Academic Paper on Cockpit Mistakes points to Man-Avionics Design as possible Point of Error Inception

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ARTICLE: Human Error the Greatest Threat to Aviation Safety


Another academic discourse, Don Harris’ paper in the February 2014 issue of The Psychologist, the magazine of the British Psychological Society, suggests that the constant refrain of “human error” in accident investigation reports “is merely the beginning of an explanation”, at best superficial analysis of the inception point of the problem. The article traces Cockpit Resource Management, Controlled Flight into Terrain and SMS as examples of efforts to focus on the sources of these initial events which may have caused the pilots to err.

Harris then points to his own analysis which questions the commercial practices of today’s airlines. In particular, he questions the impact of contracting out on each company’s safety performance. The variations caused by multiple SOPs and differing manuals/handbooks all increase the likelihood of inconsistent practices and thus human errors.

The author’s last example, a 1992 Airbus A320 accident at Mont Sainte-Odile, “was at least partly attributed to an error prompted by the design of a certain aspect of the flight deck”. As noted here before , ergonomics is a science used to consolidate cockpit crew tasks from a three to two person complement at the controls. The masters of that discipline were, and hopefully are, manufacturers. Their staffs might follow the dictates of Japanese ergonomics theorists, that the job should be designed to maximize the human capacity and to minimize error.

Maybe Don Harris from his position at Human Systems Integration Group, Faculty of Engineering and Computing, Coventry University, can identify “bells and whistles” that will maintain the pilots attention on both the active flying of their aircraft and the acute scanning of all the instruments which comprise today’s cockpit array.

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