Assessing Human Factors in Aviation Related Accidents

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The impact of human factors on aviation accidents is assessed in a research proposal, which was narrowed to the issue of the impact of stress and fatigue on the accuracy of performance. The student will demonstrate his knowledge of all 11-program outcomes, including critical thinking, quantitative reasoning, information literacy, communication, scientific literacy, cultural literacy, lifelong personal growth, aeronautical science, aviation legislation and law, aviation safety, and aviation management and operations. The human factor is a complex phenomenon, the impact of which is affecting the possibility of accidents that occur in aviation and which has an impact on both, social and economic levels. The current research project discusses the relationship between human factors, represented by fatigue, stress, and aviation-related accidents and provides recommendations on how to address it. The overall aim of this project is to detect stress and fatigue by eye-tracking and analyzing the gathered data with safety programs, laws, and regulations, for the further formation of the set of recommendations, reinforced by the legislative knowledge of the FAA, which can reduce the risk of aviation-related accidents.

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Statement of the Project

The purpose of the current research project is the evaluation of the impact of stress and fatigue on the performance of the personnel, involved in flight operations and development of the recommendations on how to decrease the impact of these factors on the safety of flights. In order to comprehensively study the proposed issue, the systems approach will be used. The main hypothesis is that systematic observation with the use of the eye-tracking inventory can trace the psychological state of the personnel, involved in flight operations, showing the duration of the effective performance, the micro-sleep, and attention diffusion. According to the hypothesis, it is possible to assume that any of the expected data, which can be traced during research, can be used for the formation of recommendations about the acceptable duration of the shifts and about the methods of relaxation or maintaining functionality in extreme situations. This research is directed towards obtaining a degree in Aeronautics in order to develop and share the knowledge among other researchers and professionals.


A plane is a complex machine that is controlled by a person, and any person can make mistakes. Additionally, among the most common fears of aerophobia is the possibility of a monstrous catastrophe caused by the mistake of some unknown person, who is sitting in the pilot’s cabin and whom they do not see. In recent years, there has been a constant complication of aviation equipment, as a result of which the number of controls and manipulations has sharply increased. Therefore, because of this complication, the time needed to be able to exit from an extreme situation is reduced. In addition, some authors note the emergence of a psychophysiological barrier, the presence of which is affected by the complication of flight conditions, when, due to insufficient psychophysiological and psychological preparedness, the pilot is not able to provide a high-quality performance of his professional functions. Continuous quantitative changes in the aeronautic industry have led to a relatively rapid qualitative change in the issue of flight safety, its transformation from technical to social, psychological, psychophysiological, etc., which, in a generalized form, are treated as a human factor in aviation. The problem of the human factor in aviation, therefore, arose because of the discrepancy between the capabilities of the human operator, demands toward him in the social context, and the requirements imposed on him by the control system. Thus, the focus of this research paper is narrowed to the issue of fatigue and stress, as a factor of making mistakes.

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Project Outcomes to Be Addressed

Critical Thinking

“The student will show evidence of knowledge at a synthesis level to define and solve problems within professional and personal environments” (ERAU, 2016, pp. 10).

Critical thinking is a multidimensional skill, which is based on cognitive, metacognitive, and dispositional components, directed on making judgments that can be used to analyze things and events with the formulation of conclusions and allows making the evaluation, interpretations, and to apply the results correctly to situations and problems. Therefore, in terms of this research, the main activity in regards to the evaluation of the human factor in aviation is directed on critical analysis of publications, which have similar objectives of detecting stress and fatigue with the use of eye-tracker. Moreover, according to the analyzed data, further research is proposed, which includes the proposition and evaluation of methods to cope with this issue. The system approach will be used for the analysis of the impact of stress and fatigue on performance.

The research data will discuss such issues as flight stress: stress, fatigue, and performance in aviation (Stokes & Kite, 2017); visual scan patterns of expert and cadet pilots in VFR landing (Diaz, Bil, Dyer, & Garcia, 2017); adaptive automation and the third pilot: managing teamwork and workload in an airline cockpit (Cahill et al., 2017); mental fatigue monitoring using a wearable transparent eye detection system (Sampei, Ogawa, Torres, Sato, & Miki, 2016); study of fatigue and workload among aircraft de-icing technicians (Torres, Nadeau, & Morency, 2016); eye movements data processing for Ab Initio military pilot training (Dubois, Bl?ttler, Camachon, & Hurter, 2015); and attentional costs and failures in air traffic control notifications (Imbert et al., 2014). The program of coping with the above mentioned issues will be based on approaches of auto-training and mindfulness meditation, proposed in “Impact of Mindfulness” training on physiological measures of stress and objective measures of attention control in a military helicopter unit (Meland et al., 2015), and on the “Soft Skills” development program, especially time management training and training on the feeling of personal state of psyche (self-reflection). Additionally, the aviation organizations will be provided with a proposition in the formation or modification of shifts and interior ideology in order to increase performance through the modification of employee commitment in proper direction.

Quantitative Reasoning

“The student will show evidence of the use of digitally-enabled technology & analysis techniques to interpret data for the purpose of drawing valid conclusions and solving associated problems” (ERAU 2017).

Quantitative reasoning concludes three ideas: identity in terms of space occupied, identity with respect to time of presentation and identity in quality, concluding them as positive, or negative, negating them. In other words, quantitative reasoning is a skill, directed on the unification of logical constructs, their evaluation and description in symbolic system or representation with verbal means. Therefore, in terms of this research, the main application of the quantitative reasoning will be directed toward searching the required information for the project in digital sources with their further evaluation and presentation. In regard to the issue of stress and fatigue among the personnel, involved in flight operations, the main sources for the analyzing will be Federal Aviation Regulation (FAR) (Section 65.45 – performance of duties, Section 65.47 – maximum hours, Section 65.37 – skill requirements: operating positions (for the evaluation of duties and professional load of operators of the control tower and comparison with the research data); Section 108.5 – inspection of authority (for gathering data), Section 108.9 – security responsibilities of personnel and other persons, Section 108.217 – law enforcement personal (For evaluation of the zone of competence of personnel); Section 99.5 – emergency situations, along with Section 95.139 – emergency air traffic rules (for the evaluation of the activity of personnel in emergency situations, based on stress or fatigue); Section 91.13 – careless or reckless operations (for appeals in terms of the presentation of the outcomes of project). Human factors in multi-crew flight operations (Orlady & Orlady, 1999) will be the additional source for statistical evaluation and comparison of the gathered data and their interpretation.

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Information Literacy

“The student will show evidence of meaningful research, including gathering information from primary and secondary sources and incorporating and documenting source material in their writing” (ERAU 2017).

The informational literacy is a category, which is strongly related with category of critical thinking and is representing the skill of navigation in informational sources of science background with the searching of original information with its further evaluation, according to the terms of validity. Therefore, in order to form the complete understanding of the impact of eye movement velocity and diversity on the tracking of state of stress or fatigue among the personnel, articles, textbooks, scholarly journals, NTSB reports, case studies, posted research data of the already acting projects will be used along with legislative and normative acts in regards to the issues, obtained during the research. According to the information, provided in the “Critical Thinking” section, among the chosen articles, which are focused on project’s theme, there are textbooks, articles, and publications in scholarly journals. The main expectations are related to such sources as flight stress: stress, fatigue, and performance in aviation (Stokes & Kite, 2017), mental fatigue monitoring, using a wearable transparent eye detection system (Sampei et al., 2016) and eye movements data processing for Ab Initio military pilot training (Dubois et al., 2015).


“The student will show evidence of communicating concepts in written, digital, and oral forms to present technical and non-technical information” (ERAU 2017).

Communication is the skill, directed to the transmission of a message, with the use of conscious, systematic, targeted and appropriate interaction, which is influencing the views and values of interlocutor, and is built, primarily, on a rational basis. Communications include business correspondence, negotiations, interpersonal, intergroup, public, mass and scientific communication. Interpersonal communications can be distinguished on verbal and non-verbal communications. In terms of the proposed research, communication is directed on the formation of proper interaction between student and scientific community through the scientific correspondence and communication, provided with the use of the accepted standards. For such a purpose the writing and citing style of the American Psychological Association (APA 6th ed.) will be used. The necessity of such formatting and style use is in unification and adaptation of the obtained knowledge to the demands of scientific communication.

Scientific Literacy

“The student will show evidence of analyzing scientific evidence as it relates to the physical world and its interrelationship with human values and interests” (ERAU 2017).

The scientific literacy is the set of knowledge and skills, directed on the search and evaluation of the obtained information, according to criteria of Popper and other scientific criteria. Therefore, it is necessary to distinguish the valid scientific information from pseudo-scientific, in terms of personal scientific activity and analysis of the research data of other researcher or theoreticians. In regards to the proposed project, scientific literacy is used to determine the causal relations between the saccadic eye movements and the state of psyche of employees, especially with stress and fatigue. Moreover, the velocity and diversity in eye movements can be used to track the most common mistakes and their correction. Additionally, systematic approach will be used for the determination of the level of honesty during questioning of the personnel, while the performance is recorded with an eye-tracker. According to this data, it will be possible to state not only honesty of the personnel, but also the presence or absence of the social pressure, manifested in the domination of commitment over responsibility. Moreover, according to this data, it can be possible to state the correlation of behavior of personnel and the level of conscientiousness, which is vital, in case of the emergent situation and can be additionally measured by one of the scales of the Five Factor Model (FFM) questionnaire. Additionally, scientific literacy will be manifested in the presentation of data gathered from the research, according to the standards and in their description and analysis.

Cultural Literacy

“The student will show evidence of the analysis of historic events, cultural artifacts, and philosophical concepts” (ERAU 2017).

The cultural literacy is important in regards to the formation of the general image of the development of understanding the impact of stress and fatigue on the accuracy of piloting and observation of data on monitors in the control tower. Moreover, cultural literacy is an important skill, which helps to understand the impact of cultural diversity on the obtained data. Additionally, this skill is needed for the proper understanding and use of terminology and philosophical constructs, in order to form the rhetorical support of gathered knowledge. In regards to the research project, it means the analysis of history of researching of the impact of stress and fatigue on human personality and its relation to the cultural diversity of the personnel. Moreover, the impact of the policy of the organization toward cultural diversion can affect the level of stress and fatigue by forming colorful or color blind policy in regards to culture of the employee (Podsiadlowski, Gr?schke, Kogler, Springer, & van der Zee, 2013). Additionally, the terminology, which is used in the research, should be properly determined, in order to avoid misunderstandings and improper data interpretation. For obtaining the historical data, the database of different organizations will be used; it originated in different countries, along with the historical database of different aviation cases.

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Lifelong Personal Growth

“The student will show evidence of the skills needed to enrich the quality of life through activities which enhance and promote lifelong learning in their career filed and personal environment” (ERAU 2017).

Lifelong personal growth means that obtaining the degree in aviation is not the final destination on the way to the professional development of the student, but one of the stages in the endless struggle for becoming more skilled or professional. Moreover, it means that after learning and practical experience, a student should apply more efforts to the self-development in regard to not only the development in the field of profession, but also in regard to other spheres of life. The obtained knowledge can be used for other spheres of implementation, if necessary. The best professional never stops learning, improving his performance and developing his professional worldview. Therefore, lifelong personal growth means the long way from the student to the master in the chosen profession, as the butcher did it from the Taoist parable of Lao Tzu, who became a master in butchery.

Aviation/Aerospace/Aeronautical Science

“The student will show evidence of advanced concepts of aviation, aerospace, and aeronautics to solve problems commonly found in their respective industries” (ERAU 2017).

Aviation/aerospace/aeronautical science means that the student is familiar with new achievements in the aviation industry and related spheres. Therefore, the understanding of achievements in aeronautical science, which covers the study, design, factors affecting flight, and manufacturing of aircraft regarding this research is needed for the formation of understanding the possible spheres of implementation of the obtained data. In this research project, the student will demonstrate understanding of aeronautical science by evaluating the impact of stress and fatigue on piloting or flight control. The detected fatigue among the flight crew members can be decreased by the prompt intervention with the recreational purposes. The student will obtain fatigue-related accident website to successfully accomplish his objectives and accident reports from the NTSB website, which will increase understanding of the fatigue impact and methods of coping with it. Additionally, the knowledge of modern modifications and technologies in eye-tracking will be used to obtain more accurate data.

Aviation Legislation and Law

“The student will show evidence of the basic concepts in national and international legislation and law as they pertain to the aviation, aerospace and aeronautics industries” (ERAU 2017).

The aviation legislation and law forms such competencies among students as ability in conditions of modern development of science and aviation technology to acquire awareness of the social importance of their future profession, ability to address the issues of quality of air transportations and the processes of certification of aviation personnel. In the proposed research project, the student will demonstrate aviation legislation and law by evaluating safety standards for flight crew and accident investigation by NTSB and interaction with legislation base of FAR for the reinforcement of the obtained data with legislative basis, in order to ensure the legal regulation of possible problems. The student will obtain FAA safety standards for pilot, flight operation, and aircraft manufacturer, along with the professional demands toward crew and other personnel. Moreover, the proper interaction with legislation during researching may be crucial for the acceptance of the position of researcher by the personnel and their acceptance of his role in the process of data recording. Additionally, the proper use of legislation can decrease the possibility of cheating during the data recording by the formation of understanding of the research as a professional test.

Aviation Safety

“The student will show evidence of basic concepts in aviation safety as they pertain to the aviation, aerospace, aeronautics industry” (ERAU 2017).

Aviation safety refers to aviation security, safety, flight failures, and prevention of such failures, related with long history of development of understanding of the place of human factor in regard to this issue. When considering the questions of aviation safety, it is necessary to take into account the tangible losses that society suffers from aviation accidents: a significant social damage associated with people’s deaths; economic losses (loss of equipment, compensation for lost property, etc.); losses due to the decreased trust and confidence in air transport. The increase in passenger capacity of modern aircraft put the plane crash into the category of a national disaster. Provision of aviation safety requires the combined efforts of creators of aviation equipment and operators at all stages of design, construction, and operation of aircraft. In this research project, the student will demonstrate understanding of the aviation safety by evaluating the role of fatigue and stress in the accident, determining the possible ways of how to decrease their impact and eliminate the impact of this issue on the aviation safety with the use of specific recommendations, directed at prevention of similar accidents from happening again. The student will obtain information about accident investigations, accident reports and safety recommendations for further analysis, in order to obtain the information on how the already existing system can be improved with the researched data.

Aviation Management and Operations

“The student will show evidence of sound, ethical management principles within standard aviation, aerospace, and aeronautics operations” (ERAU 2017).

The aviation management and operations is the skill, based on understanding of the management of document circulation in regard to the business activity of the enterprises of aviation or aerospace industry by conducting operations day in and day out at the airport or airline, the study and evaluation of ethical principles of providing air transportation services. Moreover, aviation management and operations is the knowledge of ways of development and implementation of specific business strategies in regards to aviation industry and strategy of HR management, according to the unique situation with pool of human resources. In the proposed research project, the student will demonstrate aviation management and operations by evaluating organizational management techniques, policies, directed on the increase of commitment and control of burnout, training procedures and safety standards. Moreover, it will be crucial to determine the policy and internal ideology of organization, business strategy and interpersonal communications for the detection of stressful factors, which can significantly affect fatigue and stress levels of personnel, increasing chances of mistake.

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