Since the beginning of the aviation industry the dynamic interface of man and the aircraft that carries him aloft has been fraught with challenges. The environment that the aircraft operates in, the machine and the operator form a bond that is balanced and coordinated. When there is a unbalance or break in the chain it usually results in an incident or an accident. In those days, with the technology of the aircraft and the environment in which it operates in its infancy, many of the aviation accidents was caused by the machine’s failure or the environment. Today the technology of the machine has increased to the point that systems have built in redundancies and the interface has become more user friendly. The man/machine interface with the environment has improved and become very manageable. The one factor in the equation that remains as a constant area of contention is the human element.
Human error in aviation is one of the most important areas of the aviation industry that contributes disproportionately to the accident rate. Small lapses in judgement, distraction or cognitive reasoning beyond capacity are the human errors that when no controlled or addressed lead to human errors that cause accidents. Reporting, charting, studying, analyzing and investigating these human factors within the man, machine and environment equation can yield significant continuous improvement efforts. Clearly, if accidents are to be reduced further, more emphasis must be placed on the genesis of human error as it relates to accident causation (Wiegmann & Shappell, 2001).
Analyzing the data of human factors within aviation accidents requires the use of visual conceptual tools in the form of modeling to show the interaction between the data and to make the complex nature of aviation accidents more simplified. The Human Factors Analysis and Classification System (HFACS) is a general human error framework originally developed and tested within the U.S. military as a tool for investigating and analyzing the human causes of aviation accidents (Wiegmann & Shappell, 2001). HFACS looks at the data of the human factor errors of an accident to see how it applies within the organizational structure. Accident causation theories refer to accident mechanism and model extracted from the analysis of large members of factors contributing to typical accidents (Wu, Duan Mu, Xu, & Ren, 2014). HFACS can be reactive in that the model is used after an accident to identify the human factors within the accident chain. The data or analysis report from a variety of accident reports can also be proactive that the information gathered can be used to identify and develop various methods to control or mitigate the human factors within the accident chain in a preventative way.
Wiegmann, D. A., & Shappell, S. A. (2001). Human Error Analysis of Commercial Aviation Accidents: Application of the Human Factors Analysis and Classification System (HFACS). Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine, 1006-1016.
Wu, Y. R., Duan Mu, J., Xu, J.-H., & Ren, X.-H. (2014). Aviation Human Factors Accident Causation Model Based on Structure Entropy. Applied Mechanics and Materials, 1354-1357.