JFK TWR & Kuwaiti 117, learned carelessness not acceptable to the controller


The ATC voice recording between the JFK controller and the crew of Kuwaiti 117 is a prime example of learned carelessness or in simple terms bad habit.

Carelessness refers to the lack of awareness during a behaviour that can result in unintentional consequences. The consequences way of carelessness are often undesirable and tend to be mistakes.

The theory of Learned Carelessness offers an explanation why humans take unnecessary risks by omitting safety precautions against better judgment. It is assumed carelessness is learned by means of operant conditioning

Humans are “cognitive misers” (Wickens & Hollands, 2000) which means that they follow the path of the least cognitive resistance. A reduction in effort is positively reinforcing and therefore, increases the likelihood of future shortcuts in the absence of negative consequences. 

The underlying motivation is assumed to maximize pleasure while minimizing discomfort. Once learned carelessness has developed it will distort a person’s perception, selection, and interpretation of subsequent information in favour of the monopoly hypothesis. This top-down information processing impairs motivation and capability to detect incidents. The result is unreasonably risky behaviour. 

JRF Controllers vs Kuwaiti 117

mindFly analysis

It is mandatory to report the call sign with every transmission in order to be unambiguous and convey the correct meaning of the communication transmission. The requirement to maintain visual separation is imperative and the ATC needs to be 100% sure that the two aircraft that are being separated are the ones with whom the communication is taking place.

Kuwaiti 117, did not report the call sign during the critical phase where the ATC wanted to be 100% sure that there is visual separation between the aircraft. The ATC could have reminded or confirmed with Kuwaiti 117 if the transmission originated from them or some other aircraft. Listening to the workload of the ATC controller, it was not in the best interest to remind every aircraft to follow procedures to ensure safety.

Kuwaiti 117 on the other hand did not get the message loud and clear and as a matter of habit, after JFK ordered Kuwaiti 117 to go around, the crew continued to make the same error. Therefore it is a training issue and also a safety audit issue which has not detected this and flagged the issue. Being relaxed is OK but the bare minimum required is to comply with a set of rules.

New NEO pitch issues which brought Boeing down


After the B737 Max nose dived due to pitch controllability issues, Airbus has identified similar high pitch issues with the A320 and A321 NEO aircrafts.

A combination of scenario where the aircraft is loaded in a tail heavy , speed is reducing and side stick pulled full back with TOGA thrust, excessive pitch attitude could occur.

As Airbus studies more scenarios we expect more issues highlighted and remedies. There are active risks and latent risks. If we tinker with a system there is a high possibility that the latent risks come to fore. Therefore it’s imperative to carry out a change management risk analysis.

Without trust, Competency/Evidence based training is in effect wolf in sheep skin


The new mantra in airlines training is, more training than checking. This was the tag line based on which concepts like competency based training and evidence based training popped up. What does it mean to the trainee? For the trainee, noting has changed. There is still the stress of undergoing training periodically wherein they will be told that they are just average and the trainer is god sent. All that sweet talk doesn’t end up in a positive outcome.

Trainer as perceived by the trainees.

EBT Foundation

EBT arose from the need to develop a new paradigm for competency-based training and assessment of airline pilots, based on evidence. 

EBT foundation writes in their website the following very encouraging words that every trainee would love to hear.

“EBT is fundamentally a learning concept, which reduces significantly the emphasis on checking. This training allows and even precipitates making mistakes in a controlled environment so as to create resilience through effective learning. “

This is the most clichéd statement which attempts to draw the trainee into a false sense of security.


The approval seeking behaviour is developed by our education system in the early years. A child has no inhibitions and is not bothered about success, failure or who’s watching. The child experiments and learns from them.

We set ourselves up to live a life we don’t particularly want, but will fit with what other people expect of us. We don’t dare take a chance on something that may bring on a disapproving stare or rank low on the social status meter. We do what’s expected of us. We do what others want for us and from us. In return, we get their approval. You might be thinking, “Why not seek approval?” Well, the reason is that we only get it at the expense of knowing what we want and being our true selves. When we seek others’ approval, we miss opportunities to learn how to approve of ourselves — even if others don’t. 


Education systems begins infusing rewards which are linked to good performance. Slowly, seeking rewards and others approval becomes the motivation and not the real work. We work hard towards minimizing mistakes and look up to seeking approval and consent. Those who habitually commit mistakes are not desired in the system.


“Extending trust is the ultimate act of leadership, the defining skill that transforms a manager into a leader.”

Read about Speed of trust .

Developing student’s trust is the key to learning partnership. An excellent article written by Ben Johnson. He writes further stating ,unfortunately, many teachers have tried cooperative groups, inquiry, project (process/product/performance)-based learning and had a terrible experience. Perhaps the students did not behave appropriately, or they did not learn, or it was a waste of time. Too often teachers with this first experience are hesitant to try again. Instead, they fall back on what they know works — students in straight rows, individual worksheets, slide show lectures, and direct instruction.

mindFly analysis of trust in aviation learning

Frankly speaking, no trainee trusts the trainer. This is a fact but unverifiable since there is a fear and reluctance to speak out. A teacher in the old concept used to be called ‘Master’. As the name suggests, the master was beyond the expert on the subject matter. In aviation, the trainers are made overnight experts by a stroke of the pen and not by their grasp of the subject. Respect and trust also come from the fact that the person teaching has attained a very high level of learning herself/himself.

Dreyfus skill acquisition

If I am more worried about the outcome rather than learning and the trainer has lost the flair of collaborative learning and reverted to teaching, trust never develops. The trainee fears failure or poor performance and is reluctant to learn. The objective then whittles down to endure the so called training session till we meet again. A different trainers with different thoughts, abilities and principles will try to force some content down the trainees throat.

How many trainers are willing to give an excellent assessment to a junior trainee?

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