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Pilot error: Dispelling the hegemony of blamism – a case of de‐centered causality and hardwired politics

A.J. Masys (University of Leicester, Leicester, UK)

Disaster Prevention and Management

ISSN: 0965-3562

Article publication date: 25 April 2008




The purpose of this article is to reveal the reasons for pilot error. Surveys in aviation have attributed 70 percent of incidents to crew error, citing pilot error as the root cause of an aviation accident.


Uses ANT, a theoretical perspective, that has evolved to address the socio‐technical domain and in so doing reveals the “social” as defined by Latour. This perspective challenges the way that agency, the human and non‐human are conceptualised. In this work, complexity theory is used as an integrating concept to complement ANT thereby providing an explanatory framework (with particular emphasis on interrelationship) that enhances understanding regarding the accident aetiology of complex systems and the “social”.


The hegemony of “pilot error” is dispelled revealing a de‐centered causality that is resident within a network space “worldview”.

Practical implications

The network space “worldview” reflects the nonlinearity and complexity inherent within accident aetiology involving complex socio‐technical systems. It reveals how politics and power “inscripted” within the network actors interrelate, and in particular shape situation awareness challenging the hegemony of “blamism” that is associated with “pilot error”.


The paper moves beyond a Newtonian‐Cartesian worldview of accident aetiology to embrace a “relativistic” perspective characterized by nonlinear dynamics, emergent properties and complex interrelationships.



Masys, A.J. (2008), "Pilot error: Dispelling the hegemony of blamism – a case of de‐centered causality and hardwired politics", Disaster Prevention and Management, Vol. 17 No. 2, pp. 221-231.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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