Prior Publisher

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University


Despite the reductionist analyses produced by politicians and the Fourth Estate, the loss of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 was a systems accident – a product of the interactions between the actants that compose the commercial aviation system network-space. As an antidote to reductionism’s ‘fundamental attribution error’, this paper presents a systems-thinking-informed analysis of the MH17 disaster. To this end it draws on Actor-Network Theory and the work of Reason, Toft, Dekker, Hollnagel and other systems-thinking advocates. Whether intentional or not, politicians’ reductionist analyses generated political capital. European Union and American finger-pointing distracted from aviation authorities’ and airlines’ ill-advised routing policies. Russian finger-pointing distracted from that country’s economic dysfunction and adventurism. The risk-management community must redouble its efforts to publicise the benefits of the systems-thinking approach to risk assessment and accident investigation.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.