Human Factors in Aviation Maintenance

Human Factors in Aviation Maintenance

When people are involved in any activity, human error is a possibility. Human performance and the aviation industry have been tied together throughout aviation’s long history. Aviation maintenance requires a very skilled set of personnel and the importance of the impact Human Factors has on aviation continues to grow. Most processes in aviation maintenance are designed to reduce or eliminate Human Factors.

The rate of accidents and incidents involving maintenance issues has increased as aircraft have become more automated and complex. Historically, eighty percent of all aircraft maintenance incidents are caused by human errors. Most errors in aircraft maintenance are typically due to incorrect component installations, damage that may have occurred during the maintenance, or when dangerous conditions are not properly detected during Quality Control and inspection procedures. Most of these incidents are preventable.

Human Factors’ Dirty Dozen

The Dirty Dozen refers to the most common elements of human error that lead to mistakes or accidents. The Dirty Dozen is not a full list of human errors, however, aviation and many businesses outside of the aviation industry have found the Dirty Dozen to be a useful introduction into the influences of human error and can assist in improvements across an organization.


    Lack of Communication is one of the simplest human errors to control, yet it leads to the most aviation maintenance accident reports. Communication issues that arise from teams working on different areas of the aircraft, or during a shift change could lead to a maintenance error or critical safety accident.


    Complacency is a dangerous situation whereby daily activities are viewed as routine. Because of the repetitive nature of most aviation maintenance work, complacency can set in and create dangerous situations where the technician loses awareness of the dangers surrounding them.


    Frequent updates to technology and differences between aircraft types make it challenging for an aircraft technician to maintain the knowledge required in their performance. It is important for technicians to obtain training on different types of aircraft and to use up to date procedures when performing detailed tasks.


    Distractions occur when attention is momentarily drawn away from the task at hand. In the aviation industry, there are many tasks that require focused attention and dangerous results may occur when the technician’s concentration on their task is disrupted.


    All aircraft maintenance tasks are executed better in an atmosphere of teamwork. Teamwork involves everyone in the organization understanding and working together toward a common goal. A lack of teamwork makes everybody’s job more difficult and could result in a miscommunication that affects the safety of the personnel.


    Fatigue is common in all types of jobs. Fatigue can be mental, emotional or physical in nature. Fatigue can reduce a person’s ability to focus on the task being performed. People tend to underestimate how fatigued they are and are not aware of the symptoms to look for in themselves and other employees.


    A lack of resources can interfere with the technician’s ability to complete a task. Resources can include physical items, time, experience, knowledge, or support. When the proper resources are available it enables a technician to complete the task correctly and efficiently.


    Aviation maintenance requires individuals to perform in a fast-paced environment with constant pressure to repair mechanical problems quickly. It is an intense, physically demanding occupation where the maintenance employees are ultimately responsible for the overall safety of everyone who uses each aircraft.


    Assertiveness is the ability to express concerns, opinions, and thoughts in a positive, productive manner. It is important to be assertive and speak up when the situation does not seem right. Lack of assertiveness from team members can create an unsafe environment when a risk or danger is perceived and could ultimately cost people their lives.


    Aviation maintenance is a high-stress field. Aviation maintenance must usually be accomplished within a short timeframe to avoid costly flight delays. The ultimate stress is knowing that if the work is not done correctly, tragedy could result.


    It is easy for technicians that repeatedly perform the same tasks to become less vigilant and develop a lack of awareness for what they are doing and what is around them. Lack of awareness can also be generated by stress, fatigue, distraction, and pressure, all of which take the focus away from the task.


    Norms are the workplace tasks that “have always been done that way.” This attitude leads to taking shortcuts, or not working from procedures and can create an unsafe environment. Norms can also reduce the productivity and growth of an organization as the employees are not thinking of more efficient ways of doing things.

Human Factors Training

Most aviation maintenance organizations have training programs to help manage Human Factor errors. Human Factors training is a must for all U.S. repair stations with EASA part 145 approval. Human Factors training has proven to be a cost-effective tool that helps minimize human error and reduce accidents in the aircraft maintenance workplace.

Many companies have developed dedicated Human Factors specialists or teams, which implements training and strategies to bring understanding and awareness to the entire organization. Regular training and a continued focus towards Human Factors have been shown to reduce human errors, ensure personnel safety, and control maintenance costs.

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