Human error and safety

(Video embedded from YouTube on 24 March 2010)

Theoretical frame

As the old saying goes “Some human are caused by accidents, but all accidents are caused by humans”, it is clearly seen from many statistics that human error was involved in over 80 percent of the air crashes and, above all, the pilot error is regarded as the primary factor in over 70 percent of all crashes [Weir (1999 4)].

In other words, it is true that, therefore, most of aircraft accidents could be avoided, because only a very small portion is caused by mechanical failure [Frazier (1999 2)].

The most important guiding principle on the flight deck design today is considered as fitting the job to the man rather than the man to the job.

However, since people have been getting flexible in a variety of ways on the fitting the job to the man, there has also been enticements on the flight deck at the same time that might result in practically poor design, but only financially economical design. In this case of the temptation, even though it seems the pilot is definitely able to cope with the possible situations that might happen in the air, it still has a lot of risks, such as the increased likelihood of error, discomfort, and fatigue, in terms of the air craft safety as the statistics shows [Green, Muir, James, Gradwell, & Green (1996 3)].

Four components of the preflight/preparation


According to Frazier, Director of Aviation at Jackson College, physical or mental fatigue could be very deceptive (could be occurring at any time and frequently deadly), and “fatigue is indiscriminate; no one is immune” [Frazier (1999 2)].

In fact, the operating an aircraft has been proved to be more fatiguing than many people realize. This is because, pilots should devote their attention, constantly, to the complexities like handling, altitude, airspeed, radio tuning, and communications.

Frazier had also taken account of several solutions to cope with fatigue; taking frequent crosschecks of the instruments, change the seat position, and change seat. More importantly, however, he warned that taking a rest in the back seat with autopilot could result in a much longer nap than he planned on.

Supporting Evidence

Additionally, he gave an example to suggest the danger of flying in the fatigued state that his friend, who was a pilot in Canada, died because he had been afraid he would get fired if he refused one more trip, although he had been fatigued with busy flight schedule.


In order to prevent the accident caused by taking a medication, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) offered solutions by regulating strict rules for drug testing that pilots should obtain a clearance from either a doctor or FAA-certified Aviation medical examiner, before the pilots take anything and fly. However, there also has been a demonstration against the drug test in some pilots who object to unilaterally giving up their rights by the Fourth Amendment right to privacy, which was regulated by FAA [Frazier (1999 2)].

Supporting Evidence

There was a maneuver at low altitude caused by drugs On December 4, 1976 and the report of investigation finally identified that 57-year-old private pilot operated the aircraft after taking two dangerous medications; placidyl (which could cause extreme drowsiness), and salicylate (which is often used as a painkiller).


The determination of the weather condition before the flying is regarded an integral part of the total preflight process. Therefore, every flight must be prepared for the prevailing weather conditions to be encountered during the flight and pilots must be able to determine whether the weather conditions are favorable, marginal, or poor [Frazier (1999 2)].

The FAA provided the Flight Service Station (FSS) against the bad weather with the appropriate information and all pertinent weather data, such as general weather along the route of flights, wind aloft, terminal forecasts, and so on. Also, the FAA suggests that pilots need to ask for any pertinent Notice To Airman (NOTAM) in order to get ready, to fly to an airport, and to find it closed for repairs [Frazier (1999 2)].

Supporting Evidence

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) reported an accident caused by careless weather determination. In 1976, a 59-year-old, noninstrumental-related private pilot took off from the Washington and entered an overcast layer with 150-foot ceiling and less than one mile visibility. The pilot repeated climbing up into the clouds and diving steeply, and the flight eventually fell to the ground [Frazier (1999 2)].

Decision and flight plan

Filing in a flight plan is regarded as one of the culminations in the preflight process and it also encompasses the readiness of pilot himself, the aircraft, the weather, and any other pertinent data [Frazier (1999 2)].

Frazier [2] talked about the importance of this making a decision that the pilot has to decide “Do I go or not?”, because the pilot-in-command has the responsibility for the safe conduct of each and every flight. He also added his personal experience that he decided to take decisive action to save his life from the unexpected bad weather, even if he would lose his license for 90 days. Furthermore, he gave the solution that pilots should not take anybody’s word for anything, but should be ready for flying as it might be the last.

Stress managment


[Davison and Neale (2001 1)]. defined the term ‘stress management’ as the process to help individuals, some of them are labeled as patient, adopt and cope with the challenges that life poses for all or us. The stress management could be divided into three main techniques: Self-monitoring, cognitive restructuring, and arousal reduction.

Three main techniques


First of all, self monitoring is to write down the stressful events of the day with specific date, time, and the stress level. This technique would show the overall stress patterns of oneself like when and where the stress occur and what is it caused by. On the basis of this method, pilots would be able to reduce the repeatable stress causes and to cope better with stress. Furthermore, they could demonstrate against the captain pilot’s unlawful command with the self-monitoring notes.

Cognitive restructuring

Secondly, cognitive restructuring is to change people’s attitudes against stress and more in depth it could change the philosophy of one’s life [Davison & Neale (2001 1)]. This method must be consulted with psychology doctor, because it requires reappraising the one’s life at large. Moreover, this technique would be able to reduce the uncertainty with providing information and to enhance the sense of stress control.

Arousal reduction

Thirdly, all people have an arousal reaction. If the arousal reaction occurs in human’s body, the heartbeat and inhaling capacity would drop and the motion of the cerebrum would work actively. Consequently, people could get more relaxed and peace in their mind. This technique is mainly made up of four components; calm environment, spiritual toll, passive attitude, and comfortable pose [Davison & Neale (2001 1)].

See also


1. Davison, G. C., & Neale, J. M. (2001). Abnormal psychology (8th ed.). New York: Knowledge Management Space.
2. Frazier, D. A. (1999). The abcs of safe flying (4th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.
3. Green, R. G. Muir, H. James, M. Gradwell, D. & Green, R. L. (1996).Human Factors for Pilots (2nd Ed). U.K: Ashgate.
4. Weir, A. (1999). The tombstone imperative: the truth about air safety. London: Simon & Schuster UK Ltd.

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