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UK participants sought for a CAS infringement study

Dear all
Have you infringed controlled airspace recently (within the last year) or know someone who has?

I am a GA pilot undertaking research at University College London into why pilots of light aircraft infringe controlled airspace. This is not about what pilots do when they infringe, such as misread a chart or fail to plan the flight, but about why they do it and, indeed, why pilots continue to make mistakes contrary to their training and instincts. The outcome of the research is expected to be a published study leading to a better understanding of those factors that lead to pilot error, helping pilots of light aircraft to recognise those factors together with strategies to help mitigate them.

I am looking for volunteers – I need about 20 – who have infringed controlled airspace recently, at least within the past year and who are willing to be interviewed face to face for about 60 – 90 minutes. Before the interview takes place the scope and purpose of the research will be provided in writing and explained to you, addressing any questions you may have, following which you will be asked to confirm that you wish to take part. If you do agree to take part you will be free to withdraw at any time without having to provide any explanation until such time as your data is amalgamated with data from other participants.

The interviews will take place at a time and location convenient to you as I am more than happy to travel to meet participants locally.

This research has been approved by the University College London Ethics Committee and participants can be assured of anonymity and that all personal details and identifying information will be held in strict confidence and destroyed when data collection has concluded.

If you wish to take part, then please contact me either by pm or at:
michael dot evans dot 17 at ucl dot ac dot uk

I am more than happy to discuss the research with any potential participants or anyone interested in what I am doing. If you know anyone who has infringed controlled airspace then I should be most grateful if you would pass on my details to them asking them to contact me. I am happy to provide an information sheet about the research, which includes my phone number, to anyone who asks.
With best wishes
Mike

United Kingdom

MikeE wrote:

I am a GA pilot undertaking research at University College London into why pilots of light aircraft infringe controlled airspace. This is not about what pilots do when they infringe, such as misread a chart or fail to plan the flight, but about why they do it and, indeed, why pilots continue to make mistakes contrary to their training and instincts. The outcome of the research is expected to be a published study leading to a better understanding of those factors that lead to pilot error, helping pilots of light aircraft to recognise those factors together with strategies to help mitigate them.

It seems that your research is pilot-centered — indeed, you seem to make the implicit assumption that infringements are primarily or even solely caused by “pilot mistakes”. In reality the design of airspace and ATC/FIS services are major causal factors in causing pilots to make “mistakes” in the first place. Any research in this area should use a systems approach — not a pilot-centered approach.

ESKC (Uppsala/Sundbro), Sweden

MikeE wrote:

This is not about what pilots do when they infringe, such as misread a chart or fail to plan the flight, but about why they do it and, indeed, why pilots continue to make mistakes contrary to their training and instincts. The outcome of the research is expected to be a published study leading to a better understanding of those factors that lead to pilot error, helping pilots of light aircraft to recognise those factors together with strategies to help mitigate them.

I suggest you read the VERY long thread here about infringements.
The UK infringement “issue” is much more than “pilot error”.

Regards, SD..

MikeE wrote:

and, indeed, why pilots continue to make mistakes contrary to their training and instincts

I stopped reading at this point. What a wasted opportunity.

London

I posted on EuroGA about an infringement in July. I’m not in a good area for London-based face to face. Inverness and Aberdeen are equidistant from me. And it would be hard to spin-out the incident for 60 minutes.

Maoraigh
EGPE, United Kingdom

Many thanks all for your interesting responses.

It may help if I explained in a little more detail what I am doing as, unfortunately, I suspect the message has been lost a bit as I tried to keep my request as short as possible. The title of my research is actually ‘why do pilots of light aircraft make mistakes, in particular why do they infringe controlled airspace’. So this is really a psychological and behavioural approach, focusing not so much on the infringement itself and causation but rather on the thoughts and behaviour of the individual pilot in order to find out why they did as they did and, hopefully, to learn lessons from which other pilots can benefit.
I am looking at pilot error in the GA context as this is a very under-researched subject and I am using infringements as a proxy for error because they are well defined and pilots generally remember the details of what happened. Pilot error has been quite well-researched in the context of commercial flight operations as well as in other safety critical operations such as train operators and nuclear power operators. Given that it is generally accepted among researchers, supported by statistics, that ‘pilot error’ is the cause or major contributor to some 70-80% of all light (and commercial) aircraft accidents I believe this research is both important and timely.
There is a lot of research around systems and their role in incidents with interesting contributions from Reason (and his famous swiss cheese model), Martinussen, Leveson and Turner and Dekker among others which is worth reading. The role of ‘the system’ in pilot error leading to infringements is interesting, although in the interviews conducted to date, apart from mentioning the complexity of some CAS, no-one has suggested that such complexity somehow ‘caused’ their infringement. Indeed, while there clearly is an issue with the complexity of CAS in certain areas of the UK (I fly from Redhill so have first-hand experience!) many infringements occur in much less complex airspace so the issue is not exactly straightforward.
I am interested, SD, in why you think I haven’t read the long thread on infringements. I have, although piecemeal, and intend to return to it and read through in one go. I recall pilots talking in that thread about distractions and other behaviours that may have led to infringements, recognising perhaps that there is/are human factors issues in play, although not, of course, the only factors.
I am also interested in why qalupalik ‘..stopped reading at this point’. This is really a euphemism for ‘I disagree’. I am not sure why. Are we suggesting that pilots don’t make mistakes? Or are we suggesting they don’t continue to make the same mistakes? I am really quite interested in what was meant by this comment and would welcome a chat about that and why this should be seen as a wasted opportunity. I see you are in London and I would be happy to have a chat over a coffee sometime?
Thank you Maoraigh for your response. While I prefer face to face discussion (and am prepared to travel) I am also happy to conduct interviews by phone. Would you consider that, please?
As I mentioned in my original post I am more than happy to have a chat about my research and can be contacted initially by email. And, of course, I would also welcome any further responses from people who have infringed CAS in the UK over the past year who would be willing to discuss this – some pilots who have done so have described talking about it as a useful experience for them because it has helped them understand for themselves why it happened. It is non-threatening, there is no finger-pointing, is entirely anonymous and I aim for minimal inconvenience for participants. It may also help pilots in the future avoid similar errors.
With best wishes
Mike

United Kingdom

MikeE wrote:

that ‘pilot error’ is the cause or major contributor to some 70-80% of all light (and commercial) aircraft accidents

I would not call airspace infringement an accident as you would call a “speed bust” a “road accident”, there is some relationship but not as obvious as one can think even when you apply a system-based approach rather than just agent-based

Take speed limits for example, recommendation are designed by engineers (e.g. road, geometry, traffic, weather…), how you set a speed limit value and the associated fine are not obvious as one could think, setting a very lower limit and a high fine does not improve overall safety

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0001457518305499

The same would apply for airspace design, busts/fines and how these relate to safety, setting a 10km speed camera on a motorway (without even showing a speed limit) then hitting anyone who bust it does not help

Last Edited by Ibra at 18 Oct 11:41
ESSEX, United Kingdom

CAS busts are a very hot topic in the UK right now, following the introduction of the new CAA policy to basically turn every one into a MOR and bust the perpetrator.

They drew up a pilot busting procedures doc called CAP1404, which is ambiguous in all the right places. For example the 2 year time period before your “black mark” expires for “totting up” purposes took an FOIA application to discover. The CAA and NATS, apparently working with the DfT, have polished the reporting system by making it a disciplinary offence for an ATCO to not report it, so a bollocking / apologising to ATC now has absolutely zero value because no ATCO could take the risk. In fact phoning them to apologise is a really stupid idea, as I found out to my cost earlier this year, because whoever takes your call is forced to investigate the radar data and will find some brief “corner nip” which was overlooked.

So they are generating increasing numbers of busts from a declining base of GA activity… This is then used to drive initiatives to drive down busts, and all of these involve simply busting pilots.

The infringements exam is a total joke (bogus questions from a decades out of date QB). The Gasco “charity” £200-£500 (depending on how far you have to come) punishment course is not much better, being packed mostly with relatively experienced pilots who busted due to various human factors, usually distraction, and often ATC are complicit in slow clearance deliveries (but of course ATC is never wrong; that’s logically impossible, it is always pilot error in not executing Plan B fast enough, but if one is looking at reasons “why” then one must consider this also.)

The CAA was apparently trying to keep this under wraps (this included thinly veiled “I want to talk to you, at Gatwick” threats to certain individuals prominent on social media) but it got out under several FOIA applications and now they publish some of the numbers each month here.

As that long thread shows, the rest of Europe seems to have accepted that human pilots will make mistakes. Always have and always will. Only the UK has set up this “big stick” system.

If the terms of reference of the survey include all the various factors, I am happy to participate. Merely examining pilot errors would be the wrong way to go about it – Dekker would have a very strong view on that I am sure – but the CAA approach, including the whole day at Gasco, being lectured by ex RAF old codgers (apologies to all the really nice people I know in and ex RAF) , focuses purely on that.

Administrator
Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

Ibra wrote:

I would not call airspace infringement an accident

Nor would I.

Peter wrote:

CAS busts are a very hot topic in the UK right now

Absolutely!

Peter wrote:

As that long thread shows, the rest of Europe seems to have accepted that human pilots will make mistakes

It’s this I am looking into. Human/Pilot error, which can lead to accidents as well as infringements. I am not suggesting always in isolation as we know that systems may have a role, but in a psychological/behavioural study it is the mindset of the pilot that is the focus. Of course, the pilot can say that he or she was affected in some way by the complexity of the airspace or the way that ANSPs or the CAA deal with infringements (although that has not yet happened in my interviews) and that could be an interesting angle depending on the circumstances, but the focus remains on the individual’s behaviour.

Think of it this way. If I said, as now, that I am researching pilot error but wanted to interview pilots who had crashed their aircraft rather than pilots who had infringed, that does not change the focus of the research. Would people say it was the wrong way of researching why pilots make errors? The problem is that there are thankfully very few pilots who have crashed their aircraft and defining what ‘crashed’ meant (eg a hard landing, breaking something on landing, hitting a car while taxying and so on) would be difficult. I have chosen infringements not because I think all the issues around infringements are a particular area for research (although I am sure they are) but because infringements are a useful focus to find pilots who have made an error.

Of course, it is possible to say, as some do, that pilot error is not a factor in infringements. But there are only two explanations for a pilot infringing: the first is that he or she made a mistake (or more correctly erred) and the second is that he or she did it deliberately. I do not see any other possible factor. Therefore, interviewing pilots who have infringed controlled airspace in a way that was not deliberate suggests that somewhere along the line they made an error. On that occasion the error led to an infringement (fairly or unfairly) but on another occasion a similar error, or series of errors, may lead to an accident. The focus is on the behaviour and not the outcome.

Again, if anyone has infringed (and not deliberately!) please get in touch. It is entirely confidential and anonymous. My email address is
michael dot evans dot 17 at ucl dot ac dot uk

Regards

Mike

United Kingdom

MikeE wrote:

But there are only two explanations for a pilot infringing: the first is that he or she made a mistake (or more correctly erred) and the second is that he or she did it deliberately. I do not see any other possible factor.

You work for the CAA infringement dept, dont you…

I seriously suggest you re-think what you said above, and I am surprised at your attitude to infringements (and accidents) if you are a pilot as you claim to be.

The only airspace infringement I know of committing to date occurred because the FIS I was talking to told me that a restricted area was “not active” when in fact it was active, as I found out when I contacted its controlling authority about crossing its adjoining CTR. I was the third aeroplane that afternoon to have done exactly the same thing. Please explain what my “pilot error” was?

Regards, SD..

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