By Chinelo Obogo , [email protected] 07064781119
Stakeholders in the aviation sector have submitted that humans are the weakest link in air safety because they contribute more to aircraft accidents than other factors.
At a conference organised by the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) and the League of Airport and Aviation Correspondents (LAAC) held in Lagos recently with the theme: ‘Prevention of Human Factors in Air Accident Occurrences’, experts posited that it is important to ensure reduction in air accidents in Nigeria, especially those that have to do with human factors. They also said that for substantial progress in air transportation safety to be achieved, it is necessary to focus on the most frequently occurring air accidents, such as the Controlled Flight Into Terrain (CFIT) and runway excursions.
The conference aslo charged the respective authorities to focus on the phases of flight, especially at takeoff and landing.
The conference was an avenue for industry players, stakeholders, government agencies, analysts and friends of the industry to express their views on how safety can be enhanced in the Nigerian aviation industry.
Human factors in aviation occurrences are most times seen as the negative consequence of the liveware dimension in the interactive ecosystem and experts were called upon to critically review the relationship between the liveware and hardware component. Participants called on the Federal Government, especially the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) to improve communication equipment between pilots and towers and ground-ground communication and employers were charged to have a one-one relationship with their employees in order to enhance safety and reduce human factors in air accidents.
The Commissioner of AIB, Akin Olateru, said despite the fact that the rate of accidents is represented at one per million takeoffs, there is still room for improvement. According to him, it is of paramount importance to do everything that would contribute to substantial reduction of the human factor failure in air transportation. He stated that human factors knowledge can be used to reduce the likelihood of errors and build more error tolerant and more resilient systems. This, he noted are important for safe and efficient aviation.
“Causes affecting the accident rate in air transportation can be classified from various factors and points of view. The most general and probably the most transparent way of classification is dependent on human action or failure, technical and meteorological factors.
“As far as the organizational or legislative shortcomings are concerned, they could also be instrumental in supporting the factors mentioned, mostly as a result of poor adherence to legislative procedures or mismanagement of resources associated with air operation. There are a range of causes to air accidents. In view of the fast development taking place in almost all the aviation fields, the occurrence of air accidents caused by technological advancement is reducing. This development, however, is adding to the complexity of systems and raising the level of seriousness, all that to be managed by the humans.”
“It is also important to focus on the phases of flight, especially at takeoff and landing. When assessing the development in accidents, it follows that despite the enormous progress made in the field of air transportation, its safety fail to develop to satisfaction, with causes identified as incomprehensive approaches to learning and appreciating the human factor.”
Chairman of LAAC, Mr. Olusegun Koiki, stressed the need for continued focus on human factors in air accident investigation since it plays a crucial role in safety in the global aviation sector as it would reduce the rate of accidents.
“One small error caused by poor procedures or miscommunication can result in catastrophic events, including loss of lives. If indeed, the Federal Government desires safer transportation for the country, it is pertinent to amend the existing Act setting up AIB to include the investigation into other modes of transport – Intermodal investigation is the way to go.
“AIB as an organisation has performed creditably well in ensuring safer skies for air transport in Nigeria. AIB’s statutory duty should be extended to other modes of transport, including road, rail and marine. A situation where the inspector also acts as an investigator/regulator will rob off on the credibility of an investigation report,” Koiki said.
The president of National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA), Abayomi Agoro, said poor communication between cockpit and the control tower, loss of situational awareness, lack of training, poor facilities, fatigue, flight crew judgment and maintenance personnel are some of the human factor errors that need to be addressed to improve on the accident and incident rate in air travel according to safety experts.
He explained that airlines are not compliant with some of the new technologies introduced while staffs have not gone through their training.
Agoro said, “The issue of communication has been something we have been calling on government and NAMA as service provider to do more on. The poor communication is not only from the ground equipment at times also it is from the air stations but most of the time these are some things that can degenerate to incidents or accidents.
“Even now that we have data exchange which has to do with the CPDLC, not all the airlines are compliant with that and not all the controllers have gone through the training so definitely, it’s one of the areas we have to look critically into to prevent human factors we are talking about.”
The Director-General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Capt. Musa Nuhu, said the industry has only recorded one serious incident with fatalities in the last five years with the Quorum Helicopter crash of 2020 which killed three crew members on board. According to him, the feat was made possible through the synergy of all stakeholders, saying that they must not relax in doing the right thing in order to prevent accidents and save lives.
The DG said that while it is common knowledge widely propagated within the industry that at least 70 per cent of aviation accidents are due to human factors, a review of the Commercial Aviation Safety Team (CAST)/ICAO Common Taxonomy Team (CICTT) taxonomy for occurrence categories shows that there is no category of these occurrences ascribed to “Human Factors.
“An in-depth review of the established different CICTT categories will show that humans are somehow practically involved in or interface with all the occurrence categories. This is the reason why the Safety Management Systems (SMS) classifies the above statement as a misconception as humans (especially frontline personnel) interface in almost, if not all probable causes of aviation accidents at the different stages of either design, production/manufacture, organizational, operational and maintenance processes and procedures.
“Human factors can fundamentally and best be described as, ‘Matching the Man (Person) to the Job and Matching the Job to the Man under the prescribed conditions’. This implies compatibility of the person to the job, that is, preparing, adapting, enabling, equipping and conforming the person to perform the assigned task to achieve the design and expected objectives. Any mismatch will contribute to human error and is a precursor to an accident,” Nuhu said.