Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Mocking the Manual

"This manual serves as a series of checklists and a record of experience for pilot duties at Company. It does not include many basic airmanship tasks that are expected of any competent pilot."
- my current company pilot procedures manual

Long time readers will recall my habit of mocking passages in my company documents as I study them and ordinary sentences suddenly become ridiculous through boredom and fatigue. Now the shoe is on the other foot. I have to write the damned things. I figured out pretty early on that company manuals have two primary purposes. One is to fulfill legal requirements. The other is. like the air law itself, to serve as a comprehensive list of things the pilot can be blamed for doing wrong in the even that that pilot has an accident or otherwise inconveniences the company. That, and the never-ending task of keeping it up-to-date in the face of new routes, procedures and aircraft, explains the contradictions and impossibilities. Pilots rarely get in trouble for contravening company policy if they bring an undamaged aircraft back on time without customer complaint.

Ideally you would be able to tell pilots to fly the plane safely and efficiently, obey the law, and don't scare the customers and then instead of a three-hole punch and a ring binder you'd just laminate the one page manual and be done with it. But you have to anticipate what pilots might not know and give them the information in a way they can understand to it, refer to it and recognize its importance. There's a balance to be achieved, and I hope I've done that.


marek said...

There is a standard to aspire to here in the form of the Nordstrom employee handbook. But I somehow think you won't quite get there in your line of work.

Anonymous said...

The art of translating "Plan your flight, fly your plan, don't do anything dumb...." to cover 5,000 different scenarios......in less than 65 volumes :)

Timo Kiravuo said...

Our sea kayaking club has managed for many years with the safety rule "Don't get into evening news."

A major problem with rules and procedures is that people often stop thinking. Of course all people don't think so much in the first place and rules often contain information that is not obvious.


grant said...

As much as we chaffe against them... as a company grows larger, Standard Operating Procedures become more important so that each person in a complex operation knows exactly what their duties are and what they can expect from the others they must interact with. And of course this applies most of all to the two pilots (or more) working together in a flight deck.

majroj said...

Robert Townsend said such manuals are for people who like to whack other people over the heads with them. They grow by responding to every single weird incident which occurs, so they invariably get thicker and more and more abstruse as time goes on.
I love when at a new job they mockingly drop a six inch thick binder in your lap and say "Here, read this".

Give us the apprentice system again, no one progresses until and unless they know how to do it right and safely.