Industry News

Incident Report Writing

What you should have learned in high school but either didn’t or forgot

A critical element of aviation security has been sorely overlooked, and while the reasons may be many, the industry has done little to address or even admit the problem: frontline staff struggle to write coherent incident reports that include vital details of security events. Though Mark Vorzimmer provides an overview of the details that should be included in reports, he also confesses an inability to suggest a tactful way to approach the newest members of the aviation community who he describes as being “the shiny new products of the self-esteem movement that are so effusively and cryptically able to describe everything in 140 characters or less”!

We all like talking about the more sophisticated elements of aviation security, such as the Checkpoint of the Future, explosives, breast milk detection and so on, but when was the last time you read a security incident report from a frontline staff member without cringing? How does your middle management sound when they report “massive security breaches”, regulatory mea culpas that start with “We failed to…”, and on and on and on…?

Having been in aviation security since 1984, I’ll admit on behalf of the industry that I would be too embarrassed to share these reports with my high school freshman English teacher, Charlotte “Ma” Viant, and that we have done little to nothing to offer even basic instruction on what to include in a report, and what to leave out.

As an example, how about reports that neglect to mention the name of the passenger (about whom the report has been submitted), or any additionally identifying information such as his or her seat assignment, Passenger Name Record (PNR) locator; the airport or flight upon which the incident occurred, and so on? And this is just to name a few of the glaring omissions amongst dozens of key details left-out of reports by airline staff every day when submitting critically important incident reports.

“Though you’d think Who, What, Why, When, and Where would have been ingrained in all of us since…well, high school…you’d probably be dating yourself.”

You’re probably anachronistically ‘old school’. More likely still, you’re probably from the school they tore down to build the old school.

If you cover these important points in your writing, it’s probably an example of your age finally paying off, or, more fittingly, you’re getting the ‘last laugh’, and much of what’s being submitted nowadays by line-level employees would be a laugh, if it weren’t so problematic.

Owing to the voluminous examples of…well, let’s call it what it is, crap; it’s probably best to start here…


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