I’ve just been reading the final report on Air France flight 447. That’s the Rio de Janeiro – Paris flight that went down in the ocean on June 1, 2009. There’s a lot to be learned.
With regard to threat analysis, one of the most chilling comments in the report was directed toward pilots in general, rather than the crew of AF 447.
“Crews generally just undertake confident monitoring of the flight path and the automated systems due to their level of performance and reliability.”
This is chilling, because that confidence can kill. The report suggests that the flight crew spent little time on a detailed, structured analysis of the potential threats. They were aware of the threat of turbulence and icing, and there was discussion around those topics in the cockpit, but they did not focus on the threat and make decisions.
That’s not much different from what many of us do on a regular basis. As I commute, I confidently set out toward work or home, knowing that I have successfully completed the same trip many times. I rarely think about the threats that I routinely encounter, although I occasionally become aware of new threats, or special circumstances.
If I had given thought to threats before riding home last week, I would have remembered the sign saying the road would be under construction in the evening. I probably would have taken a different route, rather than being stuck in wall-to-wall traffic (and the high risks for a motorcycle in that environment).
As a commuter, I face the risk of complacency and of inattention to my surroundings. How many of us have arrived at our destination without any awareness of how we got there? We drove our usual route, made the usual turns and adjustments for traffic, totally consumed with plans for the day or the problem we were trying to solve.
A safe rider will take steps to avoid that complacency. The first step is awareness of the risk. Find triggers to remind you of the all-important task at hand. Develop a standard start-up procedure that includes a Risk briefing and steps to mitigate the risk. Say to yourself: “I’m commuting. I run a risk of being complacent. Today I will pay particular attention to…(some element of my ride) in order to keep from being complacent.”
Pay special attention to unusual risks that you may encounter on your commute. Things that wouldn’t catch you by surprise anywhere else, might catch you by surprise on your commute, because you have successfully completed that route many times.
It may pay to alternate routes occasionally, just to increase your level of awareness.
Whatever it takes to arrive home safely
Complacency is a killer in many other ways too. If you are just “going through the motions” in your job or in your marriage, you need to stop and do a threat analysis, and figure out a way to mitigate the risk of complacency. It’s never fun to crash and burn, especially in things that really matter. Life and Love, for example.