Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers and Aircraft Dispatchers

Outliers by Malcom Gladwell was released in 2008 to a bevy of success. The book shines a light on the factors that contribute to success. If you have ever heard of the 10,000-hour rule, then you have heard of Outliers. Aviation enthusiast and aircraft dispatchers may find chapter 7 interesting.

Chapter 7 of Outliers focuses on airlines safety, a topic that all aircraft dispatchers love, specifically of Korean airways in the 1980’s. Gladwell talks about the history of the airline up to that point. The airline had been plagued by series of crashes and it was in danger of being disbanded. There was a disconnect in safety protocol and communication, but no one was sure where. Any aircraft dispatcher will tell you that communication is key. Something was wrong.

Gladwell focuses on one crash in particular: Korean Air Flight 801. The disaster is used the focal point of the story because of how telling it was about safety in the aviation industry.

Gladwell correctly suggests that it is not major catastrophes that cause plane crashes, but rather a series of small missteps and mistakes that all add up to a dramatic failure. Again, as any aircraft dispatcher will tell you, these small steps and procedures are so vital to safety.

Korean Airways was plagued not by bad machinery, but by poor communication inherent in cultural norms.

Airlines function as teams, and there are three parts of a successful airline team. The pilots, the flight controller, and the aircraft dispatcher. Without one, the other will not work. The team must remain in constant, effective communication or suffer the consequences.

Here is what we have learned and what we know about the crashes:

  • Cultural norms in Korea make it difficult for subordinates to question their bosses. Technically, the first officer reports to the captain as if he were his boss. In a culture that values subtlety and unconfrontational posturing, this can cause issues.
  • Gladwell found that because there was a hesitation to question those in authority, first officers were not forceful enough to correct their captains, often leading to crashes.

Since then, Korean Airways has fixed the issue. Chapter 7 of Outliers is a must read for all aviation enthusiasts!

This entry was posted in News & Regulations. Bookmark the permalink.
  • Contact Us

    • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

  • Testimonials

    “After receiving my certificate, I joined a class of 4 experienced dispatchers for Part 121 initial training. Without experience, my preparation at Sheffield enabled me to become active at the same time after the initial training.” PR PR
    “I wanted to tell you I got the job offer from Expressjet, and start next month! I think a couple others from class were hired as well. It just shows the Sheffield reputation when I see graduates from other schools complaining that they can’t get an interview – I wasn’t even back home to Minneapolis […] Dan Gustafson
    “While touring my company’s dispatch department before I had my license our OCC manager pointed out that 7 of the 10 dispatchers on shift had come from Sheffield. The overall consensus was that Sheffield grads were able to hit the ground running as they were better prepared.” K.O. Sidebar K.O.
    “I am a graduate of the Sheffield’s Dispatcher Program. I have been a Captain-Part 121 Airline, Certified Flight/Grnd Instructor, and FAA Designated Check Airman and Sim Instructor (Part 121). From my experience I would rate Sheffield School as outstanding in their field.” PT PT
    “This was an amazing class! Always interesting! It was like drinking from a fire hose, but I have never enjoyed a course more than this one. Thank you for a great 5 weeks & EWINS!” R.S. R.S. Testimonial – 5-weeks & EWINS
    “Your school has offered me an incredible advantage in the Dispatcher job market.” D.K. D. Kircher
    “I am a month into my new job at a airline coming out of reorganization, and am helping the training department by referencing the excellent and up to date course book provided to all Sheffield grads.” RW RW
    “I entered my profession, with more knowledge and information than dispatchers who have been practicing their craft for more than ten years. Not only has Sheffield provided a top notch education, but they have also instilled in me the confidence to succeed.” A.Z. Sidebar AZ – Student Testimonial
    “Being that half my new hire class dropped out over the course of training, I can confidently say that Sheffield helped to prepare me for the real world.” GT – abridged testimonial – school selection matters
    “I am so glad they are like this because it made me a better dispatcher and I really appreciate their high standards. I would highly recommend Sheffield to anyone who is willing to study hard and is serious about obtaining a Dispatcher Certificate.” MC MC
    “If you want to be the best, first you need to be trained by the best!” P. Hill P.Hill – DHL
    “This school came highly recommended by multiple past students and EVEN OTHERS FROM OTHER SCHOOLS. Reputation is fantastic from multiple companies that I have worked for.” A. – September 2020
    “Going to Sheffield prepared me for the real world challenges of Aircraft Dispatching. I certainly believe that the method Sheffield used is one not only for success in a real world career, but also one that prepares students to correctly dispatch aircraft.” T.Z. Sidebar TZ
    “My experience at Sheffield and my exposure to other aircraft dispatchers that did not go to Sheffield has resulted in an awareness of the superior depth and quality of the training provided by the Sheffield instructors.” CD Sidebar CD
    “As a graduate of the aircraft dispatcher program at the Sheffield School of Aeronautics…My training was intense and thorough and furnished me with the requisite skills for performing my current job as a Flight Dispatch Supervisor.” N.S. Sidebar NS
  • Online Catalog

    Sheffield Flight Dispatch Training Catalog

  • Connect