Safety Culture In Aviation Maintenance

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Safety Culture in Aviation Maintenance

Safety Culture in Aviation Maintenance

Task 1

Working Title

Safety Culture in Aviation Maintenance

Research Aims And Objectives

Many airlines are trying to improve their safety culture by emphasizing communication and professionalism, together with awareness of decision making, employee participation, and effective safety systems. Many of these programs are stymied by a low level of trust, especially between AMTs and their managers, which results in AMT cynicism (or at least skepticism) that positive results will be achieved (Taylor & Patankar, 2001:15). To fully understand the concept of safety culture, significant research needs to be directed toward developing the concepts and measurements of trust and professionalism.


The microlevel perspective of trust considers the psychology of the individual-why people trust, and what aspects most influence individual trust. From this microlevel, investigators posit that trust facilitates truthful communication and leads to collaboration (Mishra, 2006:74). We are interested in this "micro" aspect to the degree that variables like an individual's age and experience can influence trust.

Task 2

The Measure

Questionnaire scales developed during the 1960s and 1970s measure microlevel trust as an attitude or affective state (e.g., "being trustworthy is important") or as an opinion or evaluation (e.g., "this person is trustworthy"). Reported scales are found to rate high in construct validity and reliability, usually using samples of undergraduate students. In use, they emphasize the belief of trustworthiness (the degree to which others are seen as moral, honest, and reliable; Wrightsman, 1974:11). In this study, both measures for trust (attitudes and opinions) are considered at both the micro- and macrolevels. Our purpose is to examine how the measures of levels of trust match the characteristics and conditions of the airline maintenance industry.

Method Subjects

During 2009-2007, 3,150 employees in five aviation maintenance organizations completed questionnaires measuring their attitudes and opinions about safety, communication, goal attainment, stress management, and trust. The respondents came from samples that bracket the range of organizations and job types in the commercial aviation maintenance industry. This population included employees from maintenance departments of major airlines and of small airlines, as well as employees of commercial aviation repair stations.

The five samples in this population each represent a U.S.-based aviation maintenance company or a separate group (i.e., maintenance department) within an airline company. Respondents in each sample include AMTs, maintenance managers, and maintenance support personnel. All can be considered naïve subjects, insofar as they completed our survey before they were exposed to organizational change programs intended to influence their attitudes or opinions. The following are brief descriptions of the size and nature of each of the five samples used.

Subject Samples

Sample A (N = 119) is a 10% stratified random sample from the maintenance department of a large passenger airline, who received the survey by company mail, with a cover letter from the head of maintenance. The participation (75% return rate) was quite high for this type of mail survey.

Sample B (N = 152) consists entirely of volunteers from the maintenance department of a large airline, who elected to attend a company-sponsored human factors and ...
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