Life in Flight Training

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13 June 2019 / Read Comments / By: Andrew / leadership, people, Change

The Trifecta (Part Three) The ‘Human’ in Human Resources

The ‘Human’ in Human Resources 


On the morning of 7 October 2008 I was in a bus with my crew on our way to Perth Airport for our flight to Sydney. Every indication was that it would be a normal day ahead for us, but for the crew of an Airbus A330 several hundred kilometres north of Perth, their day was about to be anything but normal. 

As we walked into the airport I was met with a barrage from phones, computers, ground staff and airline management. I was informed that a major incident had occurred on one of our aircraft and it would now hopefully land safely at an air force base called Learmonth. On board were many seriously injured passengers and crew and a rogue flight computer refusing to follow the Captains orders. We now know of this incident as the QF72.  

Instead of operating to Sydney we were then instructed to fly medical staff, a team of engineers, incident response personnel and a variety of other aviation experts and support staff to Learmonth to provide assistance. 

On arrival we were confronted by physically injured, emotionally scarred, angry, hysterical and even grateful people. In fact every conceivable human emotion was on display and for good reason. It quickly became apparent that the travellers on QF72 from Singapore to Perth had, by all accounts, only escaped a truly awful fate through the knowledge, skills, and determination of Captain Kevin Sullivan and his crew.  

Despite having a computer that could calculate thousands of pieces of flight data in seconds, it was ultimately human resource, with all its frailties and limitations, that saved the lives of hundreds of people and averted one of the worst aviation disasters in history. 

When bad s*I# happens, and it does and it will, it is people who have the resources to solve it. Human beings can make errors, but they can also correct them with human insight and experience, be it at 36,000 feet or in the boardroom. Computers, systems and policies don’t feel fear, nor do they fear failure, loss or responsibility, but I’m confident Captain Sullivan felt all those emotions during that ordeal. And while I was personally devastated that he and his passengers and crew had to go through such a dreadful event and suffer the ongoing consequences, I am immensely grateful for the human side of his resources because it was not only his flight training, undeniable skills and mental capacity, but also his human response that drove his ‘not on my watch’ actions. The determination to do your best, to learn from mistakes, to turn things around and to put faith in each other’s abilities are purely human qualities and the very ones I want, whether I am a passenger on a plane or an employee relying on my work colleagues to do their job. 

So, next time your employees, your management and even your customers show you their human side don’t miss the opportunity to show them yours. You might just make their day or even save their lives.