Discussion/ Values

Posted: February 18th, 2023

Discussion/ Values


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Step 1: Listen and take notes on the Lecture on Values ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yUVHc1l3fsQ )


Step 2: Read the .PDF from The Ethnic Theory of Plane Crashes a chapter from Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell, pages 185-202.  See .pdf in Modules.


Step 3 : In a 200-300 word post, answer the following questions:  Analyze the Columbia airlines Avianca flight 052 situation described in Outliers (pages 185-202) in terms of high versus low context.  These concepts are explained in the Lecture on Values.  (Note:   Do not discuss power distance as Gladwell already provides that analysis.)  Did the cockpit crew valued high or low context?  Explain.  Did  ground control valued high or low context.  Explain.  Imagine you could go back in time before the plane crash.  What specific suggestions regarding  intercultural compentence would you offer to promote more competent intercultural communication between the cockpit crew and ground control.  Be specific.  Don’t forget to integrate course terms from the Lecture on Values. Be sure not to summarize the situation.  This assignment is about analyzing the situation.  (Be sure to apply the suggestions from Analyzing versus Summarizing in modules.)


Please note:  You must first post your own original initial response (at least 200 words in length) before viewing the initial responses of your classmates. Do not post a blank response first and then view the responses of your classmates as doing so will compromise the originality of your own response and result in points being deducted from your score on the assignment or a grade of “0” (zero).


The Ethnic Theory of Plane Crashes



On the morning of August 5, 1997, the captain of Korean Air flight 801 woke at six. His family would later tell inves- tigators that he went to the gym for an hour, then came home and studied the flight plan for that evening’s journey to Guam. He napped and ate lunch. At three in the after- noon, he left for Seoul, departing early enough, his wife said, to continue his preparations at Kimpo International Airport. He had been a pilot with Korean Air for almost four years after coming over from the Korean Air Force. He had eighty-nine hundred hours of flight time, including thirty-two hundred hours of experience in jumbo jets. A few months earlier, he had been given a flight safety award by his airline for successfully handling a jumbo-jet engine failure at low altitude. He was forty-two years old and in excellent health, with the exception of a bout of bronchitis that had been diagnosed ten days before.

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At seven p.m., the captain, his first officer, and the flight engineer met and collected the trip’s paperwork. They would be flying a Boeing 747—the model known in the aviation world as the “classic.” The aircraft was in per- fect working order. It had once been the Korean presiden- tial plane. Flight 801 departed the gate at ten-thirty in the evening and was airborne twenty minutes later. Takeoff was without incident. Just before one-thirty in the morn- ing, the plane broke out of the clouds, and the flight crew glimpsed lights off in the distance.

“Is it Guam?” the flight engineer asked. Then, after a pause, he said, “It’s Guam, Guam.”

The captain chuckled. “Good!” The first officer reported to Air Traffic Control (ATC)

that the airplane was “clear of Charlie Bravo [cumulonim- bus clouds]” and requested “radar vectors for runway six left.”

The plane began its descent toward Guam airport. They would make a visual approach, the captain said. He had flown into Guam airport from Kimpo eight times previously, most recently a month ago, and he knew the airport and the surrounding terrain well. The landing gear went down. The flaps were extended ten degrees. At 01:41 and 48 seconds, the captain said, “Wiper on,” and the flight engineer turned them on. It was raining. The first officer then said, “Not in sight?” He was looking for the runway. He couldn’t see it. One second later, the Ground Proximity Warning System called out in its electronic voice: “Five hundred [feet].” The plane was five hundred feet off the ground. But how could that be if they couldn’t

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see the runway? Two seconds passed. The flight engineer said, “Eh?” in an astonished tone of voice.

At 01:42 and 19 seconds, the first officer said, “Let’s make a missed approach,” meaning, Let’s pull up and make a large circle and try the landing again.

One second later, the flight engineer said, “Not in sight.” The first officer added, “Not in sight, missed approach.”

At 01:42 and 22 seconds, the flight engineer said again, “Go around.”

At 01:42 and 23 seconds, the captain repeated, “Go around,” but he was slow to pull the plane out of its descent.

At 01:42 and 26 seconds, the plane hit the side of Nim- itz Hill, a densely vegetated mountain three miles south- west of the airport—$60 million and 212,000 kilograms of steel slamming into rocky ground at one hundred miles per hour. The plane skidded for two thousand feet, sever- ing an oil pipeline and snapping pine trees, before falling into a ravine and bursting into flames. By the time rescue workers reached the crash site, 228 of the 254 people on board were dead.

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Twenty years before the crash of KAL 801, a Korean Air Boeing 707 wandered into Russian airspace and was shot down by a Soviet military jet over the Barents Sea. It was an accident, meaning the kind of rare and catastrophic event that, but for the grace of God, could happen to any airline. It was investigated and analyzed. Lessons were learned. Reports were filed.



Then, two years later, a Korean Air Boeing 747 crashed in Seoul. Two accidents in two years is not a good sign. Three years after that, the airline lost another 747 near Sakhalin Island, in Russia, followed by a Boeing 707 that went down over the Andaman Sea in 1987, two more crashes in 1989 in Tripoli and Seoul, and then another in 1994 in Cheju, South Korea.*

To put that record in perspective, the “loss” rate for an airline like the American carrier United Airlines in the period 1988 to 1998 was .27 per million departures, which means that they lost a plane in an accident about once in every four mil



The Columbia Airlines Avianca Flight 052 situation can be analyzed in terms of high versus low context. High-context cultures rely on nonverbal cues and contextual cues to convey meaning, while low-context cultures rely more on explicit verbal communication. The cockpit crew, who were mostly American, valued low context, as they expected clear communication from the ground control, while the ground control, who were mostly Hispanic, valued high context, as they expected the crew to understand their indirect communication.

The ground control’s communication was mostly indirect and ambiguous, relying on cultural context and nonverbal cues, which the cockpit crew failed to understand. As a result, they did not recognize the severity of the fuel situation, leading to the plane’s crash. The cockpit crew’s lack of familiarity with high-context communication led to a misunderstanding of the ground control’s intentions.

If I could go back in time before the crash, I would suggest intercultural competence training for both the cockpit crew and the ground control. This training should include knowledge of high and low-context communication, nonverbal communication, and cultural differences. The cockpit crew should learn to recognize indirect communication and contextual cues, while the ground control should learn to communicate more directly and explicitly.

The intercultural competence training should also include knowledge of power distance, as Gladwell already analyzed this aspect of the situation. By promoting more competent intercultural communication, the tragedy could have been prevented. It is crucial to understand and respect cultural differences, especially in high-stakes situations such as air travel.

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