Date of Award

10-2014

Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Aviation

Department

Doctoral Studies

Committee Chair

Tim Brady, Ph.D.

First Committee Member

MaryJo O. Smith, Ph.D.

Second Committee Member

John V. Sabel, J.D.

Third Committee Member

Antonio I. Cortes, Ph.D.

Abstract

The continuous expansion of Middle Eastern airlines has created a pilot shortage. Since the local pilot population in the Middle East is relatively small, airlines have been relying on foreign pilots to satisfy their operational requirements. Consequently, pilots with diverse cultural perspectives have been operating together. In order to manage this cultural diversity and ensure safe operations, airlines have been applying a number of training and operational strategies such as Crew Resource Management (CRM) with emphasis on adherence to Standard Operating Procedures (SOP). However, CRM was designed and implemented by North Americans as a solution for human factor intricacies among North American pilots, and thus, CRM is not culturally calibrated to accommodate pilots from other regions in the world.

The analyses of Flight Operational Quality Assurance (FOQA) information acquired from a Middle Eastern airline aided in understanding the influences of cultural diversity on airline operations. This analysis helped in understanding the impact of cross-culture among airline pilots on three relevant unsafe performance events: hard landings, unstable approaches, and pilot deviations.

The study was conducted using a descriptive comparative method to analyze the relationship between unsafe performance events and captain / first officer nationality combinations during flights where performance events were recorded. The flight data were retrieved from an unchanged flight data-recording environment yielding robust detailed data that was combined with administrative demographic data.

Tests of associations were used to understand the relationship between unsafe performance events and nationality combinations. These associations were illustrated through multi-dimensional chi-square tests. A comparison of cross-cultural and homogeneous flight deck crew combinations from unsafe performance events was examined. Additional analyses were conducted to predict group membership through discriminant analysis and multinomial logistic regression.

Several Spearman's r correlation tests were conducted to assess the influence of intervening demographic variables on the association between nationality combinations and unsafe performance events. While cause-and-effect relationships between variables could not be determined in this research design, association variations between variables were made evident. ANCOVA statistical tests were conducted to control for the effect of: age of captains / first officers, airport destinations, and eligibility to command the flight on the relationship between nationality combination and unsafe performance events.

The Spearman's rank correlation test indicated significant weak correlation between destination airport and unsafe performance events, as well as, eligibility to command the flight and unsafe performance events. A 7 by 7 multi-dimensional chi-square test indicated that there was a relationship between certain pilot nationality combinations and unsafe performance events categories for pilot deviations and all unsafe performance events together. Moreover, the discriminant analysis test results showed that there was a significant effect of some nationality combinations on unsafe performance events.

Results obtained from the analyses buttress the literature that certain cultural traits and beliefs influence pilots' behavior and attitudes and may jeopardize safety levels. CRM skills may be weakened as a result of heterogeneous nationality combinations. It is recommended to conduct further research on current CRM training concepts in order to improve its effectiveness among cross-cultural crewmembers.

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