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beachbumbabs
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beachbumbabs
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January 6th, 2014 at 3:37:27 PM permalink
Quote: AxiomOfChoice

I think that there's more to it than that. One of the problems (and I don't speak Korean, so this is just my understanding, from what I've read) is that there is practically a whole different language that you use when addressing superiors than when addressing friends or inferiors. In the language that you use to address superiors, there simply aren't words to confront them directly. Those words simply aren't part of the language. In fact, one of the major changes that they made (and that improved the safety record) was to require all communication to be done in English (that is mentioned in the article, that I linked, but it was kind of glossed over)

Now, these are all Korean natives who are working for the airline. Korean is their first language. Communicating in a 2nd language is safer than communicating in their mother tongue... think about that for a second.

I think that this is really the key point: It's not that the people were being illogical and choosing to die rather to be rude (they are not idiots, after all). It's that the language that they were using was having an effect on the way that they interacted with each other. Language does not only give us a way of expressing our thoughts; it has an effect on what our thoughts actually are (that's the theory, anyway).

I first read about this Korean Air thing in an article about linguistics and their effect on how we think (unfortunately, I couldn't find that article with a quick search). It's fascinating how the human brain works.



Axiom,

I will respectfully disagree with this, because I think it's accurate in pinpointing the cultural and language issues. However, the ICAO (the ruling body for international aviation), the FAA, and EuroControl made it mandatory more than 20 years ago (think it was 1992 but it was a series of orders) that all aviation communications would be conducted in "aviation English", and that all licensed operators working internationally were required to conduct their operations in English to eliminate any possible language barriers. Operators must pass both written and oral exams proving not just mastery of the language vocabulary-wise, but that pronunciation was within acceptable boundaries for general operation within the system (partly because of the fidelity loss over radio equipment, partly for the obvious reasons; the testing threshold is quite high).

KAL was experiencing their cultural and language difficulties in that same 70's-80's time frame (in fact they were the "poster children" along with a couple of other groups) as they became international operators on a larger scale, and it's not surprising that their company operations would dictate that ALL discussion while underway be in English; IMO, a very good way to address some of their issues. However, it took a concerted effort from KAL and those they brought in to help (our aviation experts, psychologists, others) to completely retrain the crews in what is called CRM or cockpit resource management, a team approach completely counter to Korean culture. The retraining took nearly a generation of pilots, at some cost to themselves, as they became "Westernized" and somewhat rejected within their own social culture, but it's very true that their results have been both spectacular and commendable.

You may well be correct in dismissing the idea that Korean culture requires in some cases that subordinates would prefer to die rather than cause shame to their superior. However, my understanding is that there is, or was, a component to their culture that did indeed mandate just that, and changing that priority in a cultural understanding of honor, dignity, or integrity is among the hardest tasks to accomplish, because it must be the default behavior under extreme stress that changes. Koreans traditionally have/had a very fatalistic, matter-of-fact understanding about the importance of individual life (generally negligible) compared to the values of the whole that is completely foreign to Americans and many Europeans.

And yes, from everything I'm hearing, Asiana will most likely have causal factors related to this issue, and recommendations for retraining. The times, they are changing, but not on a dime.
"If the house lost every hand, they wouldn't deal the game."
1BB
1BB
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January 6th, 2014 at 3:42:24 PM permalink
I refuse to fly Oceanic, even with a discount.
Many people, especially ignorant people, want to punish you for speaking the truth. - Mahatma Ghandi
AxiomOfChoice
AxiomOfChoice
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January 6th, 2014 at 4:10:43 PM permalink
Quote: beachbumbabs

I will respectfully disagree with this, because I think it's accurate in pinpointing the cultural and language issues. However, the ICAO (the ruling body for international aviation), the FAA, and EuroControl made it mandatory more than 20 years ago (think it was 1992 but it was a series of orders) that all aviation communications would be conducted in "aviation English", and that all licensed operators working internationally were required to conduct their operations in English to eliminate any possible language barriers. Operators must pass both written and oral exams proving not just mastery of the language vocabulary-wise, but that pronunciation was within acceptable boundaries for general operation within the system (partly because of the fidelity loss over radio equipment, partly for the obvious reasons; the testing threshold is quite high).



Obviously you have actual work experience in this area, so I'm sure that you are familiar with the relevant regulations, but this seems to directly contradict what I've read. In more than one place, I've read that in 2000 (well after 1992), Korean Air hired someone from Delta Airlines (who had an excellent safety record) to look over their procedures and protocol, and, it was only as a result of this study that they began to communicate in English. See, for example: http://www.safetyxchange.org/compliance-risk-management/ethnic-culture-affects-safety-culture. I have read this in other articles on this topic in the past, as well.

Now, it may be that there is a single source of mis-information here that is being referenced by several articles. But... are you sure that they were speaking English in-flight on Korean Air in the late 90's? Everything that I've read points to this change (speaking English in-flight) as being a direct result of a recommendation made by the consultant from Delta (which happened well after 1992)

In other words... is this article wrong?
terapined
terapined
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January 6th, 2014 at 4:30:29 PM permalink
Quote: rdw4potus

I've never flown a non-american carrier, but it seems like several of them offer an experience that is far superior to the service provided by US-based companies. Maybe it's time to take the chip collecting effort overseas:-)



Singapore Airlines year after year is considered to offer the best service in the world.
They are the diamond standard when it comes to service in the airline industry.
In fact some planes they fly are entirely 1st and business class. No coach seats. They also own some 380's.
They can also be expensive. You get what you pay for in this business, in the case of Singapore Airlines, world class service.
Emirates is also an excellent Airline, based in Dubai.
"Everybody's bragging and drinking that wine, I can tell the Queen of Diamonds by the way she shines, Come to Daddy on an inside straight, I got no chance of losing this time" -Grateful Dead- "Loser"
Tomspur
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January 6th, 2014 at 4:31:17 PM permalink
Just take a look though at the wikipedia page with regards to their incidents and accidents over th years.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Korean_Air_incidents_and_accidents

Look at the crazy drop in incidents after the turn of the century. I don't know what they reason is for the turnaround as I don't have the necessary information but it is a drastic a turnaround as you will ever see in aviation.

Seems then that perhaps the change in cockpit etiquette only took place near the end of the 1990's?

Just a thought.
“There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.” - Winston Churchill
beachbumbabs
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beachbumbabs
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January 6th, 2014 at 4:42:14 PM permalink
Quote: AxiomOfChoice

Obviously you have actual work experience in this area, so I'm sure that you are familiar with the relevant regulations, but this seems to directly contradict what I've read. In more than one place, I've read that in 2000 (well after 1992), Korean Air hired someone from Delta Airlines (who had an excellent safety record) to look over their procedures and protocol, and, it was only as a result of this study that they began to communicate in English. See, for example: http://www.safetyxchange.org/compliance-risk-management/ethnic-culture-affects-safety-culture. I have read this in other articles on this topic in the past, as well.

Now, it may be that there is a single source of mis-information here that is being referenced by several articles. But... are you sure that they were speaking English in-flight on Korean Air in the late 90's? Everything that I've read points to this change (speaking English in-flight) as being a direct result of a recommendation made by the consultant from Delta (which happened well after 1992)

In other words... is this article wrong?



Axiom,

I don't think your time frame is incorrect; I was speaking of the move to aviation English standard being a leap-off point for KAL to make their more-restrictive company policy after the successful move to ICAO English changed accident rates for the better worldwide. It is still not wrong for crews without such a company policy to have non-aviation conversation (hours of boredom and chitchat at altitude, especially for Pacific Fleets) in their native or a common non-English language; but KAL went the extra mile in making virtually ALL communication underway remain in English, not just checklists, procedures, and radio communication. There was also lax enforcement of English aviation in Asian countries in the first decade or so during the transition; domestically, they would speak in their native language even on the radios (so would ATC), and some companies (JAL/KAL for example) even employed English-only pilots (several guys I knew) to fly the international legs, do the communication in Europe/AnZed/American areas, and deadhead otherwise, because it was too hard for their pilots to learn the language and make themselves understood.

I think it was a natural extension of what was occurring and creative solution for the Delta consultant to suggest this, and took a lot of dedication from KAL to implement and police (the cockpit recorder is ALWAYS on, though it loops). It was my experience, though, while buried in this issue for a couple of decades, that the ICAO really led the way on universal language having such a positive effect on operations, and United and Delta (after spectacular FAILS by both companies that killed people, which is what helped them to dedicate the resources and time necessary to do a cultural revolution that spread through the industry) nearly simultaneously to invest so heavily in CRM techniques. What was general sloppiness/industly ignorance got identified and under control with the application of those principles, but for most aviators, it was not counter-culture; it was better operating practices. The Koreans were/are a very special case, really an order of magnitude more difficult because the concepts were unnatural, the language completely different in structure and meaning, and the application of lessons learned took some time as the science of CRM developed. Their corporate dedication must be incredible to adopt such a difficult change so successfully across the board.
"If the house lost every hand, they wouldn't deal the game."
AxiomOfChoice
AxiomOfChoice
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January 6th, 2014 at 4:51:50 PM permalink
In that case, I'm not sure that I understand what you disagreed with in my initial post.

We seem to be in agreement. They had a serious problem, hired someone to help them fixed it, realized that their problem was largely caused by language and culture, fixed the problem, and have had an excellent safety record ever since.

Personally, moving away from the practical considerations for a second, I find the effect of language on our thoughts to be fascinating.
FleaStiff
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January 6th, 2014 at 5:00:26 PM permalink
CRM. Cockpit Resource Management, now further "corrected" to Crew Resource Management is a fine line.

No one denies that there is a Captain and only ONE Captain aboard an airliner, but some foreign cultures promote that Captain to an almost God-like figure. I understand that the Turkish language has several terms of address for pilots. One Turkish pilot even expected his entire crew to walk behind him like ducks. How do you get that last man in the line to speak up if he sees the Captain has done something wrong?

I think it was a Turkish airliner, might have been Egyptian though, wherein a female pilot made a mistake and the male Pilot In Command berated her at great length. The fellow male pilots thought it quite proper that she be berated and humiliated even though it in effect meant that the PIC had stopped flying the plane while he was fulfilling this cultural mandate to belittle the female. How do you get junior crew members to speak up in such a culture and say Sir, you must fly the plane now and berate the female later.

Russians don't even expect a pilot to manipulate the controls, Russians tend to look on the PIC as someone who tells other pilots what to do.

Its going to get worse. Some time ago a pilot in India tried to land an airliner on its nose wheel rather than flaring so as to land on the main landing gear. All the training and log books were fictitious but that is common in India where degrees and examination scores are routinely purchased.
EvenBob
EvenBob
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January 6th, 2014 at 5:19:52 PM permalink
Quote: FleaStiff



Its going to get worse. Some time ago a pilot in India tried to land an airliner on its nose wheel rather than flaring so as to land on the main landing gear. All the training and log books were fictitious but that is common in India where degrees and examination scores are routinely purchased.



This reminds me of when cars became affordable.
95% of people buying a new car had no idea how
to drive and different cultures approached it
differently. Brakes were especially problematic as
people had a tendency to go around something
in their path, rather than stopping, because that's
what a horse and buggy would do.
"It's not enough to succeed, your friends must fail." Gore Vidal
Sabretom2
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January 6th, 2014 at 5:24:17 PM permalink
Looks like Boeing will be building the 777 in Washington. After all the noise, the union capitulated.

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