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Flight Safety in Alaska: Comparing Attitudes and Practices of High- and Low-Risk Air Carriers

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Abstract:

Conway GA, Mode NA, Berman MD, Martin S, Hill A. Flight safety in Alaska: comparing attitudes and practices of high- and low-risk air carriers. Aviat Space Environ Med 2005; 76:52–57.

Introduction: Aircraft operations are a vital component of the transportation system in Alaska. Between 1990–2002, a total of 481 people died in Alaska in aviation accidents. The purpose of this study was to examine the practices and attitudes of Alaska commuter and air taxi operators and their pilots as they relate to company fatal accident rates. Methods: A case-control analysis based on accident statistics was performed, grouping operators and their pilots into cases and controls, based on operator fatal accident rates, during January 1990 to June 2001. Responses from two aviation safety surveys—one of air carrier operators and one of active commercial pilots—were compared between cases and controls. Results: The average case pilot had less career flight experience than control pilots and worked 13 h · d−1 and 81 h · wk−1; that is, 1 h · d−1 and 10 h · wk−1 more than controls. Case operators were less likely to consider pilot fatigue a problem when scheduling flights (p = 0.05) and more likely to depend financially on timely delivery of bypass mail (p = 0.04). Case pilots were three times as likely as controls to fly daily into unknown weather conditions. Nearly 90% of case pilots reported that they never flew when so fatigued that they wanted to decline the flight, compared with 64% of control pilots (p = 0.01). Conclusions: Pilots of high-risk operators differed from those working for the other operators, both in experience and working conditions. The combination of pilot inexperience and longer work hours and workweeks may contribute to Alaska’s high aviation crash rate.

Keywords: Alaska; aircraft crash; case-control study; occupational injury

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2005-01-01

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