Human Factors Training Development for Airline Operations

Human factors training development


This article refers to the theoretical, policy, design, and strategy aspects of human factors training for airline cockpit crew. We begin it with the background of illustration of the accidents and incidents in Aviation context, and then, the introduction of the international legislative background and context. We will further discuss the approach that training derives from the latest developing training principles, and strategic view on how to improve the crew resource management.The objective of this article is to observe the need of human factors' interventions across the entire airline operation, and offer a strategic view of human factors training development techniques and features.

The background

Since the middle of last century, in the commercial airline transport world, the average accident rate maintains high, with 3 per million departures. Today, as the civil aviation is expanded extensively; meanwhile, the amount of accidents of aircraft enhances. In the modern aviation industry, the more expensive aircraft can carry greater amount of passengers, hence, the accidents has contribute to greater hazards. In the world’s aviation industry, the airline, the manufacturer and the legislative authority have intended to ensure the flight safety by various methods.

According to FAA(Federal Aviation Administration), each accident also involves at least one level lesson relevant to a threat element, as well as, at least one lesson relevant to a main component(2010).

Federal Aviation Administration( Federal Aviation Administration Lessons Learned From Transport Airplane Accidents Home)

Accident Threat element

The consequence of many accidents is poor communication between crew members. In the traditional commercial aviation, the captain is the boss who makes decisions which are supposed to be “right” ones, but not coordinating with other crew members. However, from the late 70’s, Crew Resource Management (CRM) has been taught to pilots and crew members to better combine human factors with the technical techniques for airline operations.
Accident Threat Categories

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The most accident common theme: Human Error

It has proven that in modern aviation,of all accident themes, human error is the most common one and happens in almost all accidents. In all recent accident cases, about two-thirds of all modern accident cases have been resulted from flight crew errors. So it has been estimated that, in modern aviation, 80-90 percent of accidents have been contributed by Human errors; in addition to China, according to the accidents and incidents in china data, it shows the same issues. Human error contains crew members making errors in doing their work, which have caused or significantly affected the accident. These are human behaviours, which are done improperly, and contributed to an accident; in contrast, if the human action was done accurately, it can contribute to a safety result. And also, it also stands for the extraordinary chances for advancing aviation safety through the implementation of various human factors interventions in the intervention to decrease the risks of human error (FAA: The Lessons learned from Aviation Accidents, 2009)1. It has been a challenge to the whole aviation industry. It is well recognized that the result of human error must be decreased through “human factors intervention programmers”(p.128, Neil)2.

Accident Common Themes-Human error( Lessons Learned From Transport Airplane Accidents Home)

In regards to the cockpit crew members, crew resource management (CRM) (link to CRM) training programmers were the initial and effective mechanism to solve the human factors issues (FAA, 1989;Wiener, Kanki&Helmreich, 1993)3.

In addition, ICAO (the international Civil Aviation Organization4)Annex modifications and other legislative assistance progressively authorize human factors interventions to the whole aviation system. The tendency represents the increasing global and industry common view on human factors and collaboratively apply to reduce, or stop the result of human error.

The global background: legislative requirements and initiatives

Followed by the publication of the Eighth Edition of ICAOAnnex1 (Personal Licensing) (internal link) in 1988, the first international pilot human factors training entry in to the aviation industry. This authorized human factor knowledge training for every level of flight crew of license holder, identifying the training in the area of:

Human performance and limitations relevant to…(the license being issued) (Annex1, ICAO, 1988)

As a result, most contemporary commercial pilots are qualified with the fundamental human factors knowledge. According to ICAO,the Annex1 in 1988 also contain the requirement regarding to the human factors skills. Therefore, the holder of an Airline Transport Pilot License must:

Demonstrate the ability to…
(c) Exercise good judgement and airmanship,
(f) Understand and apply crew co-ordination and incapacitation procedures,
(g) Communication effectively with the other flight crew members” (the Annex1, ICAO, 1988).5

In addition, based on the consideration and efforts of the group of the ICAO Flight Safety and Human Factors Study, ICAO Publications published an extensive series of Human Factors Digests (see, for instance, International Civil Aviation Organization (link), 1989a, 1989b6 and 19917). Since then, the initial forum of human factors was also well regulated.

Moreover, ICAO published an amendment to Annex6 (The operation of Aircraft), aimed to highlight the training response through operators in regards to the “ knowledge and skills related to human performance and limitations…” With these amendments to Annex1 and Annex6, ICAO has initiatively applied human factors interventions in licensing as well as operational areas. And it will affect the aviation system in the future (ICAO, 1989,19918).


The U.S. AQP (Advanced Qualification Program) (FAA, 19919) might be the first well-known single aviation administration to enhance the intervention of human factors skills training to commercial aviation.

The European Aviation Authorities – the Joint Aviation Authorities (JAA) –have created new flight crew licensing (JAR-FCL) requirements, which contains inclusive curriculum to involve the human factors knowledge and a creative proposal to cover the Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL) (link) training phase in the applied human factors training. The JAR-FCL proposal changed Multi-Crew Cooperation (MCC) training, which will combine ground as well as simulator training phases. Furthermore, JAA standards for operators (JAR-OPS) will influence CRM training, which will include the same aspects for cockpit as well as cabin crew members.

Industry response

In the Aviation industry, there is a tendency of the increasing interest in aviation human factors and the need to combine the ICAO standards with the training outline, in regards to the increasing concern on the aviation human factors, more textbooks on human factors in aviation has been published (Hunt, 1990,1993;Telfer, 1993)10.

In order to combine human factor through out the whole pilot training outline, a lot of pilot training courses based in the university has contained the training for the CPL/IR, which has been used in different countries. (For instance, Massey uni. Aviation School) In Canada, the development of human factors knowledge necessity has been carried on (King, 1993)11.

Human Factors Training

According to ICAO, human factor is a notion to identify how people interact to their living ad working condition; it is related to their interaction with hardware, software, and the average surroundings, as well as their connections with others. In the context of aviation industry, the integration of this relationships measures whether an expert will control a aircraft safely or not. To balance these relationships, an expert should have a specific quality, skills and knowledge and distinct personality characteristics(p.273, HanHui).

Generally speaking, flying operations are complex, which need fast and accurate decisions, thus, the ‘operational skill’ could be only achieved and maintained from the extensive training. The three criteria, skill, knowledge and personality characteristics are integrated to each other, which in turn, measures personal professionalism. Thus, in terms of training of skills, knowledge and personality, trainers must considers every factors: knowledge, skills and personality. Moreover, a completed education system should be created for every level of professional: pilot, controller, mechanic and so on. It should be an on-going process, which is integrated into the on the job training and the company’s culture environment. Furthermore, the training of skill, knowledge, and personality characteristics should be incorporated in this educational system.

Recently, Crew Resource Management is the most well-known airline human factors training scheme. CRM training aims to obtain the most favorable performance of aircraft crew members by the long-term and professional implementation of variable resources (Federal Aviation Administration, F.A.A., 1989). The main objective is to ensure safety and efficiency of flights by optimal cockpit team performance (Foushee, 198412). It is recognized that well trained crew members should promptly offer operational knowledge related to the efficient and safe flight. It aims to obtain the best implementation of all sorts of resources (Foushee & Helmreich, 1988). The strategic CRM intention is to fully combine the CRM attitudes and implementations across all crew training practices.


This article has showed the extraordinary changes in the legislative and aviation industry, in which, the inclusive legislative and training approaches to human factors training were rapidly developed. It is well known that such human factors training will focus on the successful intervention of technical and human factor technique, as well as the combination of skill, knowledge, and personality characteristics.


1. Federal Aviation Administration (1989).Cockpit Resource Management TrainingAdvisory Circular120-51, Washington: FAA: Author.

2:Federal Aviation Administration (1989).Line Operational SimulationsAdvisory Circular120-35B, Washington: FAA: Author.

3:Federal Aviation Administration (1991)Advanced Qualification Program Advisory Circular 120-35B, Washington: FAA: Author.

4:Foushee, H.C. (1984)Dyads and triads at 35,000 feet: Factors affecting group process and aircrew performance American Psychologies, 39:885-893

5:Hunt, G.J.F. (1990)An abilities-based approach to pilot competency and decision making’. In Proceedings of the ICAO Human Factors Symposium, Leningrad: ICAO Circular 229-AN/137. Montreal: International Civil Aviation Organization.

6:Hunt, G.J.F. (1993)New Aviation professionalism: Knowledge systems that integrate human factor competencies in job performance’. In Proceedings of the ICAO Human Factors Symposium Leningrad: ICAO Circular 243-AN/146. Montreal: International Civil Aviation Organization.

7: Hanhui, L.,(1997)Human Factors in Chinese Civil Aviation trainingIn Graham J.F.Hunt(Eds.), Design instruction for Human Factors:Training in Aviation(p.272-273)// England: Ashgate Publishing Limitied,1997.

8:International Civil Aviation Organization (1989a).Human Factors Digest No.1: Fundamental Human Factors Concepts. Circular 216-AN/131. Montreal, Canada: Author.

9:International Civil Aviation Organization (1989b).Human Factors Digest No.2: Flight Crew Training: Cockpit Resource Management and line-Oriented Flight Training 217-AN/132. Montreal, Canada: Author.

10:International Civil Aviation Organization (1991).Human Factors Digest No.3: Training of Operational Personnel in Human Factors. Circular 227-AN/136. Montreal, Canada: Author.

11:King, J.H. (1993).Implementation of human factors knowledge requirements in Canadian flight training system. Proceedings of the ICO Human Factors Symposium Washington, D.C., April 1993. Montreal: International Civil Aviation Organization.

12:Neil, J.(1997).Teaching human factors for airline operations. In Graham J.F.Hunt(Eds.), Design instruction for Human Factors:Training in Aviation(p.117-126) England: Ashgate Publishing Limitied,1997.

13:Telfer R. (1993).Human factors in learning and instruction’. In Proceedings of the ICAO Human Factors Symposium Washington, D.c.April 1993. Montreal: International Civil Aviation Organization.

14:Wiener E.L., Kanki, B.G., & Helmreich, R.L. (Eds.)javascript:; (1993).Cockpit Resource Management San Diego: Academic. :

Want to know more?


The list of fatal accidents in incidents can be viewed in attached FAA file form schedule for sun AND Fun 2010. Owner – performed Maintenance, Walt Schamel 2004 ASC of the YEAR

There are lots of database related to the accidents and incidents, including Notice of the accidents involving passenger fatalities
U.S. Airlines 1982-presnt; and NTSB releases 2007 Aviation accident Statistics, those related database will be presented in the appendix for further reference

Federal Aviation Administration( Federal Aviation Administration Lessons Learned From Transport Airplane Accidents Home)

Accident Threat Categories

Accident Common Themes-Human error( Lessons Learned From Transport Airplane Accidents Home)

International Civil Aviation Organization. Human Factors Digest : about Human Factors documents
ICAO: Human Factors documents

ICAO:ICAO Definition

ICAO Publications

ICAO: Human Factors documents

LOFT(Line Orinted Flight Training)

CRM Training: Crew Resource Management Training Resources

[ About Air Canada

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Authors / Editors

Alice LiuAlice Liu

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