One Error Too Many

Some incidents can just blow the mind. This one made me chuckle due to apparent error after error from the crew involved.

Firstly the crew of this lovely G450 took off from Salzburg, Austria with the landing gear pins still installed. They quickly realised this after taking off with 3 solid greens, indicating gear down and locked, remaining after attempting to retract the gear. Pretty big mistake but fairly easily fixed right?

They did the right thing by turning around and landing.

The tower instructed them to taxi back to parking but these guys had other ideas because they felt a resistance to the aircraft moving, maybe a burst tyre. So they stopped on a taxiway without informing the tower. With engines running, one pilot got out to check the aircraft and remove the pins, the other went back to beg forgiveness from the passengers.

With tower still trying to get in contact with them, the copilot struggled removing the pins with hydraulic pressure applied, so he operated the landing gear door control valves for the nose and main landing gear and installed the control valve pins. This closed the doors, depressurising the landing gear actuators, so that the pins could be removed.

Can anyone guess what’s going to happen next?

Once the nose gear pin and control valve pin was removed, the doors opened, the nose gear with no hyd pressure had nowhere to go but down, leaving the aircraft bowing courteously for all to see. Must have been quite the shock for all involved.

A few subtle points regarding Error Management.

If an error is made, that’s cool, mistakes happen all the time. What you do following a significant error is what defines you as an operator.

Do you call a stop to everything and consider what else may have been missed? This provides an opportunity to prevent the snowball effect making your day go from bad to worse. Or do you do everything you can to hide said error so your rich snobby passenger’s don’t get upset at you, so the boss doesn’t find out and sack you?

I’d recommend option A.

All exceptional operators that I have worked with over the years have been very good at admitting to errors and working a solution on the spot to prevent further errors. Error management talks about recognising situations that lead to you as an individual making a mistake. Some examples:

  • Tired or fatigued
  • Stressed out
  • Hungover
  • Family issues
  • Test situations
  • Running late
  • Over confidence
  • Under confidence
  • Haven’t studied enough

So many reasons why mistakes are made, all able to be managed in one way or the other.

Tired? Go to bed earlier. Is your room adequate for rest? Does your companies crew rest policy allow sufficient rest between flying days?

Stressed or family issues? Try to compartmentalise your emotions. You’re about to fly or work around aircraft. Leave your emotional baggage outside and commit to the job at hand. This is easier said than done, but certainly possible. By making imaginary boxes in your head that you can place just about anything in, you can begin to compartmentalise your life. One box can be for your partner, another for family, finances, work, socialising, etc. Each box has a lid that can be closed so that it can be neatly stacked away when not required. When it comes time to go flying for example, close all of the boxes except for the one that you require to get in that plane and operate it. Once you’re at the top of climb and established well into the cruise, you can surely go ahead and quickly open other boxes, but be prepared to close them when required.

Hungover? Your fault completely. You’re bound to make mistakes after a big night out. Leave the pub early. Commit to a drinking limit and stick to it. Hard to do when the Captain brings in a tray of shots at 11pm after a few beers however.

Test situations or being checked. The “Six P’s” can certainly help here. Prior Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance. Everyone feels the pressure when being checked but being prepared is a solid solution.
Running late can really snowball into a high error environment. You’re under pressure to get your plane fixed or get airborne. Whether it’s real pressure or perceived pressure you still need to get it right. The chances you will forget to do something with external pressures are huge. Be aware and don’t be afraid to be the brave one to say “Hey hold on a minute.”

Over or under confidence. Don’t get your ambitions and your capabilities mixed up. So many times I’ve seen a super confident crew member make an error and try to bluff their way out of it. Remember that over confidence blurs out the risk, under confidence magnifies it.

So a few free reminders. When you make a mistake that has fairly critical outcomes, you have options. Some are smart, some are not so smart. Buy yourself time by making the smart decisions. Remember that the most professional operators out there know they make plenty of mistakes. They know they’re not infallible. What they do best is understand their error prone times and defeat them through good error management.

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