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What is Human Factors in Aviation?

At the university I attend in South Florida, the aviation program is quite small. Most of the courses are done online, rather than in-person and the flying lessons are done through a specialized flight school. Because of this, when I tell other students my major they seem shocked that our school has an aviation program. Even professors who have been teaching at my university for 20 years did not know we had an aviation program. One reason my major is not well known is because it is not a usual aviation major. Most majors are either in flight science, mechanics, or aviation business administration. My major is Human Factors in Aviation, and if you have never heard that before, or heard of it and don’t know what it is then you are definitely not alone.

My major takes a look at a more recent development in the aviation industry: human factors. To put it in very simple terms, the course looks at the human side of aviation. In aviation nearly half of all aircraft accidents are caused by pilot error. As students of human factors in aviation, we look at what those pilot errors are, what causes them, and how we can identify them in ourselves and fix them before they become a problem. This in turn will make safer pilots and not getting ourselves into dangerous situations.

So what are these human factors? One of the biggest is fatigue. As college students we have all experienced fatigued, especially studying for finals but how does this affect a pilot? A pilot is required to be sharp and focused in order to be ready for any type of emergency that can occur during a flight. A fatigued pilot will be sluggish and slow to react to an unexpected situation. This delay in the recovery for an emergency can prove deadly. This was brought to the public light with the crash of Colgan Air flight 3407, whose pilots were found to be fatigued and not receiving enough rest.

One of the next biggest human factors is stress. Everyone feels stress in their life, including pilots. Pilots face stress from numerous sources; the weather, their company, the schedule, traffic, etc. all play a part in stress for pilots. These stresses can cause pilots to rush and skip safety steps or make a poor decision. One of the best ways to avoid being stressed is to simply not fly while stressed or if not possible, to always focus on safety when flying. 

These two factors are only a fraction of the many human factors that affect pilots when flying. Studying these factors can help make student pilots safer and make them better professional pilots in the future. Although it may not be a very mainstream major in the aviation industry, it is still very important to study these factors so that pilots can be safer in the future.

Daniel Morley
Daniel Morley
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