Chapter 13. The Mechanic Certificate

Human Factors

FAA Involvement

The FAA has had a formal involvement in this issue since 1988. That was the year the first Human Factors Issues in Aviation Maintenance and Inspection National Conference was conducted, and that effort reflects a working relationship between government research and industry activity. This yearly event includes airlines, suppliers, manufacturers, schools, and government agencies. There is also an FAA website for human factors at which is a tremendous resource.

Importance of Human Factors

The greatest impact in aircraft safety in the future will not come from improving the technology. Rather it will be from educating the employee to recognize and prevent human error. A review of accident related data indicates that approximately 75 – 80 percent of all aviation accidents are the result of human error. Of those accidents, about 12 percent are maintenance related. Although pilot/co-pilot errors tend to have immediate and highly visible effects, maintenance errors tend to be more latent and less obvious. However, they can be just as lethal.

Definitions of Human Factors

Human factors is concerned with optimizing performance … including reducing errors so that the highest level of safety is achieved and maintained.

—Ron LoFaro, PhD


Human factors is the study of how people interact with their environments.


Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge,

dated 2003

Human factors are those elements that affect our behavior and performance, especially those that may cause us to make errors.

—Canadian Department of Defense (video)

Our focus is on human factors as it relates to improper actions. Note, however, that human factors exist in both proper and improper actions. [Figure 13-1] Since improper actions usually result in human error, we should also define that term.

Human error is the unintentional act of performing a task incorrectly that can potentially degrade the system. There are three types of human error:

  • Omission: not performing an act or task.
  • Commission: accomplishing a task incorrectly.
  • Extraneous: performing a task not authorized.

There are also four consequences of human error:

  • Little or no effect.
  • Damage to equipment/hardware.
  • Personal injury.
  • Catastrophic.
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