Organisational Pressures and Mitigation Strategies in Small Commercial Aviation: Findings from Alaska
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Bearman, C and Paletz, SB and Orasanu, J and Brooks, BP, Organisational Pressures and Mitigation Strategies in Small Commercial Aviation: Findings from Alaska, Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine, 80, (12) pp. 1055-1058. ISSN 0095-6562 (2009) [Refereed Article]
Introduction: Recent attention has focused on the way in which organizational factors can erode safety in aviation, particularly in regions that have a high accident rate, such as Alaska. The present study builds on this work by examining the direct and indirect pressures that can be exerted on pilots by Alaskan operators. In addition, the paper examines ways in which organizations and individuals manage the effects of pressure. Method: Using the critical incident method to uncover situations where the pilot's skills had been challenged, 28 pilots who flew in Alaska were interviewed. A bottom-up qualitative analysis revealed a range of organizational pressures and mitigating strategies. Results: Pilots in Alaska encountered both implicit and explicit norms and expectations to fly in marginal conditions. Pressure also arose from pilots ' awareness of the need for their company to make money and from perceived job competition. Some Alaskan operators were able to mitigate the effects of pressure on their pilots and some pilots reported mitigating pressure to fly by managing their employer's expectations and re-emphasizing safety. Discussion: Organizational factors were found to be an important source of pressure for pilots and are likely to contribute to the high accident rate in Alaska. Balancing the competing demands of safety and productivity may be extremely difficult for many small operators, which places a heavy reliance on the decision making of individuals. Both the subtle pressures on individual pilots and strategies for mitigating those pressures are, therefore, extremely important to safety and productivity in small-scale commercial aviation. Copyright © by the Aerospace Medical Association, Alexandria, VA.
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