ad info


Asiaweek TIMEASIA.com CNN.com
 > intelligence
 home
 intelligence
 web features
 magazine archive
 technology
 newsmap
 customer service
 subscribe
 TIMEASIA.COM
 CNN.COM
  east asia
  southeast asia
  south asia
  central asia
  australasia
 BUSINESS
 SPORTS
 SHOWBIZ
 ASIA WEATHER
 ASIA TRAVEL

Other News
TIME.com
TIME Europe
FORTUNE.com
FORTUNE China
MONEY.com
Asiaweek Services
Contact Asiaweek
About Asiaweek
Media Kit
Get up to 3 months of Asiaweek free when you subscribe online!


SEARCH ASIAWEEK

From Our Correspondent: Making Air Travel Safer
An international expert says Asia must change
By ASSIF SHAMEEN

November 14, 2000
Web posted at 1:00 p.m. Hong Kong time, 1:00 a.m. EDT


In the wake of Singapore Airlines SQ006 crash at Chiang Kai-shek International Airport in Taipei, questions are being asked about air safety in Asia. How could an experienced pilot from one of the world's most respected airlines make a mistake in steering his aircraft on to a closed runway? Are safety standards in the region getting lax? Are pilots to blame for recent crashes in Asia? Can regulators or airlines do something to make air travel in Asia safer? Are cultural problems to blame for chaos in the cockpit? I recently talked to Bart Bakker, an experienced former commercial airline pilot and now an aviation safety expert who heads Global Aero Consultancy in Amsterdam. Excerpts from the interview:

 INTERACTIVE  
Talk back to Asiaweek's correspondents on our message boards
 
We have seen a series of air accidents in China, Taiwan, Korea and Indonesia over the past five years, the latest of which is the Singapore Airlines crash in Taipei. Why have there been more accidents in Asia than in any other region of the world?
I don't think air travel is becoming less safe in Asia or anywhere else in the world, but you have to look at things in a proper perspective. Globally, we are seeing phenomenal growth in air traffic. There are many more planes flying today than, say, 10 years ago. But as the level of safety remains the same, the number of accidents worldwide is increasing. In Asia, you have seen an exponential increase in air traffic over the past decade as well as an influx of glass-cockpit airliners [with computer screens] and young, less experienced pilots, or older, experienced "classic aircraft" captains with different cultural backgrounds. This is contributing to some additional safety problems. I believe a review of training concepts and strict, transparent procedures, including crew-resource management, are necessary to provide a solid safety base. In Asian cultures, the human factor is a difficult item: the "flatter" hierarchy of the West is not easily adaptable [in the cockpit, where the captain considers himself the ultimate boss], especially in "pressing" situations when [sharing of responsibility between the flight crew] can be, and often is, easily forgotten.

Is there something that regulators, safety organizations, aircraft manufacturers or Asian airlines can do to make air travel safer in Asia?
Unfortunately, the old training concepts for air crews are based on Western culture. With so many planes now flying in Asia and growing number of Asian pilots now commanding flights, I think it is about time that these methods should be localized for easier acceptance, without losing the essential safety nets of crew-resource management and human factors. As to whether stringent regulations are necessary, I believe the regulators in the region should also receive the same training possibilities as the industry, in order to be on similar level. Also, the crew-resource management between the authorities and the industry should be reviewed, [to make] the regulators and the operators partners in safety, and not the old hierarchy of "overseers and chiefs" only interested in punishment. It took and still takes a huge effort in the Western world to achieve this, so it will be a far bigger effort in Asia. But it is absolutely necessary. Regulators should have more adequately qualified inspectors through up-to-date training, better salaries and conditions. The same goes for maintenance.

How can airlines minimize human error?
First, it is important to learn from the past, share information, share experiences, share accident information, obtain incident information from pilots, air-traffic controllers, engineers. For every accident there are more than 500 underlying incidents. So get the incident information and learn from it and rectify matters before there is another accident. Secondly, the regulators and airline management should encourage incident reporting by the crew and ensure confidentially in a blame-free environment. Don't kill the messenger.

Is it becoming harder or easier for pilots to fly with state-of-art, fly-by-wire-type aircraft at sophisticated airports with most modern equipment in control towers?
Maybe not harder, but certainly it is not easier. I'd say it is probably different. The fact that young kids today are highly computer-literate means nothing. Being computer-literate means they should learn to be more critical of computer logic because it can be garbage in, garbage out. Older "classic" pilots should get more hands-on experience, and absorb digital information, and not analog, seat-of-the-pants information. Both elements are extremely important, more so now as "artificial feel" is being introduced in training methods. As an experienced pilot, I can tell you there is often too much information for pilots in all those alarms, warnings, suggestions, etc.

Are pilots are under too much pressure by business-minded airlines to fly in hazardous conditions, for long hours to maximize profits for shareholders at the expense of safety?
Certainly, some of these factors are present in some of the long-haul, east-west-east flights of 12 to16 hours at night, crossing many time zones. Pressures on airlines struggling to make profits can sometimes result in more "economical" crew scheduling, thus putting more pressure on crews. But, largely, I believe most airline managements are aware of these problems and the International Federation of Airline Pilots Associations is following some of these things very closely and cooperating with medical experts. This is not something that pilots or airlines can take lightly. With an unchanging safety level and air traffic increasing 10% to15% annually, we will see accidents doubling in seven years. That means we must take safety management seriously, in order to keep the accident rate from rising.

Write to Asiaweek at mail@web.asiaweek.com

Asiaweek.com home

AsiaNow


Quick Scroll: More stories from Asiaweek, TIME and CNN

   LATEST HEADLINES:

WASHINGTON
U.S. secretary of state says China should be 'tolerant'

MANILA
Philippine government denies Estrada's claim to presidency

ALLAHABAD
Faith, madness, magic mix at sacred Hindu festival

COLOMBO
Land mine explosion kills 11 Sri Lankan soldiers

TOKYO
Japan claims StarLink found in U.S. corn sample

BANGKOK
Thai party announces first coalition partner



TIME:

COVER: President Joseph Estrada gives in to the chanting crowds on the streets of Manila and agrees to make room for his Vice President

THAILAND: Twin teenage warriors turn themselves in to Bangkok officials

CHINA: Despite official vilification, hip Chinese dig Lamaist culture

PHOTO ESSAY: Estrada Calls Snap Election

WEB-ONLY INTERVIEW: Jimmy Lai on feeling lucky -- and why he's committed to the island state



ASIAWEEK:

COVER: The DoCoMo generation - Japan's leading mobile phone company goes global

Bandwidth Boom: Racing to wire - how underseas cable systems may yet fall short

TAIWAN: Party intrigues add to Chen Shui-bian's woes

JAPAN: Japan's ruling party crushes a rebel at a cost

SINGAPORE: Singaporeans need to have more babies. But success breeds selfishness


Launch CNN's Desktop Ticker and get the latest news, delivered right on your desktop!

Today on CNN
 Search
  ASIAWEEK'S LATEST
Web-only Exclusives
November 30, 2000

From Our Correspondent: Hirohito and the War
A conversation with biographer Herbert Bix

From Our Correspondent: A Rough Road Ahead
Bad news for the Philippines - and some others

From Our Correspondent: Making Enemies
Indonesia needs friends. So why is it picking fights?

  MORE F.O.C.

Invisible Hands at Work
New reasons to worry about Hong Kong press freedom
by Yulanda Chung
- Friday, Nov 10, 2000

Return to Srinagar
Does anyone care for the Indian soldier?
by Sanjay Kapoor
- Thursday, Nov 9, 2000

Time for Compromise in Taiwan
President Chen must work for the greater good
by Allen T. Cheng
- Tuesday, Nov 7, 2000

Letter from America
A journey to the heart of the presidential election
by Todd Crowell
- Monday, Nov 6, 2000

Dotcom Ups and Downs
For one Singaporean on the Internet wave, it has been a rough ride
by Alejandro Reyes
- Thursday, Nov 2, 2000

No Way Back
Thailand faces an election under new rules
by Julian Gearing
- Wednesday, Nov 1, 2000


• Search for recent Intelligence stories
• Search for recent From Our Correspondent stories

  ALSO IN ASIAWEEK
Intelligence
The story behind today's news

Business
The inside scoop on the day's business stories
  TIME ASIA
Asia Buzz
Daily commentary from the editors of TIME Asia


Back to the top   © 2000 Asiaweek. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.