Volume 21 Issue 9 - March 16, 2012 PDF
Aviation occupant survival factors: An empirical study of the SQ006 accident
Yu-Hern Chang1,*, Hui-Hua Yang2
1 Department of Transportation and Communication Management Science, College of Management, National Cheng Kung University
2 Department of Marketing and Transportation / Logistics, Toko University
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The goal of improving aviation safety involves attending not only to the factors that increase the likelihood of crashes occurring, but also to the factors that increase airplane occupant survivability in crashes that do occur. The main purpose of accident investigation is to discover the causes and related risk factors of accidents and to establish better safety recommendations. Survival-factor investigation focuses on recommendations to increase the survivability of such accidents. The importance of examining occupant survivability in aviation accidents is two-fold: (1) to help dispel the public perception that most aviation accidents are not survivable, and (2) to identify what can be done to increase survivability in the accidents that do occur.

Based on a literature review and the results of expert interviews, we propose a new framework of four major cabin-safety indicators that influence occupant survivability, with details given in Fig. 1: (1) aircraft design and loading (F1), (2) cockpit- and cabin-crew training and coordination (F1), (3) passenger behavior and safety education (F1), and (4) ability to cope with emergencies inside and outside the airport (F1). Moreover, 47 possible survival factors are generalized and categorized under these four indicators. The Fuzzy Delphi Method is used to identify and rank the survival factors that may reduce injury and fatality in potentially survivable accidents.

To identify factors affecting survivability, we used the modified FDM—a systematic interactive forecasting technique based on independent inputs from 15 selected experts in Taiwan: 11 senior investigators, each with at least 9 years of Aviation Safety Council (ASC) and industry experience; two cabin-safety inspectors from the CAA, each with at least 5 years of experience; and two senior cabin-crew trainers from the flag carrier, each with at least 15 years of experience. We next present an empirical study of Singapore Airline (SIA) flight SQ006 to illustrate the critical factors that influence airplane occupant survivability and compare the ranking score with the FDM group expert consensus value.
Fig. 1. Evaluation framework for evaluating the survival factors in cabin safety aspect

Ultimately, the survival factors in the SQ006 accident have the same trend as the expert group’s consensus values (Fig. 2). Correlations were computed using the non-parametric Spearman’s rank-order correlation coefficient test (ρs) and Kendall’s ranking test (τb); both revealed that the group of experts’ consensus value was significantly correlated with that of the SQ006 accident investigation team (ρs = .670, p= .000; τb = .513, p= .000) (Fig. 3).
Fig. 2. Comparison of survival factors between the group expert consensus value and the SQ006 accident investigation team

Fig. 3. Relationship in ranking by the group expert consensus value and the SQ006 accident investigation team

This is the first attempt by a group from both the public and private sectors in Taiwan to focus on cabin-safety issues related to survival factors. Our findings reveal important cabin safety and survivability information that should provide a valuable reference for developing and evaluating aviation safety programs. We also believe that the results will be practical for designing cabin-safety education material for air travelers. Finally, the major contribution of this research is that it has identified 47 critical factors that influence accident survivability; therefore, it may encourage improvements that will promote more successful cabin-safety management.
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