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Airline Safety Program

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Airline safety is a broad and pervasive subject which touches on all aspects of aircraft operations ranging from flight safety, ground safety, and maintenance. The IATA Technical committee oversees the safety of airlines in close to 200 countries and has put in place several measures which are meant to ensure the safety of both the pilot and crew on one hand and the passengers and the public on the other hand. Even though each airline has a safety department, the responsibility of ensuring that the appropriate standards are adhered to rests on the shoulders of all the players in the aviation industry. As such, well-designed safety programs must of necessity be inclusive, defining the roles of each and every player while addressing pertinent issues that cut across the board. Additionally, safety programs need to be pro-active rather than reactive (Metric Stream, 2008).

The elemental priority of air safety programs is to aid in prevention of accidents. Secondary but equally important objectives of such programs include contribution to enhanced financial outcomes and assisting in meeting compliance standards hence avoiding costly penalties from oversight authorities such as FAA. As can be seen therefore, the importance of such programs cannot be overemphasized.

Most accidents and incidents are caused by human factors. Estimates indicate that these human factors are responsible for close to 85% of all the civil aviation accidents (Pilot friend, 2008). These factors are primarily attributed to poor judgment on the part of the pilot and may be caused by physiological factors, environmental factors, non-physical factors, poor attitudes, poor training and insufficient skills. Effective safety programs need therefore to be able to mitigate these human factors.

This paper will look at various aspects of safety in the aviation industry, especially as relates to the role of pilots and the human factors that can compromise such safety. Having done that, we will come up with a safety program which would of essence enable pilots avert actions occasioned by human factors and which could potentially endanger safety. Additionally, the safety program thus drafted will serve as a reference guide for pilots on various safety measures.

Human Factors and the Air Safety Program

Physiological factors

Various physiological states have been known to compromise the ability of pilots to make good judgment decisions. Poor decisions in turn lead to accidents and incidents. These physiological factors include drunkard ness, fatigue, smoking, poor vision, and deep vein thrombosis (DVT). This section will describe a safety program which is meant to assure air safety through reduction of human errors due to physiological states (FAA, 2008).

Alcohol and drunkard ness

Alcohol consumption has been shown to lead to impaired reasoning, poor judgment, poor reaction times, reduced hearing perception, and problems in focusing. These in turn have been implicated in many air accidents (FAA Civil Aerospace Medical Institute, 1993).  To prevent such accidents, the following should be done:

  1. No alcohol should be consumed 8 hours before flying. Ideally, alcohol should be taken at least a day prior to flying
  2. pilots must not fly while under alcoholic influence


Tiredness and fatigue are the other physiological factors that contribute to human error thus leading to accidents and incidents in the aviation industry. Fatigue generally causes reduced concentration, lower cognitive functions, and impairment in judgment, sleepiness, task fixation, and reduced alertness.  To prevent accidents due to fatigue, the following needs to be done:

  1. pilots need to consume well balanced and heavy meals before retiring to bed
  2. use sleep inducing drugs where necessary
  3. work while in bed
  4. carry out physical exercise prior to going to bed
  5. avoid consuming alcohol or coffee 3-4 hours prior to retiring to bed
  6. seek medical attention for any sleeping disorders
  7. minimize stressors which lead to fatigue
  8. get enough rest before flying

Altitude Induced Decompression Sickness (DCS)

This is a condition which is caused by prolonged exposure to low barometric pressures. Risk factors include faster ascent rates, prolonged exposure to altitudes higher than 18, 000ft, joint or limb injuries, old age, cold temperatures, high body fart content, alcohol, and airborne exercise. DCS can negatively affect pilots’ health as well as lead to air accidents. The following measures need to be applied to mitigate or prevent this from happening (FAA, 2008):

  1. wear the oxygen mask and turn the knob to 100% oxygen
  2. carry out an emergency descent and seek medical assistance
  3. avoid the risk factors which predispose to DCS as much as possible


            This is a term that is used to describe low levels of oxygen in the body and it can be caused by high altitudes. This can lead to bodily malfunctions thus errors to human judgment and accidents. Supplemental oxygen needs to be taken as appropriate.


            Poor vision can lead to many human errors thus causing accidents. To avoid errors due to inadequacies in human vision, the following should be observed:

  1. stressors should be avoided at all costs as they lead to vision impairment
  2. monovision contact lenses must not be used when flying
  3. pilots need to depend on flight instruments in case of visual disorientation

Spatial Disorientation

            Spatial disorientation has also been known to produce errors in judgment with the consequent occurrence of air accidents. Spatial disorientation may be manifested as vection and false visual reference illusions.

  1. Pilots need to go through such illusions in a GYRO and other systems available.
  2. stringent use of flight instruments when in darkness or where visibility is low
  3. avoid flying in poor weather
  4. use flight instruments more than your instincts

Environmental factors


            Excessive radiation can damage a pilot’s vision and lead to errors in judgment. To avoid this, pilots should observe the following:

  1. Put on sunglasses that are made from 99 – 100% UVA and UVB protection. The lenses should be made of suitable material such as polycarbonate plastic, monomer glass, or “Crown glass”. Additionally, glasses with polarized lenses must not be used and tints that block over 70% of light avoided (faa, 2008).


            Exposure to high decibels of noise can damage the pilots’ hearing as well as lead to accidents due to interference with normal communication, distraction, annoyance, among others. In this respect therefore, the following measures need to be taken:

  1. Pilots need to always use era plugs, noise reduction and or communication headsets.

Aircraft Impacts

  1. to protect themselves and the passengers from accidents, pilots need to properly fasten their seat belts
  2. shoulder belts should be used always in smaller planes and restraint system considered


It has been demonstrated before that the impact of smoking becomes vastly enhanced at high altitudes. At high altitudes, smoke can cause disorientation, lacrimation, and pain which in turn can affect human judgment and lead to accidents. Additionally, smoke at high altitudes can readily lead to cyanide and carbon monoxide poisoning which can eventually lead to death. To prevent this from happening, the following safety measures must be taken by pilots:
1. at all times, hand-held fire extinguishers should be made available in the planes

  1. Carbon monoxide detectors should be present in he cock pit and pilots be made aware of their functioning

Attitude Problems

Errors due to human factors can also result from poor attitudes including invulnerability or the perception that accidents occur to others other than themselves and impulsive actions where they rush to make judgment without aforethought. Other attitudes include anti-authority or reluctance to take instructions and resignation where they do not believe that they have a role in enhancing safety (FAA, 2008).

The safety program will ensure that pilots are properly trained in the DECIDE program of decision making


FAA. (2008). Pilots Safety. Retrieved on 1st October, 2008 from


Metric Stream. (2008). Effective Safety and Quality Management in the Airline Industry

For Improved Business Performance. Retrieved on 1st October, 2008 from http://www.metricstream.com

Pilot Friend.(2008). Human Factors in Aviation. Retrieved on 1st October, 2008 from


Safety Program. (2008). Retrieved on 1st October, 2008 from


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