Risk Management in Aviation: The Challenge of Discrimination

Risk Management in Aviation: The Challenge of Discrimination

Kevin M. Smith (US Navy (Retired), USA & United Airlines (Retired), Mesquite, NV, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/ijasot.2014010104
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Abstract

This relatively short article will set the stage for productive discussions concerning the effective management of risk in large scale dynamic systems, for which future articles will be featured. One of the most important first steps in this regard is the pressing need to understand the operational nature of risk and a rising risk profile. Much about risk is at once poorly understood and treated often as a one-off event instead as a cluster of risk management issues to be addressed from the standpoint of convergent technology applications, and performance modeling. A clear distinction by what is meant by low risk, moderate risk, and high risk needs to be developed. This the author will attempt to do here. Once an unambiguous demarcation line between Low, moderate, and high risk is made then the author will be able to proceed to the next important step in their conceptual development, and that is the specification of the decision analytical structure for all Operational Decisions.
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The Risk Continuum

The risk continuum, graphically displayed in Figure 1, represents a dimension whereby risk can be more clearly understood. By risk we mean the flight crew's perception of the probability and outcome aspects of the current situation—often representing a deteriorating operational situation. By risk we mean the crew's perception of the probability and outcome aspects of the current situation with the focus in negative outcomes. Our assumption is that, at any point in time during execution of a mission, the crew has a perception of the degree of risk for themselves, their passengers, and the organization that initiated the mission. This perception can be represented as a location on a risk continuum ranging from the perception that there is no appreciable risk to the perception that a substantial negative outcome is imminent. In Figure 1, we have indicated that when the risk is low, the original plan is executed to completion. When the risk is rises to moderate, level, modifications to the original mission plan are implemented in order to maintain an acceptable location on the risk dimension. When the risk rises further to high, or to some critical threshold the original plan is discontinued and an alternate plan is implemented of the mission is aborted altogether. This degradation could include such negative consequences as loss of revenue, damage to property, injury of even loss of life. Our assumption here is that at any point in time during the execution of the mission of a mission, the crew has a perception of the current degree of operational risk and that this perception.

Figure 1.

The risk continuum

Examination Of An Operational Problem

At the center of our image of our image of an operational decision maker is an actor (in the form of a crew-member) who receives information about the state of the world and “encodes” this information as a value along a unitary “Risk” dimension. Consider the example of takeoff operations in large transport aircraft, where the crew is constantly monitoring sources of information about the state of the environment and condition of the aircraft to assess the emergence of any operational risk that could impact the operation. High risk implies a significant danger to the operation. Low risk on the other hand implies a continuation of the takeoff is appropriate. However, as we will show, this message is often not perfect and ambiguity may very well occur.

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