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Human Factors in Aviation Accidents Research Paper


For very many decades, experts in aviation have singled out human factor as a critical issue associated with aircraft accidents. Past studies have indicated that complacency, fatigue, stress, and the lack of motivation should be taken seriously in the aviation industry. Joy (2015) argues that human factors directly or indirectly contribute to most of the accidents recorded in the industry. Throughout the maintenance process, human factors should be considered as a priority. If this is not done, these factors will result in injuries and unexpected events. Accidents can also occur because of such human conditions. A detailed analysis of the role of human factors in aviation accidents will make it possible for different agencies to come up with better prevention policies.

Accidents Caused by Human Factors

The “aviation industry has been focusing on different human factors since they are attributable to many aviation incidents and accidents” (Foresman, Fosl & Watson 2016, p. 24). Professionals in the industry focus on different areas such as statistics, anthropometry, engineering, and psychology to advance human factors science (Salas, Maurino & Curtis 2012). More often than not, the combination of two or more factors can contribute to accidents in the industry. Joy (2015) indicates that over 70 percent of accidents in the aviation industry are caused by human errors. For instance, the China Air Flight C1642 crash has been widely associated with human errors. To begin with, the pilot had been informed about the existing weather condition during preflight briefing. The members of the crew had been guided to be prepared for the severe weather in Hong Kong. The presented reports indicated that the plane was carrying the extra fuel tanks (Foresman, Fosl & Watson 2016). The pilot failed to divert the plane as instructed. That being the case, this was a major human factor that led to the C1642 crash.

The second accident attributed to human factor occurred on 4th February 2015. The accident involved the aircraft GE235. The plane fell into a river shortly after takeoff. This fatal accident led to the death of all the passengers and members of the crew. One of the engines stalled immediately after takeoff. Consequently, the pilots should have stopped the supply of fuel to the broken engine (Hume 2015). However, the pilot turned down the other engine. He raised the craft’s nose despite the fact that it had lost power. The pilot tried hard to gain altitude despite the fact that the plane had lost power. This scenario shows conclusively that human error is a critical issue in aviation accidents.

The Tenerife Airport Disaster is categorized as one of the worst accidents in the aviation industry. Decreased visibility, lack of communication, and inadequate cooperation led to the unforgettable collision between the KLM and the PanAm flight in 1977. Human error led to the accident because the pilots believed that they had already been cleared for takeoff. The error occurred when the other craft was on the runaway (Joy 2015, p. 39). This error led to the loss of 583 lives. Experts indicated clearly that the accident occurred due to inappropriate communication.

Evaluation of the Human Factors

Several models are used to analyze the potential causes of accidents in the aviation industry. The Tenerife Airport Disaster can be analyzed using the Reason’s model. According to the model, all organizational aspects must collaborate to promote efficiency. The model uses holes to indicate areas of weaknesses or failures. Whenever the holes align, accidents will definitely take place. The model outlines four layers that must be coordinated to prevent accidents (Breve 2011). The first layer focuses on organizational attributes. The targeted accident occurred due to inappropriate organizational processes at the airport.

The second layer represents ineffective supervision. Before the occurrence of this accident, the issue of supervision had been ignored at the airport. The absence of proper training to improve communication played a unique role towards the occurrence of the accident. The third layer is known as unsafe action. This layer indicates that “unstable mental states can result in poor decisions” (Foresman, Fosl & Watson 2016, p. 59). The fourth layer is violation and error. This error occurs when individuals fail to act accordingly in an attempt to produce the best results. Failure to detect fog and inability to offer adequate information by some professionals led to the disaster.

The second framework that can be used to analyze the role of human factors in aviation accidents is the 5-M model. The GE235 crash can be examined using this model. One outstanding fact about the model is that it examines all the potential causes of an accident or critical incident (Hume 2015). This knowledge is considered in order to improve the level of management and prevent similar events in the future. The summary below gives a detailed analysis of the human factors that might have led to the GE235 accident. The analysis shows clearly that human factors contributed a lot to the occurrence of this aircraft disaster.

5-M Factors
Man The pilots failed to make accurate decisions after the first engine failed.
The pilots were qualified and had completed the relevant trainings.
Medium The accident in a normal weather condition.
They were also operating in a strenuous environment since one of the engines had failed.
The surrounding environment was characterized by many tall buildings. That being the case, it was necessary to avert any form of collision.
Machine The aircraft was equipped with advanced technological devices and systems.
The craft could operate successfully with one engine.
Management The management had equipped the pilots with the relevant instructions and regulations.
The team was effective towards managing disasters and providing superior services.
Mission The task in question was a routine flight for the pilots and the crew members.

The SHELL model is widely used to examine the role of human factors in the aviation industry. The model asserts that the human role is very crucial and flexible. The model presents four components that interact with the human role. These components include environment, live-ware, hardware, and software. The model is used to optimize the existing relationship between professionals and their roles (Breve 2011). This knowledge can be used to analyze the nature of the crashes involving the C1642 and GE235 aircrafts.

The model shows conclusively that the pilots and crewmembers were operating in strenuous conditions. The individuals had to interact with machines and implement various software processes. The pilots were also supposed to examine the nature of the surrounding environment. This fact shows clearly that each of the four components interact with each other. Any “mismatch at the interface of these building blocks can result to system failure in the form of an accident” (Breve 2011, p. 3). The GE235 aircraft crashed because the pilots were unable to operate the plane successfully. The weather condition experienced by flight C1642 explains why the accident took place. This useful model shows conclusively that the human factor can result in an accident if there is a mismatch in any of the interfaces.

Key Areas of Policy Change

Several policies can be used in the aviation industry to reduce the effects of human factors. This is the case because human errors have continued to catalyze many accidents in the aviation industry. The most desirable policy that has the potential to improve the safety of aircrafts and minimize the effects of human factors is the alarm handling and automation (Foresman, Fosl & Watson 2016). Although many policies have been proposed by different agencies, this strategy can be used to improve the safety of many aircrafts.

Advanced alarm systems should be installed in every aircraft. This should become a policy in an attempt to monitor errors and different parts of the affected aircraft. Such alarm systems should be automated to ensure pilots make the most appropriate decisions. This means that all aircrafts should be upgraded in order to minimize accidents (Breve 2011). Such systems can alert pilots about the weather conditions experienced in different destinations. By so doing, it will be easier for more pilots to make appropriate decisions and eventually minimize accidents in the industry.

In the recent past, many automobile manufacturers have been focusing on the concept of autonomous vehicles (AVs) to reduce accidents. With the current technological developments, aircraft automation is a powerful policy idea capable of reducing accidents in the industry. That being the case, such automations should be characterized by alarm handling capabilities. Different agencies such as the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the International Air Transport Association (IATA), and the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) should be on the frontline to implement similar policies (Breve 2011). Aircraft manufacturers and carriers should ensure the targeted aircrafts have such automation systems. Such systems will notify every pilot whenever there is an error and suggest the most desirable action plan.


The above policy has the potential to prevent errors and minimize the human involvement in aircraft management (Breve 2011). However, the policy should be supported in order to record positive results. The above agencies should be on the frontline to transform the current aviation legislation in order to make the proposed policy a major requirement. Throughout the implementation process, several crewmembers and software engineers should be present in the cockpit in order to make desirable decisions. Pilots should also receive adequate training in order to use such automation systems effectively. Effective training, provision of appropriate resources, and collaboration with the other players involved can support the effectiveness of these automation systems (Ancel & Shih 2012).

A new culture should be established in the industry to ensure more pilots act ethically and diligently depending on the existing problem. Management teams in different airports, carriers, and supervisory agencies should monitor the implementation of the proposed policy (Ancel & Shih 2012). This practice will play a positive role towards recording positive results. The lean model should also be embraced in order to identify the existing gaps and improve the safety of more aircrafts. Such measures will minimize the role of human factors in different aviation accidents.

Reference List

Ancel, E & Shih, A 2012, , American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 1-13, Web.

Breve, C 2011, ‘Contributive factors to aviation accidents’, Rev Saude Publica, vol. 45, no. 2, pp. 1-4.

Foresman, G, Fosl, P & Watson, J 2016, The critical thinking toolkit, John Wiley & Sons, New York.

Hume, T 2015, , Web.

Joy, M 2015, Upon a trailing edge, Troubador Publishing Ltd, London.

Salas, E, Maurino, D & Curtis, M 2012, , Web.

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IvyPanda. "Human Factors in Aviation Accidents." October 14, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/human-factors-in-aviation-accidents/.


IvyPanda. 2020. "Human Factors in Aviation Accidents." October 14, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/human-factors-in-aviation-accidents/.


IvyPanda. (2020) 'Human Factors in Aviation Accidents'. 14 October.

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