The Impact of Computer Aided Design on Human Factors in Aviation Safety

The Impact of Computer Aided Design on Human Factors in Aviation Safety

This topic will review the impact of computer-aided design (CAD) upon aviation safety. In particular, the paper looks at how CAD
has incorporated human factors principle - that is, the type of people who use the technology – into the design-making process. On the
whole, CAD technology is an enormous improvement on older aviation design because it allows designers to visualize situations in
three-dimensionality throughout the design process. CAD can provide a very good visualization overview of human interaction with the
product (in this case, the pilot user interface of a cockpit).


Aircraft accidents that lead to loss of lives receive the highest level of attention in the aviation industry. There are many different causes for aircraft accidents that occur on an everyday basis in the aviation industry, which range from pilot errors to mechanical challenges. Some of those errors are minor, but others can have devastating effects. Pilot errors can be minimized by utilizing adequate tools and various analyses. Human factors are one of the methods that would improve safety. The term "human factors" has grown drastically, and has become more popular as the commercial aviation industry realized that human errors underlies most aviation accidents and incidents, rather than mechanical failure. Human factors main focus is the safety of humans and their interaction with their surrounding work environment. Engineers are involved with a variety of disciplines; such as engineers, pilots, and mechanics in order to implement the latest advanced technology that would improve safety and efficiency in aviation.

Statement of the Problem

CAD technology is an excellent tool for designing pilot user interfaces because it saves time and money. Beyond that, CAD technology is infinitely superior to the research tools that preceded it, because it allows designers to see hypothetical human reactions to environmental stimuli in three dimensions. At the same time, CAD is not so intuitive that it can anticipate every conceivable human reaction that might result from a particular situation. Therefore, there remains a need for live testing with actual people. The following study will investigate the impact of newly integrated CAD systems in improving safety factors in the aviation industry by looking at where it can be improved. Although designers now have a tool whereby they can design products to suit the physical abilities and/ or characteristics of human operators, further research is needed to ensure that CAD realizes its full potential. This paper also will touch briefly on the CAD-based ergonomic analysis programs that allow researchers to create accurate 3-D human models that measure the impact of ergonomics on the safety and reliability of products, equipment, and facilities. This study hopes to underscore the manner and extent to which CAD technology can reduce product-related injuries and save money and lives, as well as the extent to which it remains dependent on human test subjects.


Whenever a study examines new technology, there will be limitations. Today, CAD technology offers the promise of creating cockpit devices that will accommodate pilots of every level and idiosyncrasy. But while a CAD-based ergonomic analysis program allows for the creation of accurate, 3-D human models, it seems extremely unlikely that any computer program can truly simulate the abnormal responses of different human beings. Therefore, human subjects are desirable in assessing the effectiveness of different products within the cockpit – and finding an
appropriate sample group is not easy. It is extremely difficult to assemble a representative sampling of different pilots (in simulated conditions, of course) with the intent of measuring the capability of CAD in avoiding in-air tragedies. The other potential problem is that when dealing with
a product that accommodates and compensates for the physical abilities and characteristics of human operators, and if it is to attempt to determine the capability of that product, it necessarily stands to reason that a representative sampling of each kind or type of pilot is necessary. If there are pilots who suffer from certain medical conditions, for example, and determining the extent to which CAD technology permits them to escape harm only can be done if there is an adequate sampling of these types of pilots. General assumptions, however, can be made by studying a smaller sampling of pilots (in simulated conditions) who do not have identifiable medical conditions. This process is obviously narrow in scope, but it offers a tentative assessment of the capability of CAD technology.


The 3-D visualization applications and CATIA software all provide significant design features that will undoubtedly prove valuable to
cockpit designers in the future by making the process more efficient and responsive to human needs. It is vitally important to ensure that human subjects are part and parcel of the testing regimen, with even the best programs being limited to a finite number of variables that cannot be duplicated with any degree of accuracy in a computer model today. Just as weather may not ever be able to be accurately predicted using computer models because of the enormous number of variables involved (with weather representing just one of the many confounding factors that may adversely affect a pilot’s ability to fly safely), computer modeling of all of the potential events that may occur during the flight management process is also currently not feasible. While many proponents of unmanned space flights to other planets because of the logistical nightmares involved in putting humans in space, the fact remains that real live people will likely pilot the first substantive
missions to Mars and beyond because humans are required to respond to the unforeseeable that cannot be modeled in virtual terms. Likewise, when humans take to the skies, the cockpit in which they operate must be designed with their unique needs in mind, rather than what a computer model suggests is the most efficient solution.

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2. Charlton S G & O'Brien T G (2002). Handbook of human factors testing and evaluation.
3. FAA (2003). Administrators fact book - United states department of transportation.
4. Berta J (1999). Integrating VR and CAD - Computer Graphics and applications.
5. Bullinger, Hans Jorg & Jurgen Zeigler (1999). Human-computer interaction- Ergonomics and user interfaces.

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