Deadly dichotomies and idiocultures

WITH the aid of concepts like CRM most of us ought to know aviation is about risk management. Getting airborne or ahead in business implies finding a balance between 'protection' and 'productivity' - with thanks to airline captain Gavin McKellar. At a recent presentation by Kevin Storie on behalf of Aeroclub, statistics collated by Gen. Des Barker clearly showed light aircraft incidents are on the rise. A lot of effort will be launched into a laudable new safety awareness campaign. Let's consider how it's possible for 'many' aviators to 'all' be backsliding on the safety curve? How do such tendencies develop?

Some of us have seen military service. When the whole squad was judged out of pace, did the corporal change the beat? Not on your life! That was then. Now we, the captains of industry and generals of our empires, have taken charge. We get ahead, to afford 'extras' like aeroplanes, by not taking 'no' for an answer; by converting stumbling blocks into stepping stones and 'making' things change for the better by adding value, organizing, 'inventing' (watch out!), creating order and improving productivity.

We carry all this over to flying, encapsulating ourselves in better than average vehicles, driving to the airport at a pace reflecting our busy lifestyles, 'optimising' and 'having things to do' ethos. We unfortunately can lose touch with reality. We can unwittingly create an 'idioculture' which hangs about us, goes with us, embodies us and sometimes absorbs us. The word 'idioculture' is neither in the Webster's nor Oxford dictionary. Yet, in study fields of sociology, human psychology, human resources, etc. 'idioculture' is part of the jargon used to depict expressions of human activity in group context.

When people come together with a common purpose, we generally tend to develop a new 'sense' of how 'things are supposed to work' - not unlike the adventures of 'Alice in Wonderland'. In reality, the effects of such idiocultures are far less imaginary and could be devastating in terms of air safety. The illusionary nature of 'idiocultures' distinguish these from 'subcultures' - e.g. Italian, Jewish or Greek communities in Johannesburg. The effects of dangerous idiocultures can be seen at e.g. motorbike rallies when some blokes yield to the juices and indulge in deadly expressions of riding. Deviation and excess become normalised. Aviation is no exception. At times a 'corporate blindness' can overcome us, e.g. at airshows or fly-away weekends. Idiocultures can be transient or long-lasting.

At the launch of ironically 'another air safety campaign' recently environmental considerations were downright prohibitive for VFR flying. Notwithstanding, about five planes had gone up. Each had landed intact - to prove anyone with reservations wrong. A highly experienced instructor had even demonstrated slow flight in a six-seat twin engine aircraft, just under the cloud base, reportedly lower than 1800 feet. (The FCL subpart 61, exercise 10 (a) would require HASELL checks; leaving an 'out' for a potential stall recovery not lower than 2500 feet). 'All', including the 'aces', had been willing to venture close to the safety margins. But, even the most junior pilot could have and should have called it a day for VFR flying. A deadly dichotomy had evolved, 'if you're not for me, you're against me'. Dichotomies represent personalised, sometimes deadly differentiations, not necessarily depicting truth or reality. My take on this is to come down to earth, before you take to the sky. Fly safely!

Johan Lottering - Focused Flying
Aviation Safety








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