top of page

Flight Operations:


Human factors


A Human Factors Approach To Prevent Tailstrike

Causes and prevention review. Training recommendations and strategy.


Accumulated Stress

Although small amounts of stress can yield benefits such as increased alertness and an improved ability to concentrate, an accumulation of stress caused by daily frustration and major life events has been associated with numerous health problems. In studies of flight crewmembers, stress has been associated with pilot error.


Air It Out

Studies have found no link between cabin air quality and health problems, but some crewmembers and passengers say those studies are wrong.


Analysis of Crew Conversations Provides Insights for Accident Investigation

New methods of examining recorded voice communications can help investigators evaluate interactions between flight crewmembers and determine the quality of the work environment on the flight deck.


Antidepressants in Aviation

Australian researchers found that pilots who took prescribed antidepressants were no more likely than others to be involved in accidents and incidents.


Approach and landing Risk Reduction Guide

The Flight Safety Foundation (FSF) Approach-and-landing Accident Reduction (ALAR) Task Force designed this guide as part of the FSF ALAR Tool Kit, which is designed to help prevent ALAs, including those involving controlled flight into terrain. This guide should be used to evaluate specific flight operations and to improve crew awareness of associated risks. This guide is intended for use as a strategic tool (i.e., for long-term planning).


Calculating Errors

Mistakes in determining takeoff parameters are frequent, a french study says, and methods of detecting them are not always effective.


Challenging Behavior

Despite years of emphasis, some fundamental problems still plague crew interaction, suggesting additional focus on monitoring and challenging could yield safety benefits.


Cognitive Engineering Analysis Of VNAV

A cognitive engineering analysis of the Flight Management System (FMS) Vertical Navigation (VNAV) function has identified overloading of the VNAV button and overloading of the Flight Mode Annunciation (FMA) used by the VNAV function. These two types of overloading, resulting in modal input devices and ambiguous feedback, are well known sources of operator confusion, and explain, in part, the operational issues experienced by airline pilots using VNAV in descent and approach. A proposal to modify the existing VNAV design to eliminate the overloading is discussed.


Communicate Positively with your Passengers

Using good communication skills with your passengers can vastly improve satisfaction, and may even put anxious fliers at ease.


Conducting Effective Briefings

This Airbus Flight Operations Briefing Note provides generic guidelines for conducting effective and productive briefings. Effective briefings should be short, structured, concise and adapted to the particular conditions of the takeoff or approach-and-landing. The information provided in this document has been expanded on purpose to provide an opportunity to review and discuss in details each briefing item.


Coping With Long range Flying

This Airbus document provides a practical set of recommendations for the use of longrange crewmembers: alertness decrement, sleep, napping,life hygiene. During long-haul rotations, partial or complete compliance with these recommendations should allow pilots to better manage their levels of alertness in flight, limit sleep loss related to night flights, facilitate, if applicable, adaptation to local layover times, depending on time zone differences. The choice of recommendations will of course have to be adapted to the circumstances. Partial reliance on these recommendations is therefore also acceptable.


Crew Alertness On Ultra Long Range Operations

After two years of workshop discussions and follow-up meetings, recommendations have been issued for planning and approving flight-sector lengths greater than 16 hours between specific city pairs. Specialists at these meetings forged operational guidelines that will help the airline industry to expand the operational envelope while maintaining safety.


CRM Aspects In Accidents and Incidents

Incidents and accidents involve the entire range of CRM and Human Factors aspects. In incident and accident reports, the flight crew's contribution often is considered to be just what the flight crew did or did not do. This briefing is a focused but limited overview of the broad CRM subject.


Decision Making

Decision making is the cognitive process of selecting a course of action from among multiple alternatives. The decision-making process produces a choice of action or an opinion that determines the decision maker's behavior and therefore has a profound influence on task performance. Decision making in an aeronautical environment involves any pertinent decision a pilot must make during the conduct of a flight. It includes both preflight go/no-go decisions as well as those made during the flight. In aeronautics, decision making is of particular importance because of the safety consequences of poor decisions.


Discipline as Antidote

The importance of procedures and the adherence to procedures cannot be overstated.


Discipline in Aviation

This article defines discipline and illustrates its importance to safe flight operations. Its objective is to reinforce the importance of discipline as the foundation of airmanship and the need to follow procedures to ensure safe operations. The article also demonstrates that poor discipline is the direct result of attitudes that may lead a pilot to deviate from Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). It also describes defenses and controls for these attitudes that will enable flight crews to enhance flight safety through improved personal discipline.


Dry and High

Dehydratation causes an insidious degradation of pilot performance that must not be lightly regarded.


Effective Pilot and Controller Communications

Communications between controllers and pilots can be improved by the mutual understanding of each other's operating environment.


Enhancing Flight crew Monitoring Skills Can Increase Flight Safety

Safety problems can arise from insufficient monitoring by the flight crew. Monitoring can be degraded because of several factors, including preoccupation with other duties.


Enhancing Situation Awareness

This Flight Operations Briefing Note presents a definition of situational awareness. It explains the complex process of gaining and maintaining situational awareness, focuses on how it may be lost and proposes prevention and recovery strategies. This briefing note is intended to help the reader gain and maintain situational awareness, to prevent falling into the traps associated with the loss of situational awareness and to avoid the adverse effects of the loss of situational awareness on flight safety.


Error Management

This Briefing provides an overview and discussion of Criteria defining a stabilized approach and, factors involved in rushed and unstabilized approaches.


Explaining Leadership and Followership

This training manual was produced by Western Michigan University School of Aviation Sciences and Battelle Memorial Institute with assistance from Alaska Airlines and the office of the Chief Scientific and Technical Advisor for Human Factors to the Federal Aviation Administration. It is a continuation of the project to identify leadership and followership skills used in CRM, and builds on the previous published manual Cockpit Leadership and Followership Skills: Theoretical Perspectives and Training Guidelines.


Flight Crew Briefing

An effective crew briefing is an opportunity to transform a group of individuals into a highly effective team


Getting To Grips With Fatigue and Alertness Management

This Airbus document provides a practical set of recommendations for the use of long range crewmembers


Golden Rules

The operations Golden Rules defined by Airbus assist trainees in maintaining their basic airmanship as they progress to increasingly integrated and automated aircraft models.


Handling an emergency

Most of us will go through our entire careers without ever having to declare an emergency. For those who do pull the short straw however, there are some basic considerations that apply, regardless of the specific problem(s). The desired outcome for any emergency situation is a controlled rate of descent onto a prepared surface.


How To Deal With A Fire in flight

In the wake of the Swissair MD-11 crash, the two largest operators of MD-11s in the U.S. are instructing pilots to land quickly if they smell smoke or encounter major electrical problems. Delta and FedEx have put out the word to "land now, troubleshoot later." The FAA has urged since 1980 that pilots smelling smoke should get on the ground as soon as possible.


Human Factors Aspects In Incidents and Accidents

This Airbus Flight Operations Briefing Note provides a summary of human factors issues identified in incidents and accidents. This summary may be used either to assess: the company exposure and develop corresponding prevention strategies,or the reader’s individual exposure and develop corresponding personal lines-of-defense. Ultimately, human factors are involved in all incidents and accidents. Whether crew-related, ATC-related, maintenance-related, organization-related or design-related, each link of the safety chain involves human beings and, therefore, human decisions and potential human errors.


Human Factors Considerations for Performance Based Navigation

RNAV and RNP procedures have increased the importance of some tasks performed by pilots and have also introduced some new ones. Pilots must allow adequate time to properly load and brief their SID, STAR, and approach charts. While containing many elements common with existing procedures, these procedures can be more detailed than their conventional counterparts. Considering the increased reliance on the FMS for RNAV and RNP procedures, airlines may benefit from reviewing their training programs and ensuring that they meet pilot workload and situation awareness demands.


Human Factors In Accidents and Incidents

This briefing provides a summary of human factors issues identified in incidents and accidents. It may be used either to assess the company exposure and develop corresponding prevention strategies, or, the reader’s individual exposure and develop corresponding personal lines-of-defense.


Human Factors Report Propulsion System Malfunction Plus Inappropriate Crew Response

The task report presented herewith was undertaken by Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) and The European Association of Aerospace Industries (AECMA) at the request of the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in response to a U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recommendation arising from the 13 December 1994 turboprop-airplane accident at Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, U.S., which resulted in fatal injuries to 13 passengers and two crewmembers. The NTSB findings in this event strongly suggested that a warning light intended to indicate the activation of a recovery function was falsely interpreted as an engine failure and led to inappropriate crew action. The FAA recognized that there were additional data suggesting that this accident was one of a number of similar accidents, and that a study would be appropriate to look into all commercial transport accident histories where an inappropriate crew action may have been taken in response to what should have been a benign propulsion system malfunction.


Hurry Up Syndrom

Aviation's worst disaster, the terrible KLM / Pan Am accident at Tenerife,, was due in great part to schedule pressure p r o b I e m s experienced by both flight crews. The Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) conducted an eighteen month, three country investigation of this accident, with an emphasis on the human factors of flight crew performance, ALPA found that the KLM crew had strong concerns relating to duty time, specifically that they would be able to return to Amsterdam that evening and remain within their duty time regulations. They also expressed concern about the weather and its potential to delay the impending take-off. The cockpit voice recorder indicated the KLM captain said, "Hurry, or else it [the weather] will close again completely".


Identifying Possible Risk Of Hearing Loss

Exposure to loud noises during flight operations and while off duty compounds the risk, but earplugs and headsets help counteract hearing loss.


Increasing Efficiency of Communication

Examining communication between flight crew members & their interface with ATC provides a framework from which the underlying causes of listening and dialogue errors can be described and improvement strategies mapped out.


Interacting Loops of Rik Management and Risk Perception

An interesting study published by Department of Cognitive Science University of California San Diego


Limitations of the See and Avoid principle

In 1991, BASI (The Bureau of Air Safety Investigation) published a research report titled, Limitations of the See-and-Avoid Principle. This report concluded that "the see-and-avoid principle, In the absence of traffic alerts, is subject to serious limitations". Unalerted see-and-avoid has a "limited place as a last resort means of traffic separation at low closing speeds, and is completely unsuitable as primary traffic separation for scheduled services". This report highlighted the fact that "many of the limitations of see-and avoid are associated with physical limits and human perception", and encouraged pilots to be, "made aware of the limitations of the see-and-avoid procedure, particularly the factors which can reduce a pilot's effective visual field".


Lower Back Pain complaint

Although data are not available on flight crewmembers with lower back pain, the numbers presumably are similar to those for the general population, and several studies — primarily involving flight crewmembers on military helicopters — have attempted to gauge the frequency of back pain among pilots.


Managing Interruptions and Distractions

The omission of an action or an inappropriate action is the most frequent causal factor in incidents and accidents. Interruptions and distractions occur frequently. Some cannot be avoided, some can be minimized or eliminated.


Managing Sleep for Night Shifts

Aviation professionals, pilots, flight attendants, maintenance technicians, air traffic control personnel and others — can adopt sound sleep practices to counteract sleepiness at work, improve performance and reduce safety risks by understanding factors that affect human ability to sleep during the day and to work at night.


Managing Threats and Errors During Approach and Landing

This presentation provides an overview of the prevention strategies and personal lines-of-defense related to runway overruns. It is intended to enhance the reader's awareness but it shall not supersede the applicable regulations or airline's operational documentation.


Models of Threat Error and CRM in Flight Operations

Issues in Crew Resource Management (CRM) are discussed, including its definition and primary goals of recognizing and managing threat and error. CRM is a component of an organization’s safety efforts and must be driven by valid data on operational issues. Data requirements for a safety culture include proactive information on crew behavior. The use of non-jeopardy, Line Operations Safety Audits (LOSA) to document threat, error, and crew behavior in line operations is discussed. Models of threat and error in the aviation system are presented, based on LOSA data from three airlines.


Monitoring Matters: Guidance on the Development of Pilot Monitoring Skills

Loss of Control is prioritized as the most important of the significant seven safety issues and the application of effective pilot monitoring is identified as a key safety net in the prevention of and recovery from Loss of Control accidents and incidents. Monitoring is an essential ingredient in achieving synergy with highly automated and complex aircraft systems and effective crew co-ordination.


Physiological Concerns of Heat

The mercury's rising, summer's promise is becoming a reality and you're looking forward to some relaxed flying in the lazy, hazy months. In anticipation of summer, flight crews brush up on an assortment of operating concerns, but often ignored is how the human body performs in our thermal environment. High ambient temperatures and other performance factors affect it in much the same manner as an aircraft.


Pilot Fatigue

When a pilot becomes tired, problem-solving slows, motor skills degrade and attentiveness is impaired. Many accident-causing human errors are probably the result of pilot fatigue.


Protect Your Hearing

Aviation can be a noisy business that can assault tour ears and chip away at your ability to hear clearly. Prevention is your only effective defense.


Right Talk From The Right Seat

Despite lessons drawn from cockpit resource management programs, the language of the flight deck varies by the seat being occupied - and peril can hide in the syntax. We need new rules of speech.


See and avoid

Eye function and eye-brain coordination are not naturally optimized for visual searches in airspace. But experimental evidence shows that pilots can train themselves in techniques for more effective visual detection of traffic.


Situational Awareness

This article presents a definition of situational awareness. It explains the complex process of maintaining situational awareness, focuses on how it is lost and proposes prevention and recovery strategies. It is intended to help the reader gain and maintain situational awareness, to prevent falling into the traps associated with its loss and to avoid the negative effects of its loss on flight safety.


Skin Cancer Prevention

Flight crews and cabin crews should take precautions against exposure to the ultraviolet rays in sunlight while on airport ramps and during layovers.


Speaking Up

Voluntary safey reports by flight attendants prove to be more valuable than expected.


Standard Calls

Standard phraseology is essential to ensure effective crew communication, particularly in today’s operating environment. Standard calls are intended and designed to enhance the efficiency of crew coordination and update the flightcrew situational awareness (e.g., including aircraft position, altitude, speed, status and operation of aircraft systems, …).


Standard Operating Procedures

Strict adherence to suitable standard operating procedures (SOPs) and normal checklists is an effective method to prevent or mitigate crew errors, anticipate or manage operational threats; and enhance ground / flight operations safety.


Stress Fatigue

Relaxation strategies, including ''sleep hygiene'' regular bedtime rituals that help put the mind at ease are useful for many. And the environment in which sleep takes place can make a large difference, for good or bad. Exercise and diet can also play an important role in obtaining restful sleep.


Surviving Cabin Decompression

The immediate donning of oxygen masks by the flight crew is the essential first step after an airplane loses cabin pressure at a high altitude.


The Barn Door Effect

An article about pilots propensity to continue approaches to land when closer to convective weather than they would wish to get while en route


The Black Hole Approach

''Black hole'' approaches posed a significant hazard to airlines during the 1970s. Since then, a number of advances - ground proximity warning systems, the successful push to have VASI and ILS systems installed on more air carrier runways, and head-up displays - have greatly reduced the incidence of ''black hole'' approach incidents and accidents among carriers flying large jet aircraft. Pilots of regional airlines, however, typically fly more total approaches, more ''black hole'' approaches, and more approaches to runways without vertical guidance. All pilots may benefit from this review of ''black hole'' approaches - especially the explanation of why pilots may be lured into flying into terrain or obstacles despite having the runway in sight throughout the approach.


The Importance of Sterile Cockpit

In 1981, additional U.S. Federal Aviation Administration Regulations were enacted to reduce accidents by prohibiting non-essential crew activities during critical phases of flight. A recent review of anonymous reports suggests that non-compliance remains a problem.


The Proper Use Of Checklists

Some years ago, there have been two very serious airplane accidents which were caused by the flight crew attempting to takeoff with the wing flaps retracted. There are, of course, many examples of improper use of checklists related in this very interesting document.


The Result Of Poor Cockpit Discipline

Poor cockpit discipline, nonstandard phraseology and poor radio communications technique, nonadherence to company procedures, limited crew experience and inadequate training were among the facts cited in the Portuguese controlled-flight-into-terrain accident report.


The Role Of Human Factors In Improving Safety

Human error has been documented as a primary contributor to more than 70 percent of commercial airplane hull-loss accidents. While typically associated with flight operations, human error has also recently become a major concern in maintenance practices and air traffic management. Boeing human factors professionals work with engineers, pilots, and mechanics to apply the latest knowledge about the interface between human performance and commercial airplanes to help operators improve safety and efficiency in their daily operations.


The Science of Fatigue

Regulators see a large role for non traditional methods of miigating fatigue and preventing fatigue- related accidents.


Threat and error management (TEM)

Threat and error management (TEM) is an overarching safety concept regarding aviation operations and human performance. TEM is not a revolutionary concept, but it evolved gradually, as a consequence of the constant drive to improve the margins of safety in aviation operations through the practical integration of Human Factors knowledge.


Threat and Error Management (TEM) in Air Traffic Control

The m a in obj ective of intr oducing the TEM framework to the Air Traffic Serv ices ( A TS) communit y in general, and the Air Traffic Control (ATC) co mm unit y in particular, is to enhance aviation safety and efficiency.


Unruly Passengers

Unruly passenger behavior continues to be one of the biggest issues facing airlines and the severity of the problem continues to increase. Although much has been said about dealing with these cases there has been little reference to the causes. Sarah-Jane Prew, the publisher of


What Makes A Pilot Street Smart About Flying

By street smart, we mean: awareness of the essential aspects of flying; ability to know where and when to find critical information; ability to detect and compensate for the mistakes of others; ability to avoid the subtle traps and pitfalls found in the flying environment; and ability to complete a 30-year career without any accidents or serious incidents.


Words Than Can Be Hazardous To Your Health

Miscommunication arising from spoken interaction is a fact of life experienced, in one form or another, almost daily. Even two people speaking face-to-face, ostensibly in the same language, with a common background in the subject of the communication, frequently discover that what was meant was not what was understood. In casual discussion or routine business situations, the results of such miscommunication can range from amusement to expensive errors. But in aviation, the outcome of spoken miscommunication can be deadly. In no area is this more true than in pilot-Air Traffic Control (ATC) interaction.

bottom of page