The controllability classification of safety events and its application to aviation investigation reports

Nektarios Karanikas, Jeffrey Nederend

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
258 Downloads (Pure)


This paper proposes an amendment of the classification of safety events based on their controllability and contemplates the potential of an event to escalate into higher severity classes. It considers (1) whether the end-user had the opportunity to intervene into the course of an event, (2) the level of end-user familiarity with the situation, and (3) the positive or negative effects of end-user intervention against expected outcomes. To examine its potential, we applied the refined classification to 296 aviation safety investigation reports. The results suggested that pilots controlled only three-quarters of the occurrences, more than three-thirds of the controlled cases regarded fairly unfamiliar situations, and the flight crews succeeded to mitigate the possible negative consequences of events in about 71% of the cases. Further statistical tests showed that the controllability-related characteristics of events had not significantly changed over time, and they varied across regions, aircraft, operational and event characteristics, as well as when fatigue had contributed to the occurrences. Overall, the findings demonstrated the value of using the controllability classification before considering the actual outcomes of events as means to support the identification of system resilience and successes. The classification can also be embedded in voluntary reporting systems to allow end-users to express the degree of each of the controllability characteristics so that management can monitor them over time and perform internal and external benchmarking. The mandatory reports concerned, the classification could function as a decision-making parameter for prioritising incident investigations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)89-103
JournalSafety Science
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2018


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