The key theme of this book is organizational learning and its consequences for the field of aviation safety. Air safety rates have been improving for a long time, demonstrating the effects of a good learning model at work. However, the pace of improvement has almost come to a standstill. Why is this? Many safety improvements have been embodied in technology. New devices and procedures appear almost daily, yet the rate of air safety improvement has dragged in recent years. Improving Air Safety through Organizational Learning explains this situation as being the consequence of a development model supported chiefly by information technology being introduced as an alternative to human operators. This is not a book about the convenience of including or not including IT in aviation, but an open discussion about the adequacy and risks of some practices in the field. Two different but complementary issues emerge. Firstly, a real improvement in air safety requires a different approach, since the present one seems now to be exhausted. Secondly, the current approach has powerful economic roots, and any new approach must deal with this fact, improving safety rates without becoming financially damaging. Consequently the book is divided into two parts. Part one deals with the issue of the present learning model organizing the conclusions around accident reports that show themselves the existence of a problem: the present use of technology makes the system better at doing things already known, while at the same time it makes the whole system worse at dealing with unplanned situations. Part two suggests a new development model, one that makes strong use of technology but at the same time questions every step: what knowledge will disappear from the system and what is the potential effect of that loss?
José Sánchez-Alarcos Ballesteros holds a PhD in Sociology from the Universidad Pontificia de Salamanca in Spain. His thesis, about organizational learning and air safety, was evaluated as summa cum laude. He is currently affiliated as a researcher at COPAC (Commercial Aviation Pilots Association) in Madrid, teaches at the Instituto de Empresa and serves as Managing Partner at Quasar Aviation, providing consultation on quality and safety in commercial aviation.
'Aviation safety has been related to learning for decades. Human and technological considerations in safety must have a more balanced approach. This book explains how to relocate the role of technology in aviation.' Juan Carlos Lozano, IFALPA Accident Analysis Committee 'Timely, necessary, and outspoken - Sanchez-Alarcos Ballesteros’ book explains how our way of learning to be safer may inherently retard our ability to learn more than we already know. He cogently lays out why we need to go beyond even more technology or even more regulations if we want to keep making progress on safety.' Sidney Dekker 'The author presents a sound analysis of how modern aviation systems progressed by relying primarily on complex technology and flawless regulation. While this learning model increases capabilities to manage expected events, it lacks the power to respond adequately to unforeseen ones, because trust in the abilities of the human operator has been relinquished. This is a book that should be read by decision makers in the airframe manufacturing and insurance industries.' Hans-Juergen Hoermann, German Aerospace Center (DLR) 'This book makes for fascinating reading for professionals interested in cognitive and educational psychology; human factors in aviation piloting; aircraft software design, development and usability; transportation safety, policy, economics, and ethics; business management; and organization development. Human factors/ergonomics professionals will be especially interested in this work because of applications to human-computer interaction, human-systems integration, human decision making and individual differences in dynamic environments, modeling/simulation, test/evaluation and training/development.' Ergonomics in Design, Winter 2010