Aero Culture: Human Factors


Progress, innovation and…error? One of these might seem like the odd one out. However, each is possible where a human-machine interface and human factors meet.

Man and machine have a complex history. Machines have long been invented to make tasks easier, or to perform in ways that humans could not based on any number of limitations. People in the twenty-first century, though, have come to rely on machines and technology in ways like never before. Since most machinery, aircraft included, cannot function without an operator and/or technician, human factors must be considered.

Human factors are conditions such as fatigue, complacency and stress, among others, that are a result of our most basic mode—being human. The contrast between man and machine might seem obvious, but it is also important. According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), “nearly eighty percent of maintenance errors involve human factors.”

Oddly enough, the same qualities that enable an aviation maintenance technician (AMT) to do his or her job also allow for mistakes. Discernment, for example, is one of our most valuable and non-replicable traits; with it comes limitations of mental, emotional, and physical states, human capabilities and environmental conditions.

Human errors are actions with unintended consequences. Error is of particular concern for AMTs because their work affects their own safety and the safety of others. Twelve factors, known as the “dirty dozen,” have been identified and adopted by the aviation industry as a means to discuss human error in aviation maintenance. The “dirty dozen” include:

  • lack of communication
  • complacency
  • lack of knowledge
  • distraction
  • lack of teamwork
  • fatigue
  • lack of resources
  • pressure
  • lack of assertiveness
  • stress
  • lack of awareness
  • norms

While each one of the dozen poses its own threat to safety on the job, and in performing maintenance tasks, there are ways to mitigate risk. For example, to curb the risk of complacency, always expect to find something wrong, never sign off on something you did not fully check and always double check your work.

To combat a lack of knowledge, only fix parts that you are trained to fix, ensure that the maintenance manual you are using is up to date and ask for help if you do not know how to fix something.

With thoughtfulness, preparedness and training, AMTs can avoid the pitfalls and dangers of the “dirty dozen.”

At National Aviation Academy (NAA), we train our students for satisfying careers in the aviation global marketplace. Beyond that, though, we want to ensure they are prepared to succeed in those positions. An awareness of human factors can ensure safety on the job, better work performance, a more involved and responsible workforce and a more enjoyable work environment.

More about human factors is integrated into the NAA curriculum, with additional resources available from the FAA.