It is a fact of life that violations occur in aviation operations. Most stem from a genuine desire to do a good job. Seldom are they acts of laziness or incompetence.

There are three types of violations:

  • Routine violations;
  • Situational violations;
  • Optimising violations.

Routine violations are things which have become “the normal way of doing something” within the person’s work group (e.g. flight crew from one company base).

They can become routine for a number of reasons: flight crew may believe that procedures may be over prescriptive and violate them to simplify a task (cutting corners), to save time and effort. This rarely happens in flight operations, since flying tasks are so proceduralised, but it is not unusual to see these types of violations in maintenance engineering.

Situational violations occur due to the particular factors that exist at the time, such as time pressure, high workload, unworkable procedures, poorly designed man machine interface in the cockpit. These occur often when, in order to get the job done, pilots consider that a procedure cannot be followed.

Optimising violations involve breaking the rules for “kicks”. These are often quite unrelated to the actual task. The person just uses the opportunity to satisfy a personal need. Flying an illegal circuit over a friend’s house might be an example. Time pressure and high workload increase the likelihood of all types of violations occurring. People weigh up the perceived risks against the perceived benefits; unfortunately the actual risks can be much higher.