Aeromedical & Human Factors


  • The human body is the most important system on any manned aircraft
  • Influenced by external factors such as pressure, oxygen, and chemicals, the body can be incapacitated or degraded through a variety of means
  • For these reasons we as pilots must be medically qualified as well as fit to fly
  • Humans are in fact never perfect and it is those human factors which cannot be eliminated that post other hazards to flight

All aeromedical topics are GENERALIZED.
Always consult with a doctor or physician to understand your specific situation

Aeromedical Factors:

Human Factors:

  • Why are human conditions, such as fatigue, complacency and stress, so important in aviation? These conditions, along with many others, are called human factors
  • Human factors concern the interaction between people, machines, and the environment for the purpose of improving performance and reducing errors
  • Despite all the changes in technology to improve flight safety, one factor remains the same: the human factor which leads to errors
    • It is estimated that roughly 80% of all aviation accidents are related to human factors and the vast majority of these accidents occur during landing (24.1 percent) and takeoff (23.4 percent) [Figure 1 ]
    • Typically, human factor incidents/accidents are associated with flight operations but they apply to aviation maintenance and air traffic management as well
  • As a result of these human errors, the importance of learning and understanding effective Aeronautical Decision-Making skills cannot be overemphasized
    • For this reason, over the past several years, the FAA has made the study and research of human factors a top priority by working closely with engineers, pilots, mechanics, and ATC to apply the latest knowledge about human factors in an effort to help operators and maintainers improve safety and efficiency in their daily operations
  • To understand ADM is to also understand how personal attitudes can influence decision-making and how those attitudes can be modified to enhance safety in the flight deck
  • It is important to understand the factors that cause humans to make decisions and how the decision-making process not only works, but can be improved through Risk Management
  • Human factors is a large topic
    • Human factors science, or human factors technologies, is a multidisciplinary field incorporating contributions from psychology, engineering, industrial design, statistics, operations research, and anthropometry
    • It is a term that covers the science of understanding the properties of human capability, the application of this understanding to the design, development and deployment of systems and services, and the art of ensuring successful application of human factor principles into all aspects of aviation to include pilots, ATC, and aviation maintenance
    • Human factors is often considered synonymous with Crew Resource Management or Maintenance Resource Management (MRM) but is really much broader in both its knowledge base and scope
    • Human factors involves gathering research specific to certain situations (i.e., flight, maintenance, stress levels, knowledge) about human abilities, limitations, and other characteristics and applying it to tool design, machines, systems, tasks, jobs, and environments to produce safe, comfortable, and effective human use
  • Human Behavior:

    • Historically, the term "pilot error" has been used to describe an accident in which an action or decision made by the pilot was the cause or a contributing factor that led to the accident. This definition also includes the pilot's failure to make a correct decision or take proper action. From a broader perspective, the phrase "human factors related" more aptly describes these accidents. A single decision or event does not lead to an accident, but a series of events and the resultant decisions together form a chain of events leading to an outcome
      • While most pilots have made mistakes, these errors were probably caught prior to a mishap due to extra margin, good warning systems, a sharp copilot, or just good luck. What makes a pilot less prone to accidents?
    • The successful pilot possesses the ability to concentrate, manage workloads, and monitor and perform several simultaneous tasks. Some of the latest psychological screenings used in aviation test applicants for their ability to multitask, measuring both accuracy, as well as the individual's ability to focus attention on several subjects simultaneously. The FAA oversaw an extensive research study on the similarities and dissimilarities of accident-free pilots and those who were not. The project surveyed over 4,000 pilots, half of whom had "clean" records while the other half had been involved in an accident
    • Five traits were discovered in pilots prone to having accidents:
      • Have disdain toward rules
      • Have very high correlation between accidents on their flying records and safety violations on their driving records
      • Frequently fall into the "thrill and adventure seeking" personality category
      • Are impulsive rather than methodical and disciplined, both in their information gathering and in the speed and selection of actions to be taken
      • Have a disregard for or tend to under utilize outside sources of information, including copilots, flight attendants, flight service personnel, flight instructors, and ATC
Percentage of General Aviation Accidents
Percentage of General Aviation Accidents
Angular Acceleration and Semicircular Tubes
Angular Acceleration and Semicircular Tubes
Angular Acceleration and Semicircular Tubes

Fitness for Flight:

  • Taken together, aeromedical and human factors help asses their health and determine their fitness for flight
  • Pilots must be physical qualified to fly in accordance with their certificate or rating
  • A medical certificate is not enough, however


  • Once the pilot enters the airplane, the ability to function properly is absolutely essential to safe flight
  • Ignorance of and indifference to the physical demands of flight can be as senseless as the lack of concern for an airplane's structural integrity
  • It is the responsibility of the pilot to consider the status of his or her personal health and to be informed on aeromedical facts
  • The entire aviation community benefits greatly from human factors research and development as it helps better understand how humans can most safely and efficiently perform their jobs and improve the tools and systems in which they interact
  • The FAA publishes videos concerning human factors awareness videos as well as training courses
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