Environmental and Human Factors in the Aviation Industry

Human factors are critical in aviation because they affect safety, efficiency, and performance. The study of human factors refers explicitly to the analysis of how human beings interact with aircraft systems. These factors mainly contribute to the risks that originate from designing the equipment and performing key processes and tasks that are significant in enhancing performance and safety in aviation (O’Brien & Caramanna, 2017). Besides, human factors entail a multidisciplinary effort aimed at generating and compiling information that is geared towards enhancing human capabilities to make better decisions for efficient and effective running of the equipment, systems, maintenance procedures, aviation work environment, staff training, and personnel management at different capabilities to ensure a safer, comfortable and practical performance in aviation management. In retrospect, human factors are given significant weight in the aviation industry when establishing and practicing high safety levels. It has been noted that most aviation-related incidences and accidents result from human errors compared to mechanical failures. Consequently, it has been documented that human error contributes to over 70 percent of commercial airplane accidents (Muecklich et al., 2023). Due to this inherent challenge, human error is a primary concern in any aviation maintenance practice and traffic management systems. This paper discusses the significance of various human factors in the aviation industry and how such variables influence aircraft safety and general performance.
Problem Statement
Human factors, especially human errors, are the primary contributor to aircraft incidents and accidents than any other variables and thus must be addressed with severe caution. They include errors from the flight crew, aircraft maintenance team, air traffic controllers, tower malfunctions, and variables that influence flight safety (Hawkins & Orlady, 2017). Human errors are frequently caused by inaccurate situational awareness resulting from failing to critically analyze operational and maintenance issues. The dominant issue in studying human factors is situational awareness, which causes critical active personnel to make an improper judgment. National Research Council (1998) highlighted that lack of situational awareness is a significant variable for consideration in CFIT (Controlled Flight into Terrain) accidents and is the primary cause of more fatalities compared to other types of aircraft accidents. Besides, the National Research Council further notes that human factors contribute to about 70 percent of all accidents and incidents in the aviation industry based on the review of data from different sources (Muecklich et al., 2023). Therefore, the overlap between environmental and human factors issues is essential when determining the aviation industry’s safety. The threat of adverse weather can critically contribute to an accident in several ways. Weather information is not always accurate and timely, causing the crews to make incorrect judgments based on the available information.
An accurate environmental and situational awareness can result from different factors leading to correct decisions. For instance, the flight crew team may need more data to define environmental issues, such as weather, which may result in wrong choices that lead to unexpected accidents. Also, the flight crew may have the correct data but the wrong interpretation of the information, negatively affecting the human performance/ability to control the flights (Muecklich et al., 2023). Further, the flight crew may have accurate information and adequately analyze the data to define the underlying situation. Still, if they need more training skills and procedures to make the right decision promptly, it can lead to a fatal accident.
Environmental Factors that Influence Human Performance
Turbulence involves rapidly rising air masses with elements of convective activity and a high volume of falling precipitation associated with the increasing air density that is quickly cooling. Air turbulence can cause a rapid downward air current inside and around a convective cloud. The less viscous air causes updrafts and downdrafts, resulting in sharp vertical motion (Ryley et al., 2020). The resultant air disturbances in the attitude finally lead to the gains/loss of attitude and potential structural damage. Unexpected turbulence with some degree of precipitation can largely influence pilot efficiency. For instance, some LOC-1 accidents result in aircraft structural damage before full turbulence impact is realized (Ryley et al., 2020). Usually, the damages are sustained during several attempts to regain attitude and airspeed, mainly when the flight is operated manually instead of automated.
Microbursts are strong downdrafts that reach the earth’s surface, causing significant vision problems. It involves a fast-moving shaft of cold, dense air that often results in precipitation that reaches the surface and then spreads horizontally in every direction. Microbursts can create thick, solid materials/winds that strongly affect the pilot decision-making process (IATA, 2016). Besides, the indicated wind shear, turbulence, and downdrafts can deeply downgrade aircraft efficiency, subsequently affecting the flight attitude and path, making it difficult for the pilots to control the airplanes.
Aircraft is developed to sustain vital lightning strikes by utilizing static discharge and bonding that dispatches electrical charges, minimizing expected damages. In some cases, severe lightning strikes have occasionally damaged significant aircraft systems, thus increasing the possible cockpit workload and reducing the overall aircraft capability (Ryley et al., 2020). On the other hand, a lightning strike can suddenly and dramatically affect a pilot’s vision, leading to unexpected human errors that can lead to accidents.
Ice involves massive, extremely cool water droplets below 0. These air droplets exert friction with the aircraft, leading to severe damage. Where the anti-icing systems do not work effectively, the aircraft can experience severe loss of lift and increased weight, leading to the deterioration of aircraft performance. The ice entering the engine may disrupt the plane’s gas combustion process, reducing thrust and possibly making the aircraft flame out (IATA, 2016). In some cases, the probes and sensors that provide information to sensitive aircraft systems can also be affected by icing, leading to significant system failures and loss of aircraft automation systems. Further, icing can be experienced when the aircraft is still on the ground, and pilots and maintenance must be careful when carrying out a preflight inspection at this point to avoid possible damage (IATA, 2016). In this regard, de-icing mechanisms can be used for protection before takeoff.
Mitigation/Alternative Cause of Action
Forecasting weather patterns and other hazardous conditions in the aviation industry has improved in minimizing human errors. For instance, Satellite Imagery provides a global weather view and advanced computing systems that can feed data into complex meteorological systems to reduce accidents (IATA, 2016). The indicated sophisticated weather forecasting systems permit the operators to decide when the flights are likely to depart and arrive to prevent them from being affected by the advanced weather conditions. Besides, the results of modern weather patterns can be utilized to divert flights in case of suspected environmental threats to improve safety. Weather forecasting is a short-term measure of managing the threats of environmental factors, thus making it essential for pilots to engage in tactical decision-making. For instance, pilots may use routes that minimize flight exposure to extreme weather conditions irrespective of extra costs incurred to mitigate the possible environmental threats.
It involves the identification of isolated convective clouds in visually clear weather and daylight. For instance, moonlight and flashes can help identify weather behavior at night. Therefore, when flying in potentially threatening areas, pilots can minimize the risk of exposure to harsh environmental activities by ensuring a vigilant lookout of the convective cloud ahead, which can lead to a crushing attitude (IATA, 2016). However, convective weather activities are primarily embedded in areas of less vigorous activities, which are hard to see. Airborne Weather Radar (AWR) is used mainly to help pilots identify the intensity of convective weather. The tool incorporates a lateral scanning antenna anchored within the nose radome with a display screen in the navigation region to detect bad weather. AWR operates on transmitting radar energy from the antenna by detecting various water droplets from the clouds.
Flight avoidance
The IATA safety report indicates that about 16% of LOC-1 accidents during 2011-2015 resulted from undecided aircraft states. The industry guidance requires pilots to avoid maneuvering through cumulonimbus convective clouds by traveling 20 nautical miles lateral, minimizing the possible threats from inside and outside the clouds (IATA, 2016). Usually, avoiding areas with extreme weather activity can significantly help reduce the chances of accidents.
Human factors are crucial in determining aircraft safety, as crew members must make appropriate operating decisions. Alternatively, the maintenance team must conduct due diligence to ensure aircraft fly safely. Also, regular maintenance of airplanes and inspections can help solve mechanical issues that may trigger an accident. Most aircraft accidents result from human factors that result in making wrong choices during maintenance and operations. Environmental variables may sometimes cause pilots to make improper decisions due to extreme natural environments that hinder pilots from making efficient decisions. In retrospect, these problems can be solved through better weather forecasting, early detection of harmful environmental activities, and flight avoidance on bad routes. Therefore, adherence to IATA regulations can help pilots and crew members mitigate against erratic weather conditions that can affect aircraft performance, leading to accidents. Moreover, situational awareness of the crew members regarding the conditions of the aircraft and surrounding environment is also necessary to detect and mitigate potential accidents.

Hawkins, F. H., & Orlady, H. W. (2017). Human factors in flight. Routledge.
IATA (2016). Environmental Factors Affecting Loss of Control In-Flight: Best Practice for Threat Recognition & Management. Ist Edition. Montreal, Canada.
Muecklich, N., Sikora, I., Paraskevas, A., & Padhra, A. (2023). The role of human factors in aviation ground operation-related accidents/incidents: A human error analysis approach. Transportation Engineering, 13, 100184. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.treng.2023.100184
National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 1998. Improving the Continued Airworthiness of Civil Aircraft: A Strategy for the FAA’s Aircraft Certification Service. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/6265.
O’Brien, E., & Caramanna, G. (2017, September). Human Factor in Scientific Diving: an Experimental Approach. In AAUS Diving For Science Symposium, Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, Alpena, MI, USA.
Ryley, T., Baumeister, S., & Coulter, L. (2020). Climate change influences on aviation: A literature review. Transport Policy, 92, 55-64.

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