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Evaluating Human Factors in Aviation Safety

Info: 7455 words (30 pages) Dissertation
Published: 4th Jan 2022

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Tagged: Health and SafetyAviation


Transport by air is the pinnacle of modern human evolution. Of all the modes of transport in use today, air transport was the last to be developed. Since the Wright brothers took their first flight in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, the aviation industry has witnessed tremendous advances. Airplanes have increased in size, range, capacity, and complexity. Early airplanes evolved to have the complex engines, sensors, cabins, and flight control surfaces that are present in modern aircraft. For example, modern airplane engines have thousands of elements being monitored each second, such as temperature, air quantity, water content, rotational speed, oil pressure, oil temperature and so on.

The complex nature of modern airplanes makes it more likely for pilots to make mistakes, and longer flight times have predisposed the pilots to some of the negative effects of jet lag and tiredness. The capstone project research will investigate how human factors affect aviation safety, as well as discuss what strides have been made to lessen some of the negative effects of human factors on aviation safety by looking at some of the aviation accidents and incidents that have been blamed on human factors. The ultimate goal of the capstone study is to conceptualize a framework that might be used by airlines and other relevant bodies to minimize aviation accidents and incidents.


Human error is defined as a failure of a planned action to achieve a sought-after outcome (National offshore, 2017). Errors can also take place in the planning and execution phases of a task. If a plan is appropriate, and the action step task follows the plan, then the desired outcome of the plan will take place. Consequently, if a plan is inadequate, and an intentional action moves forward in the plan, the intended outcome will not take place.

It is human to make errors and humans are prone to making errors (Latino, 2007) and human errors cause or contribute to most accidents (Cussick & Rodrigues, 2012).  It is never the less essential in preventing failures for both, planning and execution failures to participate in recurring training as well as ongoing training.

Contributing Factors to Human Error

Many accidents and incidents that have been recorded over the course of the history of aviation have been blamed on human factors affecting the pilots, such as fatigue for flight crews which involves a significant risk factor that is involved in at least four percent to eight percent of aviation mishaps (Caldwell, 2005). Fatigue is also an important concern for ground operations personnel whom also find themselves dealing with being tired too often and being underestimated or ignored in today’s 24/7 flight operations work environment. As a human factor fatigue is a state of tiredness associated with prolonged work and or prolonged wakefulness (or sleep loss) (Caldwell, 2005). Fatigue also contributes to affect human performance. As a physiological factor fatigue is a human condition which is brought on by lifestyle Cusick & Rodrigues, 2012).

Combined with a lack of situational awareness fatigue frequently triggers a human error, and it is the failure by a pilot to correctly evaluate his or her airplane’s operational or maintenance information. Such instances can arise from a pilot failing to correctly interpret weather radar data causing the pilot to fly through severe and dangerous storms, or for the pilot to choose to believe the pilot’s senses instead of the flight instruments.

Maintaining the correct situational awareness is important for the prevention of accidents. On February 12th, 2009, the crew of Colgan Air Flight 3407 was caught up in a lack of situational awareness that proved fatal. The airplane, a Bombardier DHC-8-400, was on approach to Buffalo-Niagara International Airport before crashing in Clarence Center, New York around 5 miles from the airport. The airplane, as a result of the crash, was completely destroyed by the impact and the post-crash fire that led to the deaths of 50 people (49 aboard the plane and one on the ground). Following the extension of the flaps and landing gear in preparation for landing, the plane’s stick shaker activated, warning the pilots that the plane was about to stall. With this warning, the pilots should have pushed the control column downwards to gain speed to get out of the imminent stall, (National Transportation Safety Board, 2018).

Instead, the pilot pulled back on the control column, and this led to a bigger loss in the plane’s speed. Maintaining situation awareness is paramount to preventing accidents and incidents that involve human error. To maintain situational awareness, the Federal Aviation Administration (F.A.A.) should be called on to support the efforts to define what the minimum data is required and provide guidance on how the data can be presented most effectively (Caldwell, 1998).

Evidence is documented that suggest that fatigue caused problems in aviation have reached epidemic proportions (Caldwell, 2005). Countering fatigue requires planning that will require training, educating crews, operators, and leadership to design onboard aircraft rest opportunities including cockpit napping, controlled rest breaks, and other techniques to raise alertness levels on the flight deck (Caldwell, 2005).  Sleep is a biological need for humans and is the only cure.

Human error

Human factors, specifically human errors contribute to more aircraft accidents and incidents than any other single factor (Caldwell, 1998). What frequently triggers a human error is an inaccurate situational awareness, which is the failure to correctly evaluate operational or maintenance situations correctly. As a result, the human error appears (Caldwell, 1998). As an example, where a flight crew has weather data needed to access the weather which if not adequately defined may lead to an accident is the misinterpretation of the data. While the flight crew has the data that it needs to assess the situation it may lack the training, skills, or procedures to make the correct decision to carry them out in the time available (Caldwell, 1998).

A private pilot while on a local flight experienced a rough running engine. As a prudent response to the circumstance, the pilot returned to the airport of origin. Four miles away from the airport and while in the traffic pattern to land the pilot added power. The result of the pilot’s action was there was no aircraft response, after which the airplane lost power. As a result, the pilot landed the aircraft on a road approximately one mile from the airport. Upon landing safely on the roadway to a complete stop. The pilot accessed the situation and location of the aircraft, restarted the aircraft engine with the intention of taxing off the roadway. During the taxing phase, the aircraft struck three roadway signs and a fence, resulting in damage to the aircraft’s left wing. During the aircraft’s recovery and while inspecting the fuel in both wings done by the investigating entity it was determined that small amounts of water were present in the fuel. In addition, the aircraft’s engine was also started and ran normally.

In addition, both magnetos checked out and were found within normal limits. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) analysis determined that the engine power loss may of, resulted from water in the fuel. While the pilot landed the aircraft successfully after undergoing engine problems onto a roadway. It was determined that the pilot’s decision to taxi the aircraft off the roadway while failing to avoid roadway signs, as well as a fence resulted in extensive damage to the Cessna 172 B.

While the pilot displayed good situational awareness while airborne, reacted well in safely landing the aircraft onto a road to save himself without causing any harm in the air or on the ground, it appears that the pilot did not do a very good preflight check on the Cessna 172 B (N174LL) wing fuel tanks to determine the presence of water content. Remove the water out of the fuel sump drain.  In addition, the pilot did not maintain situational awareness while on the ground, having hit roadway signs as well as a fence causing substantial damage to the aircraft.

An (F.A.A.) inspector having examined the aircraft at the accident scene as well as drained fuel while at a local hanger for examination. Found evidence of water contamination present in the fuel tanks discovered that the pilot had been using automotive fuel (Mogas) on an aircraft not certified to operate on automotive fuel. The pilot clearly violated F.A.R.’s. In addition, the city, property owner(s) or county where the aircraft landed could potentially sue the pilot with a civil liability lawsuit for landing in a negligence case. Damaging road signs, a fence. An aircraft found with several gallons of automotive fuel in the wing tanks could be grounds for F.A.R. violations since the Cessna 172 B isn’t certified to operate with this type of fuel. In addition, the aircraft’s insurance company would also review the Federal Aviation Regulations (F.A.R.) violations for a policy non- coverage. F.A.R. Part 23.430, fuel systems (Electronic Civil Flight Rules, 2017) CFR, 2017) as well as F.A.R. Part 91.103 cite violations appear to apply in an inadequate preflight planning episode and with being careless, violating F.A.R. 91.13 (Federal Aviation Rules and Airman Information Manual, 2018).

The NTSB found that the probable causes of the accident to be the pilot’s decision to taxi the airplane from the roadway followed by a failure to maintain clearance from signs and a fence after a successful emergency landing and following a total loss of engine power (NTSB, 2016).

A recommendation would be for there to be some sort of legislation enacted to let pilots know that using fuel that isn’t mandated by the aircraft manufacturer not be legal to use. Therefore, making it less likely an aircraft will develop engine trouble and for this reason less likely to crash and kill people due to incompatible aircraft fuel.

A private pilot and non-instrument rated received several weather reports from Lockheed Martin Fight Services. The weather briefer informed the pilot that a mountain obscuration and low ceilings existed along the flight route. NTSB analysis using flight data provided by the F.A.A that was tracking the aircraft on radar at the time the aircraft went down indicated that after departing Kaunakakai airport (MKK) on the Island of Hawaii at 1849 Hawaii standard time (HST) the pilot flew directly into the area that was showing adverse weather conditions (NTSB, 2016). Shortly after which radar data revealed that the Cessna 172 M made a descending right turn that started at 2,525 Ft. MSL. Ending one minute later over open water and approximately 7 miles Northwest of the departure airport. The F.A.A lost radar contact with the aircraft and issued an alert notice for search and rescue to initiate a search and rescue operation. The aircraft and its occupants were not found (NTSB, 2016).

The NTSB investigation revealed that the private pilot had logged a total of 73 hours VFR flight time. The flight was conducted at dusk, the lowest ceiling level was overcast at sixteen hundred feet Above Ground Level (AGL). The wind speed reported by the weather observation facility was twelve knots gusting to eighteen knots at thirty degrees and the visibility was six miles. Traveling from the big island of Hawaii to Honolulu the pilot with two passengers aboard the aircraft and passengers were not found.

Based on the time of the year, the month of December and on the Island of Hawaii where the average rainfall according to U.S. Climate data, shows an average amount of precipitation amount in inches of rainfall of four point two nine inches of rainfall in the month of December, the highest rainfall for the calendar year on the Big Island of Hawaii. As a low-time pilot who departed Kaunakaki airport at dusk in a low ceiling condition it is the belief that the urgency to get to Honolulu that evening may have contributed to the pilot in command making the incorrect decision to make the flight that brought the aircraft down in a series of human factor errors in the error chain that led up to the accident that was avoidable.

Leading up to this it is noted that the pilot took the time to receive weather briefing reports from 1800weather brief to assist him in making an informed decision regarding his flight plan and probability to make the trip. The outlook, standard as well as abbreviated briefings from Lockheed Martin flight services, (1800wxbrief, 2017) provides pilots with comprehensive and developing conditions briefings that make the low ceiling conditions that were present at the time of the accident an obvious hazard for an informed pilot to take the time to make the right decision prior to the aircraft’s flight going down in open water possible.

In addition, the aeronautical decision-making system training approach to the mental process used by pilots to determine the best course of action to a given set of circumstances is taught to student pilots at several levels and for different categories of aircraft including the private pilot fixed-wing level (Rotorcraft flying handbook, 2012).  To mitigate disorientation a recommendation is for there to be flight physiology exposure training to help with spatial disorientation awareness including more night flight hours requirement at the private pilot level. This would be a good way for pilots to gain more experience prior to receiving a private pilot license. As well as a mandatory physiology course training, human factors refresher training on a yearly basis online and through the F.A.A.’s (Wings pilot proficiency program) FAAST program. This would serve pilots well in the long term.

A digital text-based communication system for Air Traffic Controllers and pilots provides pre-written messages that were once delivered verbally over the radio (US. Department of Transportation, 2017). Minimizing human errors for both the pilots as well as the Air Traffic Controller, the DataCom system allows for pilot controller interaction via pre-formatted messages that require appropriate responses, eliminating confusing voice messages or mix up.

While the F.A.A. requires for all pilots to have the ability to read and write aviation English, Title 14 CFR Part 61.83 (FAR/AIM, 2017). And for F.A.A. Air Traffic Controller Specialist to be able to speak English clearly enough to be understood over communications equipment (F.A.A. 2017). The recommendation is for all pilots as well as Air Traffic Controllers to meet a specific level of reading, writing and speaking ability, thereby minimizing the opportunity for human errors that are brought on by the lack of comprehension and interpretation of the English language that could be experienced by either. People make poor decisions because they have incomplete information, they use inaccurate, or irrelevant information; or process the information poorly (Cassick & Rodrigues, 2012).

Flight 3407 a Colgan air Bombardier DHC-8-400 aircraft was operating as Continental connection and was on an instrument approach to Buffalo Niagra International airport in Buffalo New York when it crashed 5 nautical miles from the airport. The flight crew as well as, all of the passengers aboard the aircraft were killed, including one person on the ground. During the NTSB investigation, it was determined that a contributing factor in the crash was the stick shaker that activated to warn the flight crew of an aerodynamic stall (NTSB, 2010). The Captain should of, pushed forward on the control column to correct the situation. The Captain it was discovered pulled the control column back accelerating the aerodynamic stall. Failing to recognize the position of the aircraft on the cockpit flight displays, as well a failing to follow the F.A.A. procedure of a sterile cockpit, with the crew reframing from conducting non-essential activity such as talking about careers, while the aircraft flew below ten thousand feet.

In the aftermath of the tragedy, the NTSB made several recommendations to the F.A.A. including strategies to prevent flight monitoring failures, pilot professionalism, fatigue, remedial training, matters involving pilot records, stall training as well as airspeed selection procedures (NTSB, 2010). In addition, the NTSB made further recommendations to the F.A.A. to provide oversight as well as safety alerts for air carrier operations to make safety-critical information known, the use of flight operational quality assurance (FOQA) program as well as the use of personal electronic devices in the cockpit and weather information given to pilots. Additional recommendations would be for companies as well individual owners involved in accidents a follow up with the NTSB after an accident to confirm receipt of the recommendation made to the F.A.A. In addition, the airline, in this instance should be required to follow-up with the F.A.A., and after a period of time revisit the recommendation details presented with the F.A.A. to give account on what the airline has done with this information to avoid another accident.

Departing from King Salmon airport in King Salmon, Alaska in route to Dillingham airport, Dillingham Alaska Beech craft 1900 N116AX is operating on instrument meteorological conditions thirty miles southwest of the initial approach fix (IAF) at an altitude of five thousand feet Mean sea level (MSL). The Air Route traffic controller working the aircraft clears the airplane to fly directly to the initial approach fix at two thousand feet MSL the published transition on to runway 19 maintaining at or above two thousand feet until established on the published approach.

Having read back the controller’s instructions and approximately six minutes later, the pilot requests to enter the holding pattern while the flight crew check’s runway conditions on another radio frequency. The air route traffic controller clears the aircraft to hold as published with the aircraft at an altitude of two thousand two hundred feet MSL. In the published instrument approach procedures, the minimum altitude for an airplane approaching the initial approach fix from the Southeast (Aircraft’s direction) is five thousand four hundred feet. MSL, with a holding pattern at the IAF at four thousand three hundred feet. MSL based on the increasing terrain elevation in the area.

The flight crew’s lack of awareness and failure to review the published approach procedure and briefing covered in the company’s descent and approach checklist along with the air traffic controller’s failure to instruct the aircraft to proceed direct to ZEDAG an initial approach point on the approach chart, enters the terminal arrival area at or above five thousand feet MSL to clear (Radio Navigation) (RNAV) runway 19. In addition, the controller didn’t monitor or notify the aircraft of the incorrect altitude when the aircraft descended to two thousand feet MSL. The NTSB found that the probable causes of the fatal accident to be in part caused by both the flight crew as well as the Air route traffic controller who exercised poor decision making and bad judgement. In addition, there were environmental issues that contributed to the crash, a low ceiling.

A recommendation for the Part 135 airline is for flight crew refresher training that includes increased time with IFR flying including procedures and conversations with ARTCC.

For the Air Route Traffic Controller who failed to issue the pilot with correct clearances as well as failed to monitor that flight and provide terrain safety alerts remedial training is in order. In addition, legislation changes to Part 135 operations should also be reviewed. Requiring terrain awareness and warning systems, as in the case of turbine-powered airplanes manufactured after March 29, 2002 and configured with ten or more passengers for class A operations (F.A.A./AIM, 2017).

In an NTSB aviation accident report at a Part 141 flight training center a multiengine Piper PA-34 airplane, accident number, general aviation accident (GAA 17CA 93, NTSB, 2013). During a landing roll, the brakes on the right seat side failed to stop the aircraft while the student pilot at the flight instructor’s instructions allowed the student to pilot to taxi the aircraft to the parking area. In the effort to stop the aircraft the student pilot was told to apply both brakes at once. The action causes the aircraft to pull to the left. The instructor used differential thrust to stop the aircraft from pulling to the left by increasing the right engine speed, unfortunately, the attempt had no effect. After shutting down both engines the aircraft struck a parked airplane to come to a stop. Sustaining much damage to the left wing.

The accident report revealed the flight instructor added that he believed that the accident could have been avoided if he had stopped on the taxiway and not entered the parking ramp. The cause of the brake failure in a post-accident examination revealed that the right brake actuator piston “O” ring had malfunctioned, which in turn lowered the hydraulic brake pressure to prevent the brake from functioning properly. The NTSB concluded that the probable cause of the accident to be the flight instructor’s decision to taxi the aircraft to the parking area with a known brake malfunction, resulting in directional control followed by crashing into a parked airplane.

The Part 141 school’s concern would be how the insurance company will address the at fault status the NTSB accident report addresses. Also, culpability on the part of the mechanic for not repairing the airplane while the aircraft that should have been grounded for repairs wasn’t. The flight school’s role in this and its’ responsibilities would be opening up the possibility of it being sued by the student and or the parked aircraft owner. The CFI whom knowingly instructed a student in an airplane with bad brakes would most likely be considered for a pilot license suspension and or remedial training and or a fine. This would also hold true for the A&P mechanic. Both F.A.A certificate holders would want to consider filing an Aviation safety report with NASA. While consulting with an aviation attorney.

A recommendation would be for the Part 141 flight school to be audited so that it can show that its capable of operating as a business while being responsible for maintaining its flight instruction aircraft adequately and legally for the safety of its staff, student’s and the community. also urging law makers and regulators to review the existing laws on the books to determine of the current laws are adequate for this situation, including addressing and enacting legislation that requires for ethical and practical aviation and aerospace law classes be taken by operators and its’ staff members of part 141 as well as Part 61 flight schools. Students, as well as general aviation pilots, should also be required to complete such courses through the F.A.A Faast Wings program where they are the direct benefactors of becoming more informed and better aware of how things work in these instances.

Not only can organizations create human error conditions, but regulations can do so as well (Strauch, 2017). Enabling human error, includes individual factors such as fatigue, stress, and medical factors. Explains Dr. Barry Strauch whom has been investigating human error for 35 years and has been providing human error expertise to well over one hundred aviation and maritime accidents.

Simple errors can lead to a catastrophic accident (Strauch, 2017). Taking off from Miami, Florida on May 11, 1996, the McDonald Douglas DC-9 Value Jet flight 592 crashed into the Florida Everglades. The NTSB investigations determined that what caused the accident was essentially simple and straightforward. A fire took place in the aircraft’s cargo compartment that spread into the cabin. Due to the aircraft’s degraded structural integrity, everyone on board was killed in the accident. In the events that led up to the accident, the airline had been in operation for less than 3 years, and during that time the airline had used what were then non- traditional airline practices.

After rapid growth; and in the months before the accident experienced two non-fatal accidents. What the investigators learned in the course of the investigation was that despite strict prohibitions, canisters of chemical oxygen generators had been loaded onto the airplane (Strauch, 2017). An oxygen generator provides oxygen to airline passengers during a cabin de-pressurization. The oxygen generates are safely transported in an airplane provided they are properly installed within protective housings. In a situation where the canister is activated the process creates heat as a by-product raising the surface temperature of the canisters to as much as 500 degrees F. (260 degrees C.).

Investigators believe that the boxes of canisters were placed loosely in boxes not locked into the aircraft’s cargo hold underneath the cabin and after being rocked and moved by the takeoff and climb out the cannisters started to generate oxygen. As a result, of the canister’s generated heat other material in the cargo compartment ignited and a fire began. The cannister’s fed the fire that grew to the point where the aircraft’s structure weekend and the airplane became uncontrollable (Strauch, 2017). Because it was clear that someone had loaded the unprotected cannister’s of oxygen generators onto the aircraft a large amount of focus of the investigation was directed at how and why the oxygen canisters were brought on board the aircraft. The NTSB investigators learned that no single human error led to loading the oxygen canister onto the airplane that resulted in a maintenance technician shipping three boxes of oxygen generators.

Through the substantial effort placed by the NTSB investigators placed in the investigation were able to understand the nature of the errors that led to the accident. The investigators were able to learn how human errors were committed. The benefits of this were huge. Managers and regulators applied what was learned to systems operations to make the system safer. Lessons were learned from the accident and applied what was learned to their own operations. Making the aviation industry a safer one.

Recommendations involving the errors that stand to be lowered much more would include expanding the role of safety inspectors. Reviewing current regulations for identification and applicability of what the consequences are for airline and air charter operators that commit these types of mistakes going forward to make the necessary updates and or changes to continue to improve the system.

The history of human factors in aviation has experienced much movement and change through three eras. From the 1940’s to the middle 1960’s human factors were drawn from experimental and social psychology as well as aerospace medicine (Harris, 2007). Work completed after WWII identified shortcomings in the design and layout of aircraft cockpit instrumentation which contributed to accidents, resulting in recommendations for improvements. In the 1960’s the area of human factors began to make large contributions in training and simulation as well as for the contributions in the design and layout of cockpits (Harris, 2007). The cockpit resource management (CRM) revolution brought about applied social psychology and management science into the cockpit to generate better teamwork. In addition, in the 1970’s with the introduction of the “Glass cockpit” new formats for the display of information was made available as human factors began to play an increasingly important role in the design of cockpits. The 1980’s and early 1990’s benefitted from much research being done in the areas of workload prediction and measurement to improve the pilot’s situational awareness.

In the recent half century “De-crewing” of the flight deck has taken place. Starting with the initial automation of the flight deck resulting initially in the removal of the radio operator, followed by the navigator and lastly with the flight engineer. This being performed by the aircraft itself. The pilot’s role has changed from that of a flyer to being, a system’s “Cockpit” manager (Harris, 2007). In the 1980’s a Presidential task force analyzed the safety implications of a reduction of the number of flight deck crew from three to two crew members in the cockpit. It was determined that there was no threat posed to safety by the removal of the flight engineers position and the automation of the work. Flight safety based on the developments of technology determined the decision. While there have been increases in air traffic density, the crew commercial jet aircraft have an accident rate of approximately fifteen times lower than that of the four crew, First generation commercial airlines or ten times lower that of the Second generation, three crew commercial jet airlines (Harris, 2007).

Regional aircraft are experiencing challenges for the design and operation of a single crew (Harris, 2007). Because regional airlines fly flight segments that are less than an hour, fatigue isn’t an issue and the problems associated with restroom time is somewhat contained. The regional aircraft provides the largest commercial benefit for cockpit de-crewing. With the design direction for the single crew aircraft, the role of the pilot will be that of a flight planner, a communicator with air traffic management facilities as well as a surveillance operative (Harris, 2007). Pilots are poor error detectors and monitors of systems. Therefore, the functions will be turned over to the machine, as will the reconfiguration of systems in the event of simple failures.

A single pilot operated aircraft is a major technical challenge. Particularly in the recovery phase when a pilot becomes incapacitated or overloaded the operator of a highly automated aircraft must continue to be a pilot. Aircraft designs must be designed to deliver high levels of automated assistance. For a passenger’s peace of mind autonomous aircraft must be able to continue to operate safely. This will call for design processes, situational awareness, automation interaction technologies; this will also require human-centric and, decision making that maximizes human factors integration (HFI) to achieve the efficiency and economic benefits that the flying public expects from the aviation industry.

Human factors involving unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) have been a proven success in operations involving Afghanistan and Iraq. While there has been some apprehension and hesitation operating unmanned aerial systems using minimal oversight in modern militaries 60.2 % of UAS mishaps involve human factors (Erhan, H., Kurkcu, C., & Umut, S. (2012).

For pilots as well as unmanned aerial operators, physical dimensions, information dimensions as well as cognitive dimensions are used to fly unmanned aerial systems (Erhan, H., Kurkcu, C., & Umut, S. (2012). Human factors are common and inherent to all UAS operations (Erhan, H., Kurkcu, C., & Umut, S. (2012). Factors that affect the mission are inattention, channelized attention, task oversaturation, confusion, distraction, misperception of flight conditions as well as spatial disorientation. Resulting in errors in poor judgment and decision making (Erhan, H., Kurkcu, C., & Umut, S. (2012).

A study was written to compare cognitive capabilities of manned systems with UAS to evaluate them in anticipated future operating environments in mind, the evaluations focused on the cognitive domain of information environments and their impact on specific missions (Erhan, H., Kurkcu, C., & Umut, S. (2012). The study addressed the need for effectiveness and efficiency in a changing environment that includes air power and the challenges pilots as well as UAS operators are faced with in making decisions. Identifying the UAS as an internal part of the militaries that should be used in conjunction with manned airborne and ground-based decision-making systems, incorporating UAS with manned systems to provide for expanded mission flexibility and efficiency.

Aerodynamic design considerations for in-light refueling of unmanned vehicles in support of fixed and rotorcraft involve aerodynamical limitations involving human factor implications. Inflight refueling for military aircraft has evolved since it was conceived for pilot skill and systems to deliver fuel to military aircraft in extreme conditions (McAndrew & Moran, 2013). There have been occasions where UAS have flown beyond 24 hours. Deploying unmanned aircraft further distances as well as for longer periods of time where more fuel is required. The study addressed the problems, the potential changes the aerodynamics of solution for the next generation of usage (McAndrews & Moran, 2013).

There are human factors that apply when docking a manned aircraft with an unmanned aircraft, which adds to the concerns of safety incidents. An unmanned aircraft approaching a fuel source is a safety risk (McAndrew & Moran, 2013). Inflight refueling is accomplished by using one of two types of fueling systems. The Boom version which requires an aircraft to be refueled parked at the back end of the re-fueler with the boom operator positioning the re-fueling arm in place for the transfer of fuel. The drogue system uses a funnel cone behind the aircraft from a feeder pipe where the vehicle docks and receive fuel.

This system is advantages for both fixed wing as well as rotary aircraft. For unmanned aircraft to refuel inflight the docking and undocking safety concerns exist that involve control. No true situational awareness can be achieved in a remote control affecting situation awareness. The aerodynamics involving an unmanned aircraft flying in the wake of a larger refueling aircraft also experiences control issues that prevent docking regardless of the docking method. In addition, unmanned aircraft are not designed to operate at higher supersonic speeds; therefore, aerodynamic changes to address stability, more lift or the effect of turbulence can be added to the aircraft and will not have negative effects on usage or air range.

Using the drogue system is identified as a more suitable method for fuel that can accommodate the low speed of a UAS. Using unmanned re-fuelers to refuel a UAS removes the human factor risk associated with the risk to life in an operational environment.

Entering into the third era of human factors, two driving forces define the era. One it has been said that human factors in themselves cannot improve the operational efficiency of an airplane (Harris, 2007). A broader “System overview” is required. In the late 1990’s human factors integration (HFI) began to appear. Human factors engineering, essentially human-centered design, including health hazards, system safety, the organizational and social aspect.

With the rise of the human factors integration (HFI) approach more powerful computing technology, cost-effective, flexible display equipment in addition high-speed data links have provided support for human-centered design, allowing for the designing of tools and automation that is required to support users, rather than making interfaces more “User friendly “, and less likely to induce human error (Harris, 2007). Because of this “Good” human factors can now make positive benefits, increasing performance, reduce operational costs while increasing value.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Constellation program is responsible for planning and including programs necessary to launch explorers back to the moon, forward to the planet Mars as well as all of the other destinations in the solar system (Baggerman, Berdich, Whitmore, 2009). As well as provide support for the international space station (ISS). In 2008 NASA made changes to the human rating requirements for space systems. The document was intended to document the requirements needed to assure the protection and safety of NASA space mission crew members and passengers. The task was to implement a process, procedure as well as requirements needed for a human-rated space system. The design of the Constellation system was focused on the needs, capabilities, and limitations of humans. The systems engineering manual developed for the program presented a guidance on the process, tools, and techniques to be used for the proper integration of human to system interfaces for mission phases.

Developing the system lifecycle included in this required defining the parameters involved in a habitable environment, the capabilities and limitations of the flight and ground crew involved in the designing of the Constellation systems needed to accomplish the mission intentions. Mitigating risks to the mission and the crew while considering human health, performance, the NASA Constellation program has made much progress in recognizing and the creation of an environment that recognizes human systems integration during a time when the program was experiencing contracting budgets and accelerated schedules.

Targeted reductions in non-defense spending for the fiscal year 2018 and included in the US. President’s proposal gives NASA the opportunity for expanded partnerships to serve as the foundation for the forthcoming US. civil and space work. Including collaborative arrangements between businesses involved in space station operations, deep space habitation and exploration systems, as well as working with organizations to develop and commercialize space technologies (US. Government, the Fiscal year 2018 budget, 2017). Taking advantage of the in-favor of the space agency administration, a recommendation would be for NASA to cement productive and reliable alliances with many business industries in its mission to optimize the opportunities that will help NASA to drive industries forward while expanding its role in space to take it to new levels taking with it human factors/human systems integration.


Despite the rapid advances in aviation technology, human beings are ultimately responsible for making sure that the industry is safe. Many changes that have come about have been as a result of human errors that have forced changes in aviation policies. It is incumbent for every person involved in the aviation industry to continue to challenge themselves to learn more about human factors, be cognizant of the evolving equipment, industry as well as the landscape surrounding aviation. Learning to become more efficient over time, understanding the importance of human factors, identifying safety issues and concerns found in aircraft and aircraft designs that continue to place humans and human-centric systems at the center of the industry an ongoing process.


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