Sunday, July 21, 2013

Fatal Courtesy

My post today is about the disastrous consequences of inappropriate language in the cockpit, but IMHO it has interesting applications for world building, for dialogue, and for plot and character development, for alien romances and non-alien fiction as well.

We're talking dangers degrees of deference, and exaggerated awe of a higher ranking officer... which happens to be a theme that interested me in my God Princes Of Tigron series where the god-Prince Tarrant-Arragon was aware that cowed Star Forces officers were a liability on the Bridge of a war-star. This is one reason that he took a shine to the human, Grievous who shot off his mouth first and worried about the social graces later.

I am reading "OUTLIERS" by Malcolm Gladwell... and I think you should read it, too. The chapter on "The Ethnic Theory of Plane Crashes" is fascinating to me. Basically, the theory is that Korean pilots used to crash more than pilots of other countries because of their strict social structure (high Power Distance Index), the complexity of their language, and their respect for authority... including abrupt air traffic controllers.

Apparently, all planes are safer if the less senior officer is flying the plane and the more senior pilot is watching everything and talking to the air traffic controllers. It sounds counter-intuitive, but if there is ice on the wings, or the fuel is running out, or there's a storm up ahead, there is no time for parsing gentle hints such as "the weather radar has helped us" and translating that into "we're about to hit a mountain!"

Just as many How To Write Romance tip sheets suggest that before a hero and heroine can have plausible, loving sex, there has to be a progression of touches in five if not seven progressively more intimate places, so there is a theory that no catastrophic airplane accident is the result of one problem.

Usually, there is a critical mass of at least three preconditions: a minor technical malfunction either of one system of a plane or of an airport system; bad weather; a tired pilot. If these three conditions exist, the pilot needs perfect cooperation and communication with everyone in the cockpit and on the ground. He needs to be able to ask clearly for the exact help he requires, and to get it.

I had not heard about "mitigated speech" before, but apparently there are 6 ways to warn a pilot that he is about to fly into a thunderstorm.

1. Command. Example, "Turn thirty degrees right."
2. Crew Obligation Statement. Example, "I think we need to deviate right about now."
3. Crew Suggestion. Example, "Let's go around the weather."
4. Query. Example, "Which direction would you like to deviate?"
5. Preference. Example, "I think it would be wise to turn left or right."
6. Hint. Example, "That return at twenty-five miles looks mean."

This is quoted from Outliers, which quotes from a study done by Ute Fischer and Judith Orasanu, "Error-Challenging Strategies: Their Role In Preventing And Correcting Errors."

There are three sample chapters free on the Gladwell website including the chapter that explains what an Outlier is
also why some perfectly pleasant neighbors suddenly lash out (especially if they are Kentuckians, or have Scots ancestry)

If you want to read the chapter to which I refer here, "The Ethnic Theory Of Plane Crashes", you will have to obtain the book. Barnes and Noble has a used copy for $1.99 or you can rent it for 60 days for $8.37.

Rowena Cherry

No comments:

Post a Comment