ICAO: Human Factors in Civil Aviation Security Operations

ICAO: Human Factors documents » ICAO: Human factors in civil aviation security operations

ICAO published in 2002, the Doc 9808 AN/765 "Human factors in civil aviation security operations"1. This manual provides the Contracting States with Human Factors considerations in civil aviation security operations. Although a relatively old publication, the main ideas that are addressed in the manual currently remain relevant and described below is a synopsis of the contents in the manual.


The Human Factors considerations applied in civil aviation security not long ago, when sophisticated technologies introduced and demand on the human operators was increased, although the HF issue in other areas of civil aviation has been recognized for several decades. The two main objectives of Human Factors considerations civil aviation security is: to make aviation security system resilient to the consequences of human error and to improve the efficiency of the overall aviation security system.

The structure of the manual is based on the following Human Factors framework1.

A schematic representation of the Human Factors framework
(image embedded from Photobucket.com on 21 September 2011)

Chapter 1. Operators: Personnel Selection, Training and Assessment, Retention

This chapter contains guidelines on first axis of the Human Factors Framework, the Operators, where 2 components: Selection and Training are relevant. The Selection involves in selection of most suitable personnel, basing on their personal characteristics and Training involves in training of them. There are various tests available, to help in the Selection of personnel. It’s important to have good quality test and ensuring the test results validity within operational environment. The Training process involves: the initial and Computer-Based Training (CBT) followed by On-the Job Training (OJT). There are some organizational issues and training requirements that need to be considered in Training. The decision-making, which is influenced by attention, vigilance levels, response bias, and operational stresses, is important in the security screening task is to ensure that baggage are clear of threat. “There are two levels involved in the identification of threats within an image:

  • Perception of the image. If the image is not clear enough to make a decision, select an image enhancement function and repeat until the image is clear.
  • Assessment of the image. Compare the image of the object to an inventory of objects in memory, classify and then categorize objects within the image based on object reference library that is held in long-term memory and is built up through training” 1.

It’s also important to retain highly skilled and trained personnel as well as provide recurrent training and continuous assessment.

Chapter 2. Technologies in Civil Aviation Security Operations

This chapter contains guidelines on second axis of the Human Factors Framework, the Technology. The most difficult task for the security personnel is a correct interpretation of the X-Ray image. There are new technologies such as Screener Assist Technologies (SAT), Threat Image Protection (TIP) technologies for X-Ray system, Trace Explosive Detection System (TEDS), bottle content analyzer and passenger profiling, were introduced. But in general, inspection effectiveness will remain dependent on the proficiency of the human operator. To improve that there is need to better training and applying ergonomics. The Human Factors approach is in the reducing system (human + technology) errors. This must be done considering the impact of the operational environment and the organizational culture on operator performance and it’s relation to system errors.

Chapter 3. Operational Environment and Organizational Culture

This chapter contains guidelines on third axis of the Human Factors Framework, the Operational Environment and Organizational Culture, and its potential impact of the on personnel and technologies. With respect to the Operational environment, this chapter gives some guidelines on the Checkpoint Design, Organizational Levels and addresses issues related to teamwork, shift management and dealing with disruptive passengers. With respect to the Organizational Culture, this chapter contains guidelines on Organizational Culture in Aviation, Safety Culture and Error Management.

Chapter 4. Certification

This chapter contains guidelines on fourth axis of the Human Factors Framework, the Certification of the personnel, technology and security organizations. In some contracting states there is mandatory certification of these elements of civil aviation security system.

Chapter 5. Summary and Future Directions

This chapter contains summary of previous chapters and points the future direction of Human Factors in civil aviation security.

1. ICAO - INTERNATIONAL CIVIL AVIATION ORGANIZATION (2002). Doc 9808 AN/765 “Human factors in civil aviation security operations. ICAO (Montreal, Canada), 2002.

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ICAO's Doc 9808. Human factors in civil aviation security operations
You can access the whole document online as "Doc 9808 AN/765. Human factors in civil aviation security operations". ICAO (Montreal, Canada), 2002.

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