes but use poor tools such as spreadsheets. Either way, it is hard to create an environment of predictable outcomes.
Specifically in project management we need to use the right tools that:
Support our standardized processes.
Provide situational awareness.
Provide up to date information that the organization needs.
Provides insight into problems.
Automates things that can easily be automated.
Provides data from which to learn and improve processes.
Technology in the right context and usage provides another pillar from which to create those predictable outcomes.
Aviation has already learned through much experience (some good and some not so good) the important lessons of how to create predictable outcomes and manage inherent risk. It provides a good source of information that can be applied to our project management practices. Specifically, project management needs to:
Implement predictable and standardized processes
Define roles and responsibilities
Employ effective training
Utilize Proper Tools and Technology
While certainly not an extensive list of the lessons that can be learned, these provide a good starting point to create the predictable processes in project management that our organizations today desperately need.
Want to Learn More?
Visit the “Flying into Project Management” blog at [http://www.flyingintoprojectmanagement.com] for more insight, lessons, and discussion on what project management can learn from aviation to create predictable outcomes and manage risk.
About the Author
Mark Kenny is an aviation enthusiast and project management practitioner. He holds a private pilot’s license with an instrument rating, about 200 hours of flying time, and almost chose aviation as his career.
Mr. Kenny has also spent over 15 years working in project management in various capacities. He received a Certificate in Project Management through the University of Washington, held project management roles in the manufacturing, high-tech, and healthcare industries, and is currently the President of Team Interactions, Inc., which develops the EnterPlicity Project Information System.
Many people have ambitions to have high paying technical jobs and they have all the opportunities to have this, with the right attitude and the discipline. Being an aviation mechanic is a “dirty” technical job, although with high pays. When you are in this profession you will expect to have your hands filled with grease most of the time, and you will not be wearing the kinds of clothes that the office workers have. This is a job sought after by many big airline companies though, especially if you are a very well known aircraft technician. However, before you can become one, you need to have the special trainings and years of experiences before you can ever be one.
The Nature of the Job as Aviation Mechanic
When you are an aviation mechanic, the airplane is practically in “your hands”, especially if you are the head aircraft technician. The airplane’s maintenance program will be in your hands and before the plane can fly, your “go” signal will be probably needed. You will be the one doing the reports on the airplane’s functions, especially if repairs on damages are done. Your basic functions may be on the maintenance and repairs of the aircraft in your airline company. Aircraft technicians are not the ordinary workers that companies hire but they are the college degree holders in aviation technology or they are the aircraft engineers that many aircraft companies want to have.
The Skills and Competency Requirements Needed To Become an Aviation Mechanic
An aviation mechanic is not only the bachelor’s degree holder required of him, but he has also to be one equipped with technical trainings, attended seminars on aircraft technology, or any related aircraft functions. These will be added boosts to his competency ratings and he will be one sought after by many big airline companies, especially if he has the years of experiences behind him related to the airline industry. There can be plenty of work opportunities for a skilled aviation technician and he will not be out of job for too long because many airline companies will strive hard to acquire his services.
The Responsibilities of Aircraft Mechanics
If you think that the responsibilities of an aviation mechanic are simple, these are simply huge. Just like the responsibility of an airplane pilot is huge because the lives of the passengers will be in his hands, the responsibilities of the airplane technician will also be big because the capabilities of the airplane to land safely in its destination will depend on how the repairs and maintenance of the airplane are done. A well maintained airplane will fly safely to its destination.
Pays and salaries of an aviation mechanic are high compared to ordinary technicians in many production companies. This is because their skills and trainings are also at higher levels, and they will not be dealing with ordinary motor vehicles. Special skills are needed in these kinds of people, and they deserve special treatments for this. They may not be the clean cut office worker or executive in an office, but they may be receiving pays like the superiors of these office workers receive.
Over the past three decades, there’s been a steady decline in the number of U.S. pilots. According to the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), there were 827,000 active, certificated pilots in 1980. By 2011, that number had dropped to just 617,000. During that same 30-year period, production of single-engine planes dropped from 14,000 per year to fewer than 700.
But for the past three years, AOPA has made understanding this declining trend and reversing it a top priority. AOPA actions include developing a network of flying clubs, and speaking out in Washington to help keep the rising cost and complexity of aviation under control.
Thankfully, 2013 numbers are indicating a positive upswing, based on data from the General Aviation Manufacturers Association’s (GAMA) 2013 General Aviation Statistical Databook & 2014 Industry Outlook.
Here’s a look at what’s been causing the pilot and production decline, and good news from GAMA’s 2013/2014 aviation industry report.
What’s been causing the decline?
According to a Washington Post article posted February 9 titled, “Small aviation businesses say pilot shortage could drive industry into the ground,” there are a variety of factors that have contributed to the decline in pilots and production over the past decades, including rising fuel prices and heightened flying restrictions following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
One reason is that the recent economic downturn has left fewer people with discretionary income. Others place much of the blame on federal regulators, whom they accuse of making it too difficult for pilots to obtain and renew their licenses, which in turn hurts small aviation businesses and the aviation industry as a whole.
Many commercial pilots come from the GA pilot pool, and the global airline industry will need almost a half million new commercial airline pilots over the next 20 years, according to the Boeing Pilot and Technical Market Outlook for 2013-2032.
Good news from GAMA’s 2013/2014 industry report
Here are some positive numbers from GAMA’s annual statistical databook.
Airplane shipments and billings – In 2013, airplane shipments increased by 4.3 percent to 2,256 airplane deliveries, and billings increased 24 percent to $23.4 billion across all airplane types. This is the second-highest industry billing number ever recorded-the industry’s peak billings occurred in 2008 at $24.8 billion.
Business jets – After slowing the past four years, the business jet market stabilized in 2013. There were 678 business jets delivered in 2013, up from 672 in 2012. Several new models and increasing demand helped stabilize the market and increase deliveries.
North American market share rose to 52.4 percent from 49.7 percent in 2012. Europe’s market share declined, however, from 20.8 percent in 2012 to 15.6 percent in 2013. Customer deliveries included 11.9 percent to customers in the Asia-Pacific region, 11.1 percent to Latin America, and 9.0 percent to the Middle East and Africa.
Turboprops – Turbo-propeller plane shipments also grew in 2013, increasing to 645 shipments from 584 shipments in 2012, a 10.4 percent increase. Shipments of agricultural turboprops, which GAMA began tracking in 2011, remained strong. Traditional single- and twin-engine turboprop shipments provided year-over-year increases in unit deliveries. North American customers took 57.1 percent of turboprop airplane deliveries in 2013, up from 48.6 percent in 2012. The Asia Pacific region took the second-largest market share at 14 percent, followed by Latin American at 13.2 percent. European customers took delivery of 10.5 percent, and the Middle East and Africa accounted for 5.3 percent.
Turbine helicopters – The turbine helicopter segment provided positive delivery performance in 2013 based on analysis of equivalent companies from 2012. GAMA identified 782 turbine helicopter shipments in 2013, which is an increase of 9.2 percent compared to the prior year for the same reporting companies. In this year’s databook, GAMA has expanded the available historical data about helicopter shipments with select information from 1999 through 2013.
Piston airplane and helicopter deliveries – Feedback from airplane and helicopter manufacturers indicates that global demand from flight schools is contributing to year-over-year growth. Piston airplane deliveries totaled 933 shipments in 2013, up from 908 shipments in 2012, a 2.8 percent increase. North America ordered 52.8 percent of piston engine airplanes, Europe 17.2 percent, followed by the Asia-Pacific region at 15.1 percent, Latin America at 10 percent, and the Middle East and Africa at 5 percent of shipments. In 2013, the general aviation industry delivered 335 piston-powered helicopters, which was a slight increase from the 328 units delivered in 2012.
Turbine operators – According to JETNET, LLC, the fractional fleet of turbine operators fell to 869 aircraft in 2013, decreasing each year since 2008, the year it peaked at 1,094 aircraft. There were 4,365 fractional owners in 2013, which is also down compared to five years ago, when there were 5,179 owners. The worldwide turbine airplane fleet included 33,861 airplanes in 2013 and an additional 19,509 turbine helicopters.
Pilot population falling – The active U.S. pilot population continues to fall. The private pilot population has declined since the early 1980s, when it peaked at 357,479 pilots, and in recent years has lost between 5,000 and 10,000 active pilots each year. There were only 180,214 private pilots at the end of 2013, and a total of 599,086 total active pilots in the U.S. in 2013. One bright spot: 40,621, or 6.78 percent, were female-the highest ratio of female aviators on record.
Signs safety is improving – A welcome decrease: The FAA’s preliminary data about general aviation safety shows there were approximately 216 fatal accidents during the year, a double-digit decline in the number of fatal general aviation accidents during 2013. While data is preliminary, the FAA’s goal of reducing the GA fatal accident rate to one fatal accident per 100,000 hours flown may be possible to achieve by 2018.
GAMA also includes GA safety data developed by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) for 2006 through 2012. EASA statistics from 2012 also show a decline in the total number of accidents and the number of fatal accidents.