ULSB academic taking research to new heights

Dr Simon Bennett, Director of the Civil Safety and Security Unit (CSSU) at the School of Business is carrying out research at an average altitude of 32,000 feet as he investigates flight-deck coordination aboard aircraft across Europe, with a view to developing a best practice team working methodology to improve safety.

Dr Bennett has been observing short to medium-haul services across Europe as he looks to improve both team working and safety processes for pilots. Team management and cooperation are critical in the cockpits of commercial and military aircraft. His research is ethnographic, consisting of in vivo observations and opportunistic interviews. He observes interactions on the flight-deck so that he can see first-hand the level of collaboration required for safe and efficient flight.

He explains the impact his research will have: “I shall use my findings to develop a new teamwork methodology which will enhance the safety of commercial and military air operations. The methodology can then be shared with other risk-laden industries, such as nuclear power generation, deep mining and offshore oil and gas production.”

Since Autumn 2017 he has been spending 1-2 days per week flying as far north as Keflavik, as far south as Gibraltar, and as far east as Moscow, and all points in between. His research can be taxing. Dr Bennett's workload exceeds that of many full-time pilots, some of whom fly only a couple of times a month (because the winter schedules are thinner than the summer schedules).

Dr Bennett added: "It is physically and psychologically demanding. One has to recover from dehydration and mild hypoxia and record (write down) everything that happens on and off the aircraft during a 10-hour shift with no planned breaks and no food provided. It takes up to 24 hours to fully recover from a 10-hour duty".

The project continues into Autumn 2018.