Emergence of Aviation Safety Culture in Complex Operational Practices

Aviation accidents that occur today are usually due to an intricate interaction between many human, technological and organizational factors. This complexity makes improving safety almost impossible with the current methods and theories in use (Hollnagel et al., 2006), developed for much simpler systems. Currently, linear models are used, which claim that certain qualities of an organizational culture improve safety (Parker et al., 2006). Aspects of an organizational culture that affect safety are often referred to as safety culture (Hopkins, 2006). Usually safety culture is measured as attitudes through survey research. Attitudes are properties that emerge from complex interactions between practices and organizational factors, and cannot be related to safety outcomes in a linear fashion (Hollnagel, 2009). A solution is to combine a qualitative approach to organizational culture with formal modelling (Hopkins, 2006; Stroeve et al., 2011). Interdisciplinary research between Organizational Sciences and Artificial Intelligence research is needed to both define safety culture better and make its nonlinear relation to operational safety more explicit.

This project responds to this call with the research question: how does safety culture emerge in hazardous operations of aviation organizations?

In the project a real-world scenario from the aviation domain with the focus on a particular aspect of safety culture will be identified. The scenario is modelled and analyzed to simulate relevant aspects of safety culture. To build a formal model , data is gathered from different sources (e.g., Aviation Reporting System, conduct fieldwork in an aviation organization). The end-products will reflect explicit relations between organizational operations and attitudes that characterize safety culture.


Alexei Sharpanskykh

David Passenier

Student assistants:

Colin Mols

Jan Bim