Monday, August 19, 2013

Beginning our final descent

Lohogaon Airport, Pune.  Dighi Hills in the back.

I am a big fan of aviation.  It's an amazing engineering accomplishment and unfortunately it is now taken for granted.  Like metallurgy even.  I attended a wedding in Nagpur last weekend. An hour long flight in an Airbus 320.   I drew this charter taxing out with the Dighi Hills of Pune in the background.
'Check-list Manifesto" is a great book by Dr Atul Gawande.  He is a surgeon at Mass Gen (?).  He writes  about the importance of check-lists and learnt of their effective use especially in the aerospace industry. (Amongst other things.  For instance, he writes how the rock band Van Halen used them to manage the enormous logistics of their '80s concerts so their fans had a safe and satisfying experience. They used to include a line item like "Jelly bean bowl backstage with no purple beans".  If the bowl wasn't there they knew that perhaps the check-list wasn't being carefully followed.).
I mention this because of the high volume of flights being handled by airports in India all of sudden in the last five years. I often worry about safety standards.  I saw a ground crew member filling in a check-list mechanically in the gangway when I boarded my flight.  He was filling in a logbook and initialling every line item. En masse. One benefit of a check-list  is when we perform routine sequential actions. Its important to check off the action as soon as it is performed.   This reduces the possibility of  human error in remembering the action and the sequence. Obviously here he had done what he had to, and was now logging the actions afterwards.

Maybe I just worry too much.  He probably was checking off a list of beverages that were loaded.