The Sky Has a Limit - How to Deal With Failure

DLD conference

How to deal with failure? A question regarding everyone with ambition and responsibility, but especially relevant for Kerstin Felser, a Lufthansa pilot. Being one of the two first female pilots to fly an A380, with 526 seats the biggest passenger airplane of the world, failure management is a key element to her work. She gives insights on how to avoid mistakes and how to deal with them, if zero tolerance is the corporate goal. Her experience with Lufthansa’s profound failure management system, which only starts with applicant selections, simulator training and standard procedure security checks, will be a beneficial for everyone, who faces difficulties in business and wants to improve their business strategies.

To start working for an airline like Lufthansa is not such easy. The tough selection process, the physical condition, and permanent data feedback is not for everyone. Specific personal qualities and skills are basic requirements. Lufthansa teaches their pilots to deal with failures, because of the transparency at the cockpit. Every data is recorded and transmitted (flight and voice recorder) that's why pilots learn how to use check lists, how to deal with different failures like hydraulic problems or ill passengers. 4 times a year, pilots have to do tests at the simulator to handle all the possible failures on board.

Well, you might say they all have their auto-pilots. But all pilots are sitting at the driving seats with the full responsibility for the plane. They have the final decision about flying flying with auto-pilot or without. If he or she thinks it is a higher degree of save flight, they are able to switch off the auto-pilot. Not only one pilot is responsible for the plane. There' s always a second pilot, the so-called first officer, doing the cockpit preparation before the start as well. He or she is checking flight routes independently from the pilot to minimize failures. Often the pilots don't know each other. That's one possibility to avoid mistakes, because the pilots are not too familiar.

What can we learn from Kerstin Felser, Senior First Officer of an Airbus A380?

  • Quick decision making

  • Taking responsibility

  • Transparency

Pretty much everything will be recorded and to decide who is responsible for what is a try to rule out human errors. Mistakes are there to learn from, not to be punished with, but one mistake up in the air can be really horrible. As a pilot you are responsible for hundreds of life. That's why Lufthansa changed routes immediately after the crash of MH17.

Kerstin is 1 out of 5% of female pilots at Lufthansa. She's a role model in her blue uniform. But what calls women back to be pilots? Is it a lack of confidence? Are women not ready yet to fight hard enough for what they want? Or is it the old role model: pilot vs. stewardess? Let's paint the sky pink! More and more male stewards are seen up in the sky, we need more female pilots now.

DLDw14 Conference - "Relevance!-  2014

Mentioned in this live blog

Kerstin felser quadrat
Kerstin Felser
Lufthansa AG
Commercial Airline Pilot, Senior First Officer A380, Assistant to the Senior Vice President of Operations Frankfurt
Lufthansa AG

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