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Risk factors for air transportation safety among air carrier operators and pilots in Alaska: a major survey and case-control analysis.

Conway G; Martin S; Berman M; Hill A; Bensyl D; Manwaring J; Moran K
The 7th World Conference on Injury Prevention and Safety Promotion, Vienna, Austria, June 6th-9th 2004. Vienna, Austria: Kuratorium für Schutz und Sicherheit/Institut Sicher Leben, 2004 Jun; :145
Problem under study: A disproportionate number of all U.S. aircraft crashes occur in Alaska. Aviation crashes are now the leading cause of occupational fatalities in Alaska. Objectives: To study pilot and company practices and attitudes in order to design policy options that would reduce aviation fatalities. Methodology: Air carrier managers and active commercial pilots were surveyed for demographics, pilot flight hours (total, aircraft type, and instrument hours), Alaska flying experience, attitudes about safety, flying practices, and other salient risk factors. We also conducted a case-control analysis comparing responses to accident statistics, grouping large operators and their pilots into a case group and a control group based on estimated fatal accident rates during the period 1990-2000. Results: Respondents generally agreed that improved weather sensing, via video cameras, weather reporting by and consultation with trained weather observers, improved decision-making policies and skills, and regional hazards training would be effective ways to prevent crashes. When asked whether a pilot's job is more dangerous than other jobs, among pilots working for large operations, 9% said much safer, 8% slightly safer, 31% as safe, 44% slightly more dangerous, and 7% much more dangerous. Pilots for small operators were even more optimistic: 8% much safer, 13% slightly safer, 52% as safe, 21% slightly more dangerous, and 6% much more dangerous. Case-control comparisons: the 14 operators with elevated fatal accident rates (cases) flew more hours, were less likely to consider pilot fatigue a problem, and were more likely to say that on-time delivery of mail was very important to their financial success than the other 66 large operators (controls). Although few differences appeared among operator responses of the cases and controls, differences in responses from their pilots reveal significant differences in operations: no pilot respondents employed by high risk firms were female; pilots flying for high risk firms have one-third fewer years of flying experience and about half as many instrument hours. On the other hand, these high-risk pilots worked significantly more hours in the past 12 months than other pilots, suggesting that they are flying more hours in their current jobs than other pilots. There were major differences in working conditions between pilots of high risk fatal crash cases and pilots of control firms, case pilots working 13 hours per day and 81 hours per week, one hour per day and 10 hours per week more than controls. Nearly 90 percent of case pilots reported that they never flew when so fatigued that they wanted to decline the flight (corroborating the finding that their operators did not view pilot fatigue as a scheduling problem), compared to 64 percent of pilot controls. Conclusion: Operator-pilot comparisons suggest that financial pressures and incentives on operators may influence their views on what measures would be effective in preventing crashes. The case-control analysis revealed differences between high-risk and other operators and pilots which may be amenable to interventions, including changes in practice and training. Pilot's perception that their own risk for fatal injury while working is low to moderate is not consistent with reality. The relative risks for this occupation are quite high: for 1990-1999, aviation crashes in Alaska caused 106 civilian occupational pilot deaths, equivalent to 410/100,000 pilots/year ( a 12% cumulative risk for a commercial pilot in Alaska being killed in an aircraft crash over a 30-year career), approximately 100 times the mortality rate for all U.S. The pilot fatality rate in Alaska is nearly five times the rate for all U.S. pilots (80/100,000/year).
Aircrews; Aircraft; Accident-statistics; Accident-prevention; Injury-prevention; Injuries; Traumatic-injuries; Mortality-rates; Mortality-data; Demographic-characteristics
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The 7th World Conference on Injury Prevention and Safety Promotion, Vienna Austria, June 6th-9th 2004
Page last reviewed: October 8, 2021
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division