Human Factor in Aviation Safety Term Paper

Pages: 8 (3015 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 8  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Transportation

Human Factors in Aviation Safety

Flying is by far the safest method of transportation, but there are still risks. Many of the problems that occur in aviation are related to the human factor. People can make mistakes, and when they do they can end up damaging aircraft and endangering lives. It is important to explore the various issues that relate to human factors in aviation safety, so that one can determine how best to reduce the risk. Doing so can save lives and lower the overall cost of operations for airlines and other companies that work in the aviation field. Sleep deprivation is one of the most human factor concerns when it comes to safest in aviation, but there are also others that have to be addressed.

People who fly and those who work in the aviation field and want to understand more about how aircraft accidents happen generally study the accidents that occur in an effort to determine what ultimately led to the crash or other mishap (Human, 2011). Not all aviation safety issues result in crashes, but a large number of them have a crash or other significant event as their ultimate conclusion. In a significant number of cases, the fatigue of the pilot and the crew is found to be the cause of the safety problem. These crews and pilots often work very long hours, and sometimes those long hours catch up with them (Berliner, 1996). They make mistakes that they would not have made had they been fully rested, and those kinds of mistakes can cost their employers both money and reputation. The mistakes can also cost passengers their lives if the safety error is a significant one.

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As examples of the kinds of problems that are encountered when pilots and crew are fatigued and not thinking properly, consider the following pieces of information that have been collected from past flights that have taken place all around the world (Human, 2011). Most of these are relatively recent, and they showcase the kinds of issues that pilots and crews are facing when they become overly tired and cannot execute their job duties correctly.

Term Paper on Human Factor in Aviation Safety Assignment

An Air China jet crew disengaged the autopilot by mistake. They failed to realize it at the time, and the place fell for five miles before the crew discovered the problem. The plane landed safely, but the stress and fear experienced by the passengers was certainly noticeable. That was a clear example of human error, as it was not caused by a weather condition or a malfunction of any of the plane's systems.

In Los Angeles, California, there was a commuter plane sitting on a runway. It had been cleared for takeoff when a controller error caused an airliner to actually land on top of the commuter plane. This was something that should never have happened, but fatigue, lack of attention, and lack of communication can cause serious problems with crews in the airplanes and crews on the ground.

An Eastern Airlines jet crew placed their plane on autopilot so they could spend time figuring out why a light for the landing gear did not come on properly. That would normally not be an issue, but the autopilot was disengaged accidentally and the pilots were not paying attention. They did not realize what had taken place until it was too late and the plane ultimately crashed in the Florida Everglades.

There are many ways to argue about what really caused these incidents, but the research into them indicates that people were overly tired when the events took place. Had the crew members been more well-rested, they might have been less likely to cause any harm to others or to fail to realize what had gone wrong (Human, 2011). Quick thinking is vital in aviation, whether one is on the ground or flying the plane, and that quick thinking is not something that is seen when people are too tired or when they are distracted by other issues. If they are able to focus on the task at hand, there are fewer issues with safety and there are also fewer chances for people to become injured or lose their lives.

One argument indicates that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has created rules that actually make the fatigue problems worse and more difficult to address (Berliner, 1996). Instructions are very specific as to how long a pilot and crew is able to fly during any 24-hour period. The rules also state how long the pilot and crew members must rest after than finish a flight and before they are able to fly again (Welcome, 2005). That would seem like a good idea, but there is a catch. These rules only apply to a crew and a pilot that are flying a plane carrying passengers. If the pilot and crew are flying an empty plane from one place to another, they do not fall under the guidelines - meaning they could then turn around and fly a plane full of passengers with no rest and no matter how many hours (with an empty plane) they have already flown within the last 24 hours (Welcome, 2005). That is a serious concern that many passengers are not even aware of, as they do not know about the loopholes in the FAA rules.

Overall, whether there are passengers on the plane should not be the issue. The same amount of piloting skill is needed to fly an empty plane as is needed to fly a plane that is full of passengers, so the rules should be the same regardless of the passenger load (Welcome, 2005). The FAA has not seen this, apparently, because they have not addressed that issue with the rules and the loophole that can allow pilots and crews to fly much more than they would allegedly be allowed to if they were flying passengers on every flight. This can and should be addressed, but so far there have not been any official, formal challenges to the rules (Welcome, 2005). Because of that, pilots and crews are often overworked and very tired when they get in the air with a plane full of passengers, because they have been flying with an empty plane for a large number of hours and have not had the rest that they need.

Even though it is the FAA that makes the rules, a large amount of the responsibility for controlling pilot and crew fatigue to reduce human error actually falls to the specific airlines (Welcome, 2005). It is easy for pilots and their flight crews to circumvent the FAA rules pertaining to how long they can fly in a 24-hour period or how long they must rest between flights. They do this by flying empty planes to airports where they are needed by other pilots and passengers. This is a vital and potentially deadly issue, and airlines should address it carefully. Aviation companies have to be made aware of the kinds of consequences that can come about from pilot and crew fatigue, so that these companies can make better decisions about the flight schedules of their pilots and crew members (Dirty, 2011).

When airlines are able to locate better ways to keep their schedules full and their pilots and crews well-rested, they will have fewer chances of being involved in life-changing and potentially life-ending accidents (Dirty, 2011). One of the largest and most complex parts of this issue comes from the fact that it is very hard to gauge how tired a person actually is. How much fatigue that they have in their mind or body can be difficult to judge - and if a pilot or crew members says he or she is fine, and he or she does not appear tired, how can the airline make the determination as to whether that person is all right to fly? Some people operate better when they are tired than other people, and no two are the same (Harris & Muir, 2005).

No actual, official tests show how tired a person really is. Reaction time and memory can be tested, of course, but that is no guarantee - again, because all people are different from one another. Because there are ways to get around the FAA rules, and because there are no specific tests that can be used to determine with real accuracy how tired a person is at any given time, the airlines must set and implement their own rules that help keep pilots and crews from flying when they are overly tired and fatigued (Dirty, 2011). Airlines that do this are setting themselves up for a good safety record as it pertains to pilot error and other human error types of aviation mishaps. Many of these can be easily avoided.

Large commercial airliners are surprisingly easy to fly with the proper training (Human, 2009). Taking off and landing require more skill, but the planes are generally flown on autopilot for the largest segment of the trip. That is especially helpful in… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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Human Factor in Aviation Safety.  (2011, October 3).  Retrieved April 4, 2020, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/human-factor-aviation-safety/60073

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https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/human-factor-aviation-safety/60073.