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This volume analyzes real in-flight communications to explain the dynamics of knowledge construction. With the use of a grounded theory approach, real-life scenarios for in-depth interviews with aviation informants were developed and analyzed using discourse analysis. The study revealed aspects of tacit knowledge and expertise behavior that develop in mission-critical environments. Among the findings, the author discovered:

• Silence is an interactional element and a substantial contributing factor to both completed flights and aviation incidents/accidents

• Hesitation is an early reaction when situational awareness is lacking

• The aviation sub-cultures contain several distinct micro-cultures which affect professional responsibility and decision making in micro-environments

• Human errors should be acknowledged, discussed and repaired by all actors of the flight model

• Non-verbal communication in institutional settings and mediated environments is instrumental to safe and efficient operations

The results suggest fruitful applications of theory to explore how knowledge is generated in highly structured, high-risk organizational environments, such as hospitals, nuclear plants, battlefields and crisis and disaster locations.

Katerinakis explains the emergent knowledge elements in communication command with messages “spoken-heard-understood-applied," from multiple stakeholders... The interplay of theory and real-flight examples, with key interlocutors, creates a valuable narrative both for the expert reader and the lay-person interested in the insights of hospitals, nuclear plants, battlefields, safety and rescue systems, and crisis and disaster locations.

Ilias Panagopoulos, PhD

Command Fighter Pilot, Col (Ret)

Senior Trainer, Joint Aviation Authorities (JAA) Training Organisation

Safety Manager, NATO Airlift Management Programme

In this path-breaking work, Theodore Katerinakis brings the study of human communication to the airplane cockpit as a knowledge environment. Toward that end, drawing on his own experience with the Air Force and Aviation Authorities and interviews with flight controllers and scores of pilots, Katerinakis both builds on moves beyond human factors research and ecological psychology… It is a work of theoretical value across disciplines and organizational settings and of practical importance as well. His lively narrative adds to translational research by translating knowledge or evidence into action in mission-critical systems.

Douglas V. Porpora, PhD

Professor of Sociology & Director

Communication, Culture and Media

Drexel University



Background and Communication Phenomena in Aviation


Chapter 1. Introduction

Knowledge construction is a result of awareness, complex information processing and operational expertise based on the flow of action/communication/confirmation in critical environments, like aviation. A flight is accomplished when we can reach from point A to point B with safety and operates in a communication continuum (air to ground, ground to air by means of communication devices, hardware indicators and sensors). The book focuses in flight realities in military and civil aviation. Transportation systems, and mainly aviation, is a growing sector in world economy and society. It is a sector with remarkable safety record and prominent publicity. This chapter explains the communication roots and orientation of the operating knowledge applied in aviation, as well as my personal background, aviation engagement and involvement in investigating tacit knowledge owned by pilots and air traffic controllers in their operating and decision-making process. In most cases, these experts claim novel status and ultimate jurisdiction over that knowledge, which this book is unpacking in a story-telling manner.
Theodoros Katerinakis

Chapter 2. Communication and Human Factors Phenomena in Aviation Transmit Knowledge

Human communication use of silence and voice in flights and the input both provide in knowledge construction especially in unusual or emergency situations are the core of this book. In addition to voice, the book explores silence (personal, operational, institutional, and regulatory) and its impact towards accomplishing awareness for effective flight communication. Aviation interaction is purposeful, since pilots and controllers develop consciousness of where is the one and where is the other and in what status only when they exchange messages and describe their actions. The voice channel between pilot and controller may contain periods of operating in silence, but voice should restart to have a meaningful exchange of information (with no uncertainty) between their physically distant spaces. Empirical data from this book’s aviation informants include a whole range of instances: from verbal phraseology to truncated messages of hesitation, interrupted messages, and dialogic marking of checklists. So, communication constructs even explicit factual knowledge that must be applied (first perceived) by all participants following SOPs. Human factors analysis is focusing more on conditions and evaluations, whereas in cockpit operation environment, the issue seems to be more on how pilot, crew, and ATC expertise are to be exercised and thus implemented in a dynamic decision-making process.
Furthermore, it covers tacit knowledge that is not codified but in participant’s brains sometimes intuitive, sometimes judgmental, and context-sensitive. In any case, the only way to articulate the application of both knowledge types is by recruiting aviation informants, here anonymized using airport names as aliases explained in this chapter.
Theodoros Katerinakis

Flights, Scenarios, and Knowledge Representation


Chapter 3. The Falcon, the Helios, Two Scenarios, and Framework

Aviation is the safest form of transportation. Expert performers – narrators, Ifaistos Limnios, as the pilot, and Megas Alexandros, as the investigator – explain the two paradigmatic flights and two scenarios to formulate the reference framework of the book, for effective problem-solving and handling rules and exceptions. The “shaking Falcon VIP flight” connects the concept of silence with accountability; a major incident of rapid descent without controls occurred, but the pilot was able to hold the shaking aircraft and to prevent it from crashing. Another paradigmatic flight Helios 522, silent ghost plane, signaled the rethinking of the silence concept inside and outside the plane, as the “no reply” activated the Renegade alert in the Greek FIR Space. It was a challenge for the sterile cockpit rule. In the scenario of silence, several accidents have shown that crew members’ failure to speak up can have devastating consequences with a risk to flight safety. A second major scenario was about the experience of hesitation in interaction that may leave incomplete information and truncated messages, generate uncertainty, and result to insufficient knowledge in the cockpit-controller interaction. The chapter explains flights and scenarios as the instrument for grounded theory to be applied and lessons from protocol analysis to develop. Cockpit acts of conversation are consistent with individual members’ tacit knowledge. Thus, human operators in flights must build mutual trust with all the other participants. The framework concludes with human factors explanation of the interactions among humans and other elements of a system and applies design principles to optimize human well-being and overall system performance.
Theodoros Katerinakis

Chapter 4. Eliciting Expertise, Harvesting, and Representing Knowledge

The exploration of human communication and its consequences to aviation safety delivers a knowledge framework, configuring this chapter. A bottom-up approach from qualitative data gathering to relation identification between actions and interactions with iteration and refinement is described and allows core concepts to emerge with theoretical sensitivity, using a rich depository of data guided by grounded theory (GT). This chapter explains the core concept of situation awareness (local, transitory, and global) as the catalyst of “what we need to know” for aviation safety. Preconceptions, interviews, questioning tools, and an Ishikawa diagram are analyzed, considering operations, cultural, technical, and commercial parameters in aviation realities. A GT approach is the guiding path to knowledge construction through notions of perception, comprehension, projection, sorting, comparing, coding, and reenactment. GT immersion in the data searches for the following knowledge-construction elements: (i) the relevant conditions in which participants act in the various flight-related situations, (ii) how the actors respond to changing conditions and unexpected events, (iii) what are the consequences of their actions or lack of action, and (iv) what is the essence of expertise in critical environments (i.e., the expert complies to the “letter of the rule” and to the “spirit of the rule” or deviates when he/she identifies an exception or exceptional case). Lastly, four schematic figures offer a picturesque description of the above steps of inquiry, depicting the backbone of the study for this book, while cross-references “connect the dots.” The textual aspects found in the experts’ replies are interpreted using with discourse analysis and close reading guidelines.
Theodoros Katerinakis

Knowledge Operators of Silence and Voice


Chapter 5. Knowledgeable Sounds of Silence or When Silence Is Not Golden

Silence via storytelling in its multiple dimensions is explained in this chapter, as one of the two pivotal communication phenomena of this study. Ideal flight and actual flight situations are analyzed, experientially, in stages that emphasize silence as a knowledge factor for the flight. Periods of silence are part of the communication process, but the duration of these periods, the way silence breaks into messages, and the consequences of different manifestations of silence are the topics objectified. The protagonists narrate their experiences commenting on scenarios and questions, and the text develops in a dialogic format with conventional alias names: Ikaria Ikaros and Oia Santorinis as ATCs for pilots’ behavior, Eleftherios Venizelos with Ioannis Daskalogiannis as fighter pilots, and Ippokratis Koos as helicopter pilot for the military point of view. All fighter pilots underlined (briefing and) debriefing as an integral part of any mission in the (preflight and) postflight phase. The debriefing is a meta-communication process which retracts the whole flight, provides a mechanism to evaluate human error and safety culture in a systemic way, and cultivates collegiality and leadership. The magic of silence may be needed in some cases, whereas organizational culture and communities practice mindset may dictate corporate fame protection and professional face to be defended. Leadership traits in speaking up and openness in a trusting atmosphere, as well as checklist mnemonics and monitoring with the two-layer redundancy, are explained. Safety culture and situation awareness are also part of the narrative. Knowledge manifestation flows from what is communicated, and actions are knowledge-worthy only when communicated under the circumstances.
Theodoros Katerinakis

Chapter 6. The Voice as Knowledge Operator of Choice

The voice knowledge operator is examined with three scenarios in this chapter: hesitation in the nonverbal but vocal part, language, and familiarity relationship which, then, directs to the mother tongue issue. Communication forwards to nonverbal channels with notions manifested in the responders’ replies, introducing paralanguage and hesitation as a medium of interaction. Scenarios are investigated in an interactive narrative with the implying question what would you have done and why for pilots and air traffic controllers who offer their own reading and evaluation. This question is commonly used in NASA’s ASRS, and the reader virtually interacts with the experts. Eleven responders with conventional alias names narrate their vivid insights: specialized fighter pilots (Neos Aghialos, Eleftherios Venizelos, Dimokritos Alexandroupolis), a multi-experienced helicopter commander (Ippokratis Koos), iconic civil aviation pilots (Ifaistos Limnios, Diagoras Rodios, Stan Dardman, Palios Ellinikos), a prominent accident investigator Megas Alexandros, and high-skill ATCs Ikaria Ikaros and Oia Santorinis.
Then, the Helios flight is analyzed in conjunction with nonverbal and verbal communication signals with the pair of F-16s in Renegade scramble. The hesitation scenario is used with an incomplete tower call, after a takeoff clearance was received. Language directness and familiarity scenario investigate the reasons for bypassing the standard phraseology. Interaction continues with perception, action, and confirmation. With ATC’s roles as the “eyes and ear on the ground,” concepts like pilot decision-making, explicit vs tacit knowledge, observation, and deliberate practice like “self-monitoring” are presented (among other themes). Pilot’s interpretation depends on multiple factors which assemble to “triage,” the aviation instinct, and Langewiesche’s “buoyancy.”
Theodoros Katerinakis

Chapter 7. Flights Go On, Inquires Pass Through

The high-complexity environment of the flight deck follows the model spoken-heard-understood-applied in the interaction and action of ATC and pilots. Aviation systems require the maximum amount of information expressed with the minimum of effort and consuming the minimum of time. A successful flight is a systemic interactional accomplishment of human performance. This book follows a communication orientation to investigate the knowledge applied; every interaction is based on a first event, time is important, and communication process is a product of what actors have learned, inward, in ways that permit skill and event growth and discovery of knowledge from their awareness. Separation of situation awareness (SA) in types denotes that a practitioner could commit in awareness of any type. ATC needs to sustain GA, for the big picture ahead, while addressing/replying with LA to each flight; TA is necessary for the required separation in the limited airways.
The book has at least four streams of theoretical contribution with policy implications: (i) the deconstruction of silence phenomenon in multiple dimensions, as part of an interaction and accountability process; (ii) the synthetic proposition of voice, as consolidating paralanguage and hesitation and nonverbal and verbal attributes, in the aviation communication channel; (iii) situation awareness (LA, TA, GA), as a knowledge prerequisite; and (iv) the mother tongue as a non-conflictual tool of linguistic security, instead of competing with the lingua franca in aviation, the topical standardized English.
Partnerships with aviation authorities and professionals lead the way for further research and inquiry for the culture of immediacy, rule governance, and knowledge for expertise.
Theodoros Katerinakis


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