Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The Fork In The Road Test

All roads lead to Rome and there are many different ways of reaching the same goal or objective. Finding the rootcause takes a road trip defining the turns and forks in the road. If travelling by air the course may take a detour by relying on the old ADF, or be more effective following a GPS course. There are several root cause analysis techniques and they all serve a purpose to improve safety and one rootcause model may be as effective, or ineffective as another. All rootcause analysis models are designed to establish at what time or location in the failed process a different approach could have made a different outcome. The 5-Why and fish bone rootcause analysis are widely accepted within the aviation industry and assumed to have established the correct rootcause. A risk assessment of substitute and residual risks is normally conducted after the rootcause analysis to identify if there are other or unexpected hazards by the implementation of proposed corrective action plan in the form of a new risk control strategy. As a compliance criteria, the enterprise monitors the cap with a follow-up as an assessment of the effectiveness of safety improvement.

Without knowledge one fork in the road is as good as another.
Monitoring the effect of corrective action is a standard procedure for follow-up of CAP implementation. Monitoring and follow-up may be dependant on seasonal differences or timeframes for collection of enough data to establish the effectiveness. If an enterprise has lost control of their safety processes and decided to implement corrective strategies The Fork In The Road Test is a tool to identify if steps in the evaluation process are taking shortcuts and jumping to a conclusion that the new strategy is the correct strategy. This shortcut is an attempt to break the wall in a maze to make it to the end of the tunnel without following the process path.

The Fork In The Road Test is to backtrack the process to establish where in the maze the failure of the wall was  and to establish the time and location in the future where the missing link of a CAP is. This does not imply that an incident or accident can be predicted, but it implies that knowledge is vital to predict the hazards affecting the process.

When building and operating out of an ice-runway there are many considerations affecting the design of the runway. Since the runway thaws out every year, it must be rebuilt the next season and located at the exactly same location to be validated as the same runway and applying the same instrument approach procedures. In addition to the runway itself, the ice movement over time offset the precision approach to a point where it becomes unusable. When applying The Fork In The Road Test to the runway the time begins at the time when the ice melted and the location begins at the location where the ice threshold was located.

It becomes simple to see The Fork In The Road if an aircraft landed on the ice in the spring when most of the ice had melted. The time can is backtracked and establish that a change in the direction, or taking a different turn at the fork in the road at that time would have made a difference. The Fork In The Road is not the time and location when the flight crew had to make decision to change flight path, but at what time and location the aircraft could have been expected to complete the flight without an incident. When the ice is melted the aircraft was doomed at the time of departure. On the
The Fork In The Road does not always take a straight path.
other hand let’s assume that the accident happened in the middle of the winter with a foot of ice and minus 45 degrees temperature. At this point it becomes a scientific task to establish where the fork in the road was. The task becomes to identify if there were special variations that caused the change of course or an incident, or if there was normal variations that were overlooked. E.g. melting ice would be a normal variation, blowing snow would be a normal variation, darkness would be a normal variation and ice-ridges would be a normal variation.

Let’s for a minute assume that the airplane hit an ice-ridge. This establishes the Fork In The Road at a time prior to the aircraft departed from civilization. The Fork In The Road is the one trigger that would, without doubt, made a difference for safe operations. In this scenario, it would have made a difference if the normal variation had been identified and runway inspected and assessed as safe for operations. The Fork In The Road Test is not applicable to events after departure since the departure itself locked the aircraft into a path where at some point in time the flight crew would have to make a reversal decisions or an incident would happen. The Fork In The Road Test had predicted a hazard of normal variations, but since the Fork In The Road Test was not applied the hazard was not identified.

At the world’s most dangerous airport a siren sounds about 45 minutes prior to arrival and before the aircraft departs for this destination. The Fork In The Road has been identified and the corrective action implemented at the time and location where it effectively makes a difference and aviation has become safer. The Fork In The Road is in the planning and decision to complete a pleasant flight.