Monday, 11 April 2016

Expertise In Aviation

Definition of Expertise and an expert

'Expertise' and an ‘expert’ are two separate, but related concepts.
Expertise can be best defined as a collection of skills, experience. This expertise allows for improved problem solving by replacing sequential decision making processes with more heuristic decision making methods. Ultimately this allows for faster and more accurate decision making, particularly in complex and/or unique situations.
An expert can be best defined as someone who uses expertise to achieve a high level of performance in their particular domain, or, someone who is capable of doing the right thing at the right time. They possess a wide range of cognitive processing and problem solving skills and apply them in an almost intuitive fashion. Importantly these skills are not discrete, but are subjective in that they are relative to the social group of comparison . Overall, an expert has been summarised ;
1. Having more detailed knowledge structures, and
2. Perceiving problems more abstractly than novices, and
3. Perceiving problems relative to the context, and
4. Being much faster than novices.

Aviation Example: What defines an expert pilot?

The general characteristics of expertise and an expert have been proven to be equally applicable in the role of a pilot.
The expert pilot is separated from the novice pilot primarily through their problem solving ability. The novice pilot carefully selects discrete information to act upon and then focuses on correctly executing the required solution. The expert pilot is, in contrast, adaptive. He/she continually assesses the situation, rapidly selects the required course of action and the successfully implement it. This progression can also be thought of as using training and experience to move from knowing what to do, to knowing how to do it, before finally knowing when to do it.
This skill set, expertise, allows the expert pilot to generate optimal (or near-optimal solutions) in response to situations which are particularly complex or novel such as the aviation emergency examples listed below.

1. Engine Failure. United Airlines DC10. Sioux City, Iowa.
2. Cargo Door Failure. United Airlines B747. Honolulu, Hawaii.
3. Fuselage Structural Failure. Aloha Airlines B737. Maui, Hawaii.
4. Fuel Starvation. Air Canada B767. Gimli, Canada.

These examples also highlight the limits of Aviation Decision Making (ADM) as in these situations, the novice, with his/her reliance on rule based decision making, would quickly become overwhelmed.

The role of the aviation organisation in promoting expertise

Highlights the importance of expertise in achieving acceptable health and safety levels in the organisation. However, due to the inherent hurdles involved with gaining expertise, namely its cost, lack of inherent enjoyment and instant results, organisations must take an active role in developing their staff towards expert status .
notes that expertise cannot be generalised simply from years of experience of employees however, it can be introduced into the organisation through a number of ways, specifically;
1. Recruitment and placement procedures.
2. Arrangements to ensure expect cover for absent staff.
3. Training.
4. General promotion and surveillance schemes.
Of the methods listed above, training has been identified as the primary means for introducing expertise into the organisation. This is due to a number of reasons; firstly, training is more effective at targeting the cognitive level (as opposed to associative and autonomous levels which benefit the most from experience); secondly, training can compensate for inadequate policies in other areas (such as selection); and thirdly, training can be varied to suit different populations, topics, and competence levels.
Higher levels of expertise are positively correlated with increased operational competence and a decrease in the number of mistakes made . In a safety critical industry such as aviation, it is critical that the aviation organisation correctly identifies the levels of expertise required from each of its functions, is aware of the impediments to the natural development of expertise, develops and implements effective long term strategies to overcome these impediments and continually monitors organisational performance to ensure improvements are made when required.

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