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The human operator, the least reliable element of an aerodyne, but the most essential...!
Frank Caron (1991)


Last update:
26 September 2016

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Human Factors - Suggestions for a discipline committee

introduction
Discipline is usually managed by flight operations, not by safety. For different reasons, some safety managers want to be part of discipline actions. It is a serious mistake, since safety has the sole goal to review and prevent incidents and accidents. In any case, safety departments must be involve in judging and punishing air crews for whatever they have done, creating an irresolvable conflict of interest, especially regarding air crew confidence in their safety system.

If a Discipline Committee has to be implemented, here are some suggestions... with two basics but essential recommendations:

  1. ALWAYS SHARE the decisions
  2. maintain a good level of TRANSPARENCY about the processes.

Some airlines have a full duty time Discipline Manager. Maybe it is a practical system, but as matter of fact not fair at all, just because the most important part of the decision weight on the sole shoulders of a single man. As an obvious consequence, he is not among the most appreciated managers in the company leading to very bad and insulting comments regarding some of the decisions.

But, what is fairness regarding a disciplinary decision?

Unfortunately, there is not a good answer. But, there is a fact, especially regarding discipline decision/action: sharing the decision(s)/action(s) with other and not only with few managers but also “representatives”. It is also essential to add some human factor expertise in this committee.
One might ALWAYS argue or appeal a decision from a single person, just because there is ALWAYS SUBJECTIVITY. But it is more questionable if the decision(s) are coming from a group of people, because it is going to be a collective and shared process. And that makes all the difference… even though you will always have discontent. The other good consequence is this is going to add more credit to the management and therefore the company.

Implementation
First the committee must be created. That means announcing its creation officially in the company. Every pilot must know his/her questionable behavior might be reviewed by this committee. I would suggest one other identical committee be created for cabin crew. The following must concerns only cockpit crew. This procedure must be inserted somewhere in the Operating Manual. Again, always think transparency.

Committee requirements

  • The committee is independent
  • The committee works only with its full members.
  • The committee works are secret.
  • The committee works is paramount.
  • The relevant raw data belongs to the committee only, and must not be released.
  • The final decision and its explanation will be released to the personnel (transparency).
Committee members requirements
  • All the committee members must attend the meetings (because it might imply important decision for personnel, sometimes with damaging personal consequences)
  • The members must comply with the collective decisions, whatever their own decision(s) might be.
  • The members must not report any committee meetings extracts, minutes, reports or other information.
  • Only the committee members have the right to vote.

Committee composition
Number of members
The number of members must be sufficient but not too large. The more large size, the more strength would be given to the collective decision. But the size must also be practical (mainly interactions between people). A “not too bad” number is around 10 members.
Moreover, in order to avoid 50%-50% votes, the number of members in this committee must be an odd number.

Committee Members

  • General Manager, Flying
  • Deputy General Manager, Flying
  • Training Manager
  • Two captains chosen in the crew member pool
  • Two first officer chosen in the crew member pool
  • Human factor specialist

Important notes:

  1. The captains and FO must be different for each case. Two good consequences:
    1. That allows “choosing” people to be involved, and to prevent (too) friendly-subjective relationship with the reviewed cockpit crew member(s). That involved company cockpit crew in important decisions…
    2. That increase confidence in the personnel and reinforce their commitment in the company, as being part of the system.
  2. The human factor specialist profile will give a lot of credit to this committee and its decision, and therefore the department, as the company.

Crew members involved

  • The involved crew member(s)
  • One counsel for each involved crew member.
Each crew member may choose to be accompanied by one counsel of his choice (one counsel for each crew member), providing this counsel is a personnel of HKA.

Operation committee (first investigation)
When a situation that requires the discipline committee is reported the General Manager-Flying or his Deputy activate the committee.

Attendance regarding committee members
All the members investigate the case and they take a collective decision regarding the reviewed behavior. The Human Factor Specialist attends all the meetings but do not vote.
A new chairman would be chosen for each case between the General Manager Flying, his deputy or the Training Manager. The chairman would be in charge of managing the process. He cannot be one of the captains or FOs. The Human Factor Specialist will bring advice and comment(s) regarding his respective field.

Attendance regarding involved crew member(s)
He/she(they) must be present during auditions. He CANNOT be represented.

Data collections
All the relevant (DFDR, CVR transcripts, etc.) data must be collected before starting the process. All the data must be kept confidential in a protected areas.
Interviews of the involved crew member(s) must be done as fast as possible, by the General Manager Flying, or his deputy, if possible the same day or the day after (human memories are tricky devices…). Minutes of the interview must be done and signed by both parties.
A copy of all the confidential data will be provided to each committee member.

Positions or members choices
The chairman is chosen alternatively between the GM-Flying, his Deputy or the Training Manager.
The 2 Captains are chosen by the chairman.
The 2 FO are chosen by the chairman.
The chairman checks the schedule of all the involved members make the attendances possible, or instruct the roster officer to change the respective planning.

Notifications of Committee Members about a new investigation
A formal letter regarding the notification must be sent to every committee member personal addresses. It is a requirement for each to acknowledge within 7 days.
The notification(s) is/are sent by the Chairman.

Each committee member receives:

  1. a copy of all the confidential relevant data
  2. a schedule.

Notifications of the involved crew member(s) and their counsel about the investigation
A formal letter regarding the notification must be sent to every involved crew member personal addresses. It is a requirement for each to acknowledge within 7 days. The crew member is also required to notify the name of his/her counsel.
The notification(s) is/are sent by the Chairman.

When the committee receives the name of the counsel(s), a formal letter regarding the notification must be sent to every counsel personal addresses. It is a requirement for each to acknowledge within 7 days.
The notification(s) is/are sent by the Chairman.

Each crew member and counsel receives:

  1. a copy of all the confidential relevant data
  2. a schedule.

Schedule
The committee must work in a very diligent and fast way. The committee operating schedule may be adapted according to every case. But in a general way, an investigation should be complete in less than one month.
The time should click from the time all the data seem to be collected.
The schedule is made by the Chairman as:

  1. AUDITION meeting, with:
    1. All committee members
    2. Involved crew member(s) and their council(s)
    3. Not least than 10 days (in order for the committee members to review the data) after all the data were gathered.
  2. FINAL meeting (Review/Analyzing/Decision), with:
    1. Eight Discipline committee members only
    2. Not least than 7 days after the audition meeting
  3. SUPERNUMERARY meeting(s) if needed.

AUDITION meeting agenda
The role and the rules of the discipline committee are explained to all the parties.
The involved crew member(s) and their counsel describe the situation. The counsel may support the involved crew member anytime.
The committee members may ask any questions to the crew(s).
Minutes are done by the chairman.

FINAL meeting (Review/Analyzing/Decision) agenda
The rules of the discipline committee are reminded to all the members.
The committee member reviews the case with ALL the data and the minutes from the audition meeting.
Minutes are done by the chairman.
The committee members only:

  1. Deliberate regarding the case,
  2. Acknowledge fully or partially the "unprofessional" behavior
  3. Vote regarding the unprofessional behavior,
  4. Propose or not punishment(s) to the crew member(s), the punishment may be different according to the level of responsibility of each crew member
  5. Vote regarding the punishment(s).

At the end, ONLY one decision should be imposed to the crew member(s). The decision(s) kept are the decision with the most numerous votes. Usually, the decision states if the crew member(s) did perform a unprofessional behavior or not, or only on some aspects.

Notes about the vote:

  1. Each committee member has one vote only. In a general way, each member has to express if he/she agrees with each decision.
  2. The decision with the highest number of vote is kept.
  3. If (for any reason) a decision get 50% “yes” and 50% “no”, the decision is deemed again after each committee member express his/her concern about.
  4. The involved crew member(s) and their counsel CANNOT vote.
  5. the Human Factor Specialist does not vote.

Note about the punishment:

  1. Each committee member has one vote only. In a general way, each member has to express if he/she agrees with each decision.
  2. Is kept the decision with the highest number of vote.
  3. If (for any reason) a decision get 50% “yes” and 50% “no”, the decision is deemed again after each committee member express his/her concern about.
  4. The involved crew member(s) and their counsel CANNOT vote.
  5. the Human Factor Specialist does not vote.

SUPERNUMERARY meeting(s)
Supernumerary meetings may be attended with all parties or only Discipline Committee members according to the needs.

Notifications
Notification to involved crew member
The notification must be done personally to every crew member involved. It might be made by any means of communication, but MUST be confirmed by a company mail.
For information, a copy of the notification is made to the relevant counsel.

Notification to company personnel
The final committee decision (and some explanations) must not be secret. It should be released to the personnel (by email and inserted on the intranet), provided all the information that may identify the situation and its involved personnel are fully withdrawn (names, date, etc.). It is important to let people know how the committee works, what kind of decisions it takes, and mostly why it takes it (again transparency).

Decision(s) appeal
A decision can be objected ONCE.
Part of the decision only can be objected.
In order to be investigating again, at least 50% of the committee members of the relevant case must be agreed to examine again the related behavior and the committee decision. In case of less than 50% of the members agrees to review the appeal, this is rejected and the previous decision(s) maintained.
The committee operation for an appeal is the same as during the first investigation.
The following decision CANNOT be appealed again.
The notifications follow the same process.

Final notes:
This process must be subject to improvements, if needed or requested.
Bear in mind that if a discipline committee is required too often, it is more a company issue than a real discipline issue(s). The point here is too many discipline matters usually are consequences of company management and/or spirit...

 

Frank Caron, December 2008.


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