Case Study: Mechanical and Structural Factors in Aviation Safety

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Human Factors in Aviation Safety

Human factors have been major causes of aviation accidents through the years. The human factors involved have been due to carefree attitudes, fatigue, mounting pressure and stresses, inadequate training, non-job related conversations interfering in job performance, improperly functioning equipment, as well as noncompliance with Federal Aviation Standards and directives. Some of the accidents have had no injury, but some have had substantial injury and death. In spite of safety measures being taken in design, such as technology and procedures, there are still concerns where human errors are a major part of aviation accidents. The Federal Aviation Administration has issued directives and a mechanic check list for before and after performance of tasks to mitigate the amount of human error in maintaining safety measures within the aviation industry.

Literature Review

"Human error has been documented as a primary contributor to more than 70% of commercial airplane hull-loss accidents" (Higgins, n.d.). There is major concern in maintenance practices and air traffic management, which are synomous to crew resource management (CRM) and maintenance resource management (MRM). Human factors involve human abilities, limitations, and other characteristics and how they are applied to tools, machines, systems, tasks, jobs, and environments that produce safe and effective use of aviation. Humans are responsible for ensuring success and safety as well as maintaining continued knowledge, flexibility, dedication, and continual efficiency. This requires sound scientific basis for assessing performance implications in design, training, and procedure in using good judgment.

Design has been recognized as a factor in preventing and mitigating human error. At the same time, new design activity with past operational experience and objectives define human factor design requirements. Technology considers cognitive psychology, human performance, physiology, visual perception, ergonomics, and human-computer interface design. The examination of procedures, human performance throughout the airplane to improve usability, maintainability, reliability, and comfort are considered. It analyzes operational safety and develops methods and tools to help operators better manage human error. Specialists are responsible for flight deck design, design for maintainability and in-service support, error management, and passenger cabin design.

"Flight crew errors typically occur when the crew does not perceive a problem and fails to correct the error in time to prevent the situation from deteriorating" (Higgins, n.d.). In the fly by wire 777, visual and tactical motion cues are provided by back driven controls to reinforce situational awareness and help in full awareness of changes occurring to plane status and flight path during all phases of automated and manual flight. Flight crew communication relies on audio, visual, and tactile methods and must be used appropriately. The flight controls are interconnected so control inputs are obvious to other crew members.

Airplane maintenance has benefited from increased focus on how human factors can contribute to safety and operational efficiency and uses a variety of sources to address human factor issues of chief mechanic participation, computer-based maintainability design tools, fault information teams, and customer support processes. The chief mechanic acts as an advocate for operator or repair station counterparts. The computer aided three dimensional interactive application (CATIA) helps design systems with mechanic ease of access and mechanic capabilities under all circumstances. The fault information team promotes consistency in maintenance processes and design across all systems and models. The major objective of the human factor maintenance group is to implement the Maintenance Error Decision Aid (MEDA) process.

MEDA collects information about maintenance errors and analyzes contributing factors and possible corrective actions. Contributing factors typically include misleading or incorrect information, design issues, inadequate communication, and time pressure. They could also include procedural, environmental/facilities, equipment, situational awareness, crew performance shaping, crew coordination and communication, technical knowledge, skills, and experience. Procedural Event Analysis Tool (PEAT) is another tool that aids in managing risks associated with flight crew procedural deviations. Other tools to assist in managing error include: crew information requirements analysis, training aids, and improved use of automation. Another safety measure is the Engineered Materials Arresting system (EMAS) that uses light weight crushable concrete in an arrestable bed on sides and ends of a runway to greatly slow an aircraft that overruns the runway be decelerating the aircraft (Aviation operators cut corners at espense of safety, Oct. 9, 2007).

The Federal Aviation Administration (2009) has issued mechanic checklist for before a task and after a task to ensure safety and compliance. A mechanic must have the tools, data, and technical skill… [END OF PREVIEW]

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