Aviation stakeholders charged to be proactive about human factors in air accidents, incidents

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The director general of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Capt. Musa Nuhu has called on aviation industry stakeholders not to be reactive but predictive and proactive to avoid existing latent conditions including those associated with human errors in accidents or serious incidents.

Nuhu gave the charge in a keynote address at the conference on ‘Prevention of human factors in air accident occurrences’ organised in Lagos at the weekend by the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) in partnership with League of Airport and Aviation Correspondents (LAAC).

In retrospect, he said the Nigerian aviation sector recorded only one serious incident with fatalities in the last five years with the Quorum Helicopter crash of 2020 which killed three crew members on board.

He therefore tasked the stakeholders not to be complacent in doing the right thing in order to prevent accidents and save lives.

“We do not want to get it wrong and we do not want to have blood on our hands. The primary responsibility of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority is public safety and this is what we must assure through our safety oversight and shared responsibilities with the certified entities and licensed personnel.

“We must jettison the tag of being a reactive people to that of being proactive and predictive, where we must not allow existing latent conditions including those associated with human errors to precipitate into incidents and accidents.”

Globally, he said a review of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Safety Report of 2020 shows that in 2019, globally there were a total of 114 aviation accidents, six of which were fatal with 239.

He added that the 2019 global accident rate of 2.9 accidents per million departures “is the highest in the previous five years and represents an increase of 12 per cent from the year 2018 figure.

The director general stressed that while it is common knowledge, widely propagated within the industry that at least 70 per cent of aviation accidents are due to human factors a review of the Commercial Aviation Safety Team (CAST)/ICAO Common Taxonomy Team (CICTT) taxonomy for occurrence categories shows that there is no category of these occurrences ascribed to “human factors”.

“Meanwhile, an in-depth review of the established different CICTT categories will show that humans are somehow practically involved in or interface with all the occurrence categories.

“This is the reason why the Safety Management Systems (SMS) classifies the above statement as a misconception as humans (especially frontline personnel) interface in almost, if not all probable causes of aviation accidents at the different stages of either design, production/manufacture, organizational, operational and maintenance processes and procedures.

“Human Factors can fundamentally and best be described as “Matching the Man (Person) to the Job and Matching the Job to the Man under the prescribed conditions.”

“This implies compatibility of the person to the job, that is, preparing, adapting, enabling, equipping and conforming the person to perform the assigned task to achieve the design and expected objectives.

“Any mismatch will contribute to human error and is a precursor to an accident,” he said.

Furthermore, Nuhu said one of the best ways to explain the “human factors” contributory role in aviation accidents is a review of the “SHELL” Model made popular by Hawkins in 1987, which, according to him is a conceptual tool used to analyse the interaction of multiple system components including interactions with other Liveware (L). The other components are (S) Software, (H) Hardware, and (E) Environment.

Among the different components of the SHELL Model, Nuhu described the Liveware as “the critical focus” and represents the human component of the aviation ecosystem which include the frontline personnel and the management and administration staff who are usually removed far away from the frontline, but whose decisions impact massively on the outcomes of the operations.

“Human factors in aviation occurrence is therefore most times seen as the negative consequence of the liveware dimension in this interactive ecosystem.

The Liveware is the non-standardized, most critical, least predictable, most susceptible to the effects of internal and external changes, as well as the most flexible component in the system and therefore must be carefully adapted and matched to other system components in order to avoid stress within the system and prevent its eventual breakdown,” he added.

He called on the participants to “critically review the relationship between the liveware components and the other components of the aviation ecosystems and devise means towards achieving an effective and seamless safe aircraft operation and thereto preventing accidents due to human errors.”

In his speech, the commissioner of AIB, Mr. Akin Olateru stressed that aviation remains the safest means of transportation.

However, he said the safety rating must be improved upon despite that the rate of accidents is represented at one per million takeoffs.

According to him, it is of paramount importance to do everything that would contribute to substantial reduction of the human factor failure in air transportation.

He stated that Human factors knowledge can be used to reduce the likelihood of errors and build more error tolerant and more resilient systems.

These, he noted are important for safe and efficient aviation.

“Causes affecting the accident rate in air transportation can be classified from various factors and points of view. The most general and probably the most transparent way of classification is dependence on human action or failure, technical and meteorological factors.

“As far as the organizational or legislative shortcomings are concerned, they could also be instrumental in supporting the factors mentioned, mostly as a result of poor adherence to legislative procedures or mismanagement of resources associated with air operation.

“There is a range of causes to air accidents. In view of the fast development taking place in almost all the aviation fields, the occurrence of air accidents caused by technological advancement is reducing. This development, however, is adding to the complexity of systems and raising the level of seriousness, all that to be managed by the humans,” he added.

The director general further stated that for a substantial progress in air transportation safety to be achieved, it is necessary to focus on the most frequently occurring air accidents, such as the CFIT and runway excursions and overruns and loss of control of the aircraft.

“It is also important to focus on the phases of flight especially at its beginning (takeoff) and end (landing).

“When assessing the development in accidents, it follows that despite the enormous progress made in the field of air transportation, its safety fail to develop to satisfaction, with causes identified as incomprehensive approaches to learning and appreciating the human factor,” he added.

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