80 of 97 people found the following review helpful
airline safety analysis is weak,
This review is from: Outliers: The Story of Success (Hardcover)As a former regional jet pilot, I turned straight to the section on aviation safety. Gladwell compares the superior safety record of U.S. major airlines with some foreign carriers and concludes that the explanation can be found in the culture and ethnicity of the pilots. He ignores the more obvious explanation that U.S. major airlines are piloted by much more experienced crews. You can't be the copilot on Continental, for example, unless you've first been the copilot and then captain on Continental Express. Foreign countries typically don't have the infrastructure of flight schools, private pilots, and regional airlines that we have here, so their "major airlines" will hire 23-year-olds fresh out of flight school. The 24-year-old kid in the U.S. would be helping a private student learn how to handle a 4-seat Cessna. The 24-year-old kid in Hamburg, Germany in March 2008 nearly wrecked a Lufthansa Airbus A320 with 131 passengers in the back by attempting a landing in a 50-knot crosswind. Would an American have done better? Gladwell suggests so, but really there is no way to tell because no U.S. major airline would let a 24-year-old anywhere near the controls of an Airbus.
It would be nice if the publisher had submitted this chapter to a couple of pilots for review...
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Initial post: Jan 12, 2010 3:04:16 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 12, 2010 3:04:39 PM PST
Welcome to the world of Gladwell where the assertions just don't hold up when you know something about a topic. He's a wonderful story teller just so long as you don't start to examine the facts. His books and articles all follow that old line, "The story is so good who cares if it's true." I had a relative like Gladwell. He could spin great tales about his life that kept you riveted. Of course it was all b.s. Unlike Gladwell, my relative never made a dime out of his stories. The "genius" of Gladwell is that he figured out you could earn a ton of money telling tall tales.
Posted on Jan 16, 2010 10:57:02 AM PST
R. O. Stevenson says:
This is a very refreshing negative review. I love to see people calmly explain that relevant data has been overlooked, rather than going on a diatribe questioning an author's entire agenda, or denigrating the whole book based on one passage. Instead you made a VERY good point about what you know, made it concisely, and left it at that. Bravo.
Posted on Jan 18, 2010 12:43:13 PM PST
As I was scanning reviews to pick audiobook for my upcoming flight to Europe I found this. I am seriously considering canceling my flight and re-booking with a US carrier.
Posted on May 20, 2010 12:06:43 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 20, 2010 12:08:29 PM PDT
I'm not sure you can entirely discount Gladwell's theory about culture based solely on the information about U.S. pilots versus foreign pilots. It's an excellent addendum you provide, but culture most certainly had an effect on the Korean tragedies as well as the Avianca crash.
I've actually heard the flight voice recorder conversations from the Avianca flight 52 tragedy, and communication (or most certainly, lack of) was a huge factor in that crash. The copilot never once announced an emergency at any point during the approach and attempted landings. As for the Korea Air crash at Guam, Gladwell posits that Korean culture was at the root of that tragedy. Again, having spent a year in Korea, I can tell that cultural traditions and expectations are completely different than in the U.S. It's definitely not out of the realm of possibility. The information provided about what Korea did to fix their safety record should lend at least some credence to his position.
I'm not drinking so much Kool-Aid here to think that what Gladwell writes in his books are the complete Gospel. However, there is enough information in all of them make me rethink some of my commonly held beliefs. Take it for what it's worth.
In reply to an earlier post on Nov 13, 2011 6:05:01 PM PST
Fiona MK says:
You'd be a lot safer with an Australian airline (assuming past safety track record informs future probability)
Posted on Sep 2, 2012 12:37:24 AM PDT
Thank you Philip for an excellent observation.
Gladwell appears to ignore the enormous complexities and variables that aircraft accidents, and might I add most accidents, involve. There are numerous factors that need to be taken into consideration such as the age and type of the aircraft; standard of maintenance; engine thrust loads; flight routes; and fuel weight. For example, I have heard that many CEOs are oft to exclaim "If it ain't Boeing I ain't going!", and although for decades Qantas has enjoyed an enviable safety record, in more recent times they have experienced various safety incidents following the outsourcing of aircraft maintenance work to cut costs.
However, it cannot be ignored that both corporate and ethnic culture can contribute to aviation disasters to varying degrees Captain Richard de Crespigny, who along with his exceptional crew, managed to land the spectacularly crippled A380 Airbus on the 28th of November 2010 attributed their success to the Qantas culture in regards to training, and the large amount of experience. In an interview he stated that the "...training and checking regime for Qantas international pilots is that they must pass four simulator tests per year as well as an annual safety procedures and route check." Such high levels of commitment to training and its review is not common across the industry.
When he was asked the question "Are there some airlines you wouldn't fly on around the world for safety reasons?" He gave the following reply:
"Yes. I only fly the airlines that have: modern and well maintained aircraft; crews that are knowledgeable, well- trained and experienced; extensive safety management systems; and a great safety culture. I have absolute confidence in every pilot in my airline. In pilot-speak this means that I would be very happy for any member of my family to fly on any aircraft in my company."
Suggesting that the superior safety record of major U.S. airlines in comparison with foreign careers is primarily due to cultural differences is simplistic reasoning to say the least. Ask any NTSB investigator why planes sometimes crash and they are more than likely to reply along the lines that every aviation crash is unique as are its causes.
However, having written all of that, nonetheless that does not mean the book itself is not worthwhile reading. What Gladwell does well is challenge conventional thinking. Any book that enables me to experience a remarkably different perspective I value. If one approaches this book as being an interesting exploration of a different way of thinking then it is a worthwhile read. My rule of thumb with books is that if I gain one new idea that challenges and even changes the way I think, the way I perceive the world, myself, and others then it was worth every penny I paid for it.
Posted on Mar 24, 2013 2:41:29 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 24, 2013 2:42:08 PM PDT
your viewpoint actually supports the authors broader point that, "10,000 hours makes an expert." Therefore more and better training are reasons for less crashes not just talent or communication.
Posted on Oct 22, 2013 11:47:57 AM PDT
Jonathan S. Enderle says:
Hm. You say that "no U.S. major airline would let a 24-year-old anywhere near the controls of an Airbus." But that's because of US culture... right? Obsession with safety and dependence on air travel are both distinctive parts of US culture, aren't they? The US has a rich flight "infrastructure" because its culture values the freedom to travel, and has made experience and training priorities because its culture values safety. So I'm not totally certain this criticism holds water...
Posted on Nov 28, 2013 6:19:45 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 28, 2013 6:21:31 PM PST
Do you have any data to disprove Gladwell's assertion that Korean Airlines reduced their crashes dramatically after they required their pilots to learn english?
And your entire argument reeks of hearsay. You talk about "foreign countries". So you're generalizing the entire world outside the US as "foreign countries"? You use one example of a 24 year old kid in Germany. Is that true in South Korea? Brazil? Australia? Canada? Seems like you're letting your personal experience and bias cloud your judgement. Whatever flaws Gladwell's analysis has I think he's done more research than you.
In reply to an earlier post on Nov 28, 2013 6:24:18 PM PST
[Deleted by the author on Nov 28, 2013 6:31:23 PM PST]