OFFICIAL OPENING OF THE ICAO THIRD GLOBAL FLIGHT SAFETY AND HUMAN FACTORS SYMPOSIUM

  • Maurice Williamson
Transport

Distinguished visitors
Ladies and Gentlemen
It is my pleasure, on behalf of the New Zealand Government, to welcome you to our country and to the Third International Civil Aviation Organisation Global Flight Safety and Human Factors Symposium.

In the last few years, there have been a number of aviation accidents in New Zealand which have caused concern.

They have involved trained and experienced pilots flying well-maintained aircraft in relatively benign weather conditions.

These accidents have occurred as a result of circumstances which should have been within the pilots and the aircrafts ability to cope.

In short, they could well have involved human factors.

Technology gives us the potential to engineer failure out of aviation equipment and systems.

Yet when psychology interacts with technology, the outcome is not quite so simple.

Statistics show that some 80% of aviation accidents are due to human error.

Taking this into account, the human factor has become the target of the aviation industry worldwide in efforts to reduce the number of aircraft accidents.

It is perhaps the last major frontier in the quest for aviation safety improvement.

Moreover, it is in aviation that the human factor debate has progressed furthest.

I am aware of the pioneering work carried out by Professor James Reason and others present here today.

And I am pleased that a core of individuals in New Zealand led the way with early work in this area from the mid 1970s to the mid 80s.

I also want to pay tribute to the work done by ICAO in bringing focus and direction to the human factors debate.

In looking to further improvements, we may need to re-evaluate traditional approaches to the training of our pilots, engineers, air traffic controllers and other aviation personnel.

We need better training of practitioners using new techniques.

This training needs to include appreciation of the human factor as a fundamental feature of aviation systems design.

We need to look at systems error rather than human fault.

In practical terms, that means evaluating the cockpit, workshop, control tower and aviation operating organisations as we would assess any other workplace.

It involves examining the ways in which the flight crew interact with each other and with others involved in the system.

It requires careful scrutiny of all our communications systems.

An open attitude is required in order to see the wider picture.

And in looking at this wider picture, I note that in the maritime and land transport sectors, approximately the same percentage of accidents are caused by human factors as in aviation.

As New Zealands Minister of Transport, responsible for all three transport modes, I naturally want to see maritime and land transport share in the benefits of aviation human factors research and development.

After all, those sectors share with aviation a number of common features.

They, too, grapple with the interface between man and machine, or should I say - people and technology.

They both deal with accelerating vehicle speeds and increasingly complex control systems.

So I hope that maritime and land transport representatives, and their regulators, apply the human factors message to their sectors.

I consider it to be an honour for the International Civil Aviation Organisation to have accorded New Zealand the responsibility for hosting this event, the third in the series.

I am sufficiently proud of our work in this field to believe that ICAO has done so in recognition of New Zealands contribution to human factors research.

Your attendance in such numbers, more than twice as many as the previous symposium, seems to support my belief.

Of course it may be that New Zealands tourist promotional efforts are bearing fruit, and that you are taking advantage of this opportunity to enjoy our scenic splendours.

I know that some of you have already visited our annual Warbirds vintage aircraft display at Wanaka during Easter weekend.

Whatever your individual leisure plans and activities are, I sincerely hope that your attendance at this symposium will help all of us work towards increased safety and continued progress in human factors research, development and implementation.

Ladies and gentlemen, it gives me great pleasure to declare this Third Global Flight Safety Human Factors Symposium officially open.