SMS And Loss Of Situational Awareness
Thinking outside the box and brainstorming is an element of root cause analysis within an SMS system. Two of the most applied tools are the fishbone analysis and the 5-Why’s. When applying brainstorming and outside the box thinking loss of situational awareness concept takes on a different meaning than what conventional wisdom expects, or even beyond what the industry accepts.
Loss of situational awareness is more than a one-person lack of comprehension. It’s a portion of a larger system comprehension where the operator plays a role and has procedures in place to prioritize three tasks while flying. Most airlines operate with an expectation that the Captain does not lose situational awareness. However, an expectation has no powers to achieve and is neither a goal nor a process, but a wish for a virtual safe outcome. There are four systems that affect the flight path of an airplane. They are the Topographical, Environmental, Technical and Human Performance systems. In addition, as an overarching system or a hub-system to operate within these systems is the organizational system. During the pre-SMS days this system was reactive but changed to a proactive system with an operating SMS.
People can remember three items, but have to compute, calculate and recall anything that are more than three items. When more than three tasks are required to be repeated constantly it becomes an overload of data inputs for the flight crew to recall sequences. There are three priority tasks that a Captain must be able to recall at any time, during any normal flight or any emergency. The first is the organizational policy task, which is to “fly the airplane”. The second task is the organizational process task, which is to “fly the airplane”. The third task is the organizational procedure task, which is, and you probably guessed it, to “fly the airplane”. Everything else the Captain does are trivial tasks.