Airlink Incidents: Viewing Trends in Visual Form

By ThinkReliability Staff

Over the past three months, South Africa’s Airlink airline has had four incidents, ranging from embarrassing to fatal. Four similar incidents such as these start to point out a trend, which should be investigated to improve processes and increase safety. But how do we start the investigation?

In the Cause Mapping root cause analysis method, we begin by defining the problem. Here we can define four problems, which are the four incidents over the last three months. We can look at one incident at a time in a problem outline, the first step of the Cause Mapping process. We’ll start with the earliest incident first.

On September 24, 2009 at approximately 8 a.m. a Jetstream 41 crashed into a school yard in Durban Bluff just after take-off from Durban International Airport. This was a forced landing necessitated by the loss of an engine. The pilot was killed. There were also two serious injuries of the crew, and a minor injury of a person on the ground. There were no passengers on the plane, and the impact to Airlink’s schedule is unclear. However, the plane was lost.

We can capture this information more clearly and succinctly in an outline. For example, the above paragraph has more than 80 words. The outline, which records the same information, uses only 42 words in an easily understandable visual form. (The outline for all three incidents can be viewed by clicking on “Download PDF” above.)

The second incident: On November 18, 2009 at 1:30 p.m. a BAE Systems Jetstream 41 aborted take-off for East London and slid off the runway at Port Elizabeth airport. There were high velocity cross winds, and the pilot may have been unable to establish directional control. There were no injuries, no environmental impact and damages to the plane are unknown. However, new travel arrangements had to be made by the airline for all the passengers. The frequency of Airlink incidents is now two in eight weeks. (Over 80 words; the outline has 49 words.)

The third incident: On November 24, 2009 at approximately 8 a.m. a flight en route to Harare carrying a Prime Minister was forced to return to Johannesburg Airport after it experienced a technical fault. There were no injuries, but it caused a delay in the Prime Minister’s schedule. The damage to the airplane is unclear. The frequency of Airlink incidents is now three in two months. (Over 60 words; the outline has 33 words.)

The fourth incident: On December 7, 2009 at approximately 11 a.m. a Regional airline SA Airlink Embraer 135 commuter jet hydroplaned and overshot the runway while landing at George Airport during rainy weather. There were five injuries, including a sprained ankle. This incident has led to a poor public perception of the airline and increased supervision from the authorities. We do not have a dollar amount on the property damage. The frequency of Airlink incidents is now 4 in 10 weeks. (Over 70 words; the outline has 42 words.)

In addition to the increased brevity of the outline, it provides an easy visual comparison of the four incidents by showing them in a similar visual form. On one page, we can show the timeline, and outlines of the four incidents for easy comparison. This is especially useful for a briefing tool for busy managers.