As an HRO, we are not surprised by the unexpected. We are able to adapt to unexpected developments, master them and contain their adverse effects. With this aim in mind, we ensure that any sign of an operational malfunction is noticed and responded to as early as possible. We do not suppress or conceal problems, but recognise them and address them promptly. We also empower our staff to respond appropriately to any malfunctions that occur, and we incorporate the reserves required to protect the system as a whole.
When to deviate from standard processes?
In an extraordinary situation, it is particularly important to follow predefined standard procedures. This happened on 16 January 2013, when an evacuation alarm went off at the centre in Dübendorf. Operations cleared the sky and all employees left the building. Eventually, it turned out to be a false alarm. However, reacting according to the procedure was correct and necessary in any case.
On the other hand, in an extraordinary situation it is sometimes (very rarely) necessary to ignore procedures and rely entirely on one’s own professionalism. This was the case on 17 February 2014, when Ethiopian Airlines ETH 702 was hijacked. The hijacker intended to land in Geneva and asked for asylum in Switzerland. Official authorities did not comply with this demand. The landing was delayed. Fuel was running low. Finally, the air traffic controllers cleared the flight to land on their own responsibility. If the standardised processes had been strictly applied, the aircraft would have crashed with the greatest probability.