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  • Subject Name : Management

Air Alaska - Case Study 1 

The crash of flight261 of Air Alaska is a result of multiple incidents building up to because the final result of the air crash. When Air Alaska was undergoing many financial constraints in the 1990s, the company resorted to cost reduction and budgeting by compromising on quality (along with retrenching employees). In an attempt to regain financial power, the company put more focus on keeping its aircrafts in flight and busy. This resulted in ignoring and neglecting maintenance of the flights. Maintenance was so ignored that some aircrafts would be sent off for operation and flight even without having necessary parts replaced or rechecked.

The crash of the Air Alaska flight 261 was due to the failure of the stabilizer situated in the back wings of the flight. Upon investigation, it was found that the stabilizer was jammed due to lack of lubrication as there were no signs of grease in the functional and important parts of the stabilizer. As a pilot leading this flight, I would have not neglected the first sign of a problem in the aircraft. As an experienced pilot such as those flying the Air Alaska flight 261, I would have persisted in an emergency landing from the minute I would come to realize a mechanical fault in the aircraft. This is important as no amount of experience can prevent a mechanical glitch. Also, taking an independent decision sooner to head to Los Angeles could have been made from the first signs itself (EduTv, 2014).

Repeatedly pushing the trim trigged the breakdown of the jack crew which eventually broke off the entire wing and forcedly pushed the place down. Also, the pilots attempted to try both the primary as well as the alternate motors at the same time. Out of panic and out of an attempt to normalize things and gain control over the aircraft, the plan was led into a crash. Had Air Alaska been a little less money-oriented and selfish, the entire crash could have been avoided. Had I been investigating the case, I would have temporarily suspended the flights of Air Alaska until all aircraft were investigated and checked.

After senior mechanic of Air Alaska reported the company, Air Alaska flight should have been suspended. The crash of flight 261 could have been avoided. I was only after the crash that serious investigation of air Alaska flights took place where 6 more of their flights were found to be faulty and not fit to fly. The planes were often pushed back to service without inspection or even without parts being replaced as necessary. In an attempt to regain its position and pick up from the struggles of the 1990s, maintenance of aircrafts was heavily compromised with. Not just one but six of their aircraft were found to have similar maintenance issues that would not have been revealed had it not been for the crash of flight 261. Operating flights in such poor conditions pose a threat to the lives of many.

Had the company not been money-hungry, had investigations commenced effectively after the company had been reported for serious safety breaches, and had the pilots attempted to return to the origin or headed to LA in time just after the first hint, the crash could have been avoided. Multiple factors have gone into the miserable fail and loss of innocent lives. Carelessness on the part of Air Alaska as well as not taking stringent action when the company was reported for compromising on maintenance are among the many key reason for the crash.

Piper Alpha - Case Study 2

Just as the crash of flight 261 of Air Alaska, the cataclysmic fire aboard the Piper Alpha too was a result of a series of unfortunate events. A result of a single event led to a series of explosions resulting in the ultimate burn down and destruction of Piper Alpha. The plant dealt primarily with gasses and oil namely; crude oil, natural gas, and liquefied petroleum gas (condensate). Piper Alpha had been successfully operating for 12 years before a series of events led to its fall down.

The key reason which set off a series of disasters stems from a lack of a proper permit of the work system. The permit system did not reflect that the day shift worker had left a knot loose due to unfinished maintenance. The night shift workers did not know that the valve in module B was loose. Hence, after undergoing some issues related to another system, the night shift workers decided to start module B without knowing that the valve in there was loose which could lead to a gas leak. This is exactly what happened. This gas lead and multiple others led to an explosion and one explosion led to a series of other explosions (EduTV, 2012).

Although the fault may lay in a faulty permit system and although workers are often too tired to care after their shift, working in a plant with such flammable gases and oils, the day-shift worker could have personally notified control room that he had left a valve loose to finish maintenance the following day. Workers on site are well versed with the system of work and they know that there was no way the control room could know about such as a small but delicate piece of information. Additionally, the control room should have a cross-check the functionality of the under-maintenance module to verify whether it had been complete or not.

The last explosion was a result of rubber matting placed on the metal grate which accumulated a pool of burning oil which eventually resulted in the explosion of the high-pressure gas pipe just above it. Also, the distant observer who was taking pictures could have reported the incident immediately which could have saved many lives. As part of the investigation, investigators could have investigated the two men who watched as Piper Alpha was ablaze. This could have been done to gain insight into why the incident was not reported by outside witnesses.

Additionally, to cover loopholes in the communication system between maintenance workers, Workers ought to complete a form to update the workers of the next shift on the progress of the work. A lack of thorough communication led to the control room starting off the module which was not yet fit to operate because the control room was unaware of the loose valve and incomplete maintenance work on the module. Although the permit to work system was flawed, for a plant so big and one dealing with highly inflammable substances, not only was the work system flawed but so was the structure. The firewalls were not explosion resistant. Although they held fire well, it did not occur to management to ensure that it is built to be explosion-proof too.

A series of unfortunate events and fault in a proper communication structure is the key reason for the multiple explosion and eventual breakdown of Piper Alpha which had been operating for 12 long years. Had the permit to work system been more communicative, had there not been a rubber matting on the metal grate, had by watchers and bystanders been prompt in reporting what they saw, and had the firewalls been explosion-resistant, the cataclysmic fire aboard Piper Alpha could have been avoided or at least managed.

References for Air Alaska and Piper Alpha Case Study

EduTv. (2014). Air crash investigation: cutting corners – series 1, ep 5 of 6. Retrieved from https://edutv-informit-com-au.ezproxy.ecu.edu.au/watch-screen.php?videoID=794800

EduTv. (2012). Seconds from disaster: explosion in the North Sea. Retrieved from https://edutv-informit-com-au.ezproxy.ecu.edu.au/watch-screen.php?videoID=591738

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