Nowadays,technology has become an integral part of the society, which isintegrated into various activities in organizations and industrialsectors. Similarly, Air travel is part of a transformational systemthat has resulted from technology. As compared to other forms oftransport in the world today, air travel is believed to be muchfaster and safer. However, despite the different structuralconditions to encourage safety, the planes continue to have accidentsbecause the systems remain somewhat complex and tightly coupled(Evans, 1991). Moreover, those in charge of air travel continue topush the system to its limits. In his bookNormal Accidents,CharlesPerrowclearly illustrates how air travel has changed significantly over theyears. He examines aircraft flying, air traffic control in theairports, and organization of different airways. He furtherelucidates that flying is part of a transformational process that isvery complex and entails technological fixes and continuousadvancements (Perrow, 1999). Although these technologicaldevelopments in the airways have made the system safe, the designersof the airlines keep pushing the limits with every progress theymake. Hence, safety goes inherently with risky systems (Evans, 1991).
Chapter5 of the book takes the reader closer to personal experiences withair travel and aircrafts, especially for those who have flown oncommercial airline flights, which makes it easy for many people toconclude that it is safe. Nonetheless, aircraft and the airways stillhave accidents, as Perrow explains using examples of productionpressures, malfeasance, incompetent designs, and regulatory inaction(Perrow, 1999). However, some unique structural conditions in thisindustry promote the plane safety, and despite the systemcomplication. Consequently, the safety measures encourage people toconsider aircrafts as one of the safest modes of transport in themodern world (Perrow, 1999).
Accordingto Perrow, the high degree of automation has also been of significantadverse effect on air travel (1999). Most plane crews are familiarwith a picture of a cockpit with hundreds of knobs, switches,buttons, and visual aids, but the recent models of cockpits have CRTsand audible aids in addition to the other devices. All these devicesare within the reach of the cockpit crew, and they are capable ofaltering the aircraft behavior. Thus, the crew can check, flip,increase, or decrease the plane’s subsystems (Perrow, 1999).Consequently, the crew’s full concentration and intervention arerequired when taking off, setting and checking, and landing. However,due to the automation of aircrafts, air travel has become extremelysophisticated. Besides, the aircraft systems also have computerscontrols. The automation and complexity of aircrafts make them moreefficient in terms of commercial and military purposes (Perrow, 1999).
Additionally,Perrow describes the complexity and coupling of the jet airliners,which makes them subject to component failure accidents. In therecent years, the DC-10S have been involved in dramatic,catastrophic, and highly publicized accidents (Perrow, 1999). Theloss of control of the aircraft is caused by the combination of threeactions in the system, which includes the loss warning system whenthe slat disengages, withdrawal of the left wing’s outboard leadingedge slats, and the loss of the stall warning system. The threeactions results from the disjointing of the engine pylon assembly.The situation is contributed by the interdependence of the aircraftoperation due to the complexity and automation of its systems.However, each malfunction by itself cannot cause a qualified flightcrew to lose control of the aircraft (Perrow, 1999).
Then again, theaircraft controls affect the performance of the aircraft. The airtraffic control is mandated with the task of managing inbound andoutbound aircrafts. One of its core purposes is to improve safety andaccelerate the production of commercial passenger service. Airtraffic control has also constructed more skyways, set up morebeacons, and partitioned them into well-organized packages, throughwhich the airplanes can fly and pass through control facilities sincetake off until they finally land (McKenzie & Shughart, 1986). Ithas enabled the density of aircraft to increase substantially andimproved traveling speed, which is an important contributing factorwhen maintaining safety in air travel. In spite of this, the problemfaced by air traffic control has been to keep collision risks low.Such instances may arise when the aircrafts run low on fuel or evensuffer engine faults. Furthermore, the air traffic control is facedwith the challenge of ensuring that the plane can safely land withoutcausing any collision or avoidable disasters (McKenzie &Shughart, 1986).
Lastly, apart fromaircraft characteristics disorientation also has negativeconsequences to air travel. Disorientation in air travel is caused byover-reliance on automated systems and lack of familiarity with theaircraft system. Automation has minimized the opportunity forapplication and use of piloting skills, which makes it hard tointervene during system failure. Therefore, when a pilot is broughtinto a decision-making process due to an inevitable system failure,he or she can be confused resulting in an accident. Moreover, whenseveral alarms go off simultaneously, all there for safety reasons,can also lead to the disorientation of the pilot (Perrow, 1999).Thus, familiarity has been of major significance in the improving ofsafety precaution measures in air travel. Nonetheless, airlines,airframe manufacturers, and the FAA developed a training aid toassist pilots to recognize the potential presence of microburst andavoid them, and to help those who inadvertently encounter theaccidents to escape with minimal injuries. It has enhancedfamiliarity with air travel routes as well as the aircraftsthemselves. For example, in response to the findings of the Caliaccident, members of the aviation industry have attempted to addressdefects in the design of navigation data stored in electronicnavigation databases (McKenzie & Shughart, 1986).
In conclusion,accidents are often the mechanisms through which system deficienciesmanifest. The manifestation of these faults often leads moreimprovement thus, reduces the risk of having an accident. Accidentscome from either the aircraft or the airways system and not in theinteraction of the two. Currently, the airways system emphasizes ontight coupling and interactive complexity. Hence, the aircraft systemhas been highly automated reducing the functions of the cockpit crew.Even though the complexity and coupling up have been undertaken toimprove the safety of the crafts, it has also had its fair share ofdisadvantages. The pilot’s skills have been downgraded due to thelack of practice. When a system operation in an aircraft fails, thepilot is expected to play a fundamental role in decision-making,which can lead to confusion. Besides, with the lack of practice andover-reliance on complex and coupled systems, the pilot finds that heor she is unable to respond adequately to an emergency. Accordingly,coupled up and complex systems should be reduced even though they arethere for the safety. Thus, the air transport industry is entitled tohave the capability to handle the ever improving technologicaladvancements through the production pressures may be quite excessivein commuter airlines. At the same time, it is should ensure thatthese factors are upheld to ensure the maximum standards of safetyare maintained in air travel.
Evans,L. (1991). TrafficSafety and the Driver.New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold.
McKenzie,R. B., & Shughart, W. F. (1986). HasDeregulation Of Air Travel Affected Air Safety?St. Louis, Mo: Center for the Study of American Business, WashingtonUniversity.
Perrow,C. (1999). NormalAccidents: Living With High-Risk Technologies.Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press.