Aircraft IT Operations – June/July 2013

Aircraft IT Operations – June/July 2013 Cover


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A question of integrity

Author: Paul Saunders


A Question of integrity?

Paul Saunders Column: The World according to IT and me…

In the era where consumer devices are being used as business tools one thing we are asked to consider is whether these cool gadgets we put in the hands of our colleagues should be used as personal devices or not. Should the device be constrained to our business apps, or should we allow the user to treat it as a personal device? The argument from the safety community that I always hear is that we should not allow pilots to be distracted by an intense game of Angry Birds or a particularly challenging Sudoku puzzle during critical phases of flight.

Absolutely! Quite right!

It would be catastrophic to learn that the integrity of the pilot community was in question due to their own in-flight entertainment. This is why we do not allow pilots to bring their own smart phones or personal gadgets into the cockpit. The risk of a pilot playing games on their own electronic device is unthinkable…

Err… wait a minute….

This is why pilots have their newspapers and other personal reading material removed from the cockpit before take-off. The thought of allowing our colleagues to be distracted by a crossword during critical phases of flight is beyond the pale.

Umm.. hang on a second…..

Were these distractions that were considered a major risk before iPads and other consumer devices found their way into the cockpit? If our colleagues are distracted by games during a flight then this is not a human factors issue. This is a management and integrity issue which is slightly more worrying. The same employee who bunks off work for 4 hours a day on social media is the same employee who spent all their of time on Solitaire or Minesweeper ten years ago, and who ten years before that was reading the paper or having countless cigarette breaks instead of working.

Our entire industry relies entirely on a highly professional and dedicated workforce which has personal integrity at its core. By arguing that Angry Birds is a huge safety concern is doing our industry a disservice and completely misses the point of personal electronic devices. Let’s just think about the huge and often intangible benefits that such devices bring to our industry.

The attrition rates of personal issued consumer devices are significantly lower than those that are not personal issue. Allowing a user to install their own apps, photos and music will help ensure adoption, will make the user more likely to follow synchronization and charging policies and will allow them to innovate with smarter ways of working. Let’s not forget the countless hours that our colleagues spend in far flung places away from friends and family. A connected workforce is likely to spend less time at work worrying about issues at home.

So let’s just think about which is the more likely risk…. A pilot who hasn’t spoken to his family for a couple of days, who didn’t sync his device overnight (so hasn’t got access to the latest safety data), who didn’t charge their device since the outbound flight (so is about to run out of battery)?  Or the pilot who is distracted whilst playing Angry Birds?

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