Human Factors Safety Issues in Aviation

Plane crash has remained a global challenge for centuries. In fact, the occurrence of such accidents leads to fatal death. For example, the Gulfstream III, N303GA crash of 2001 claimed the lives of eighteen people. The paper presents the analysis of the accident mentioned above that occurred on March 29, 2001. However, the main focus remains on the safety issues in aviation. Actually, various findings report pressure and distraction to be the main causes of the catastrophe. Such factors as the delayed departure and unclear curfew made the flight crew operate under the circumstances of pressure. Moreover, the presence of darkness and the reduced visibility distracted their attention. Furthermore, poor communication and coordination contributed to the calamity. In fact, the captain and the first officer did not coordinate well in regard to the establishment of the runway. Additionally, they did not discuss any mitigation of the problem they faced. The paper goes further to recommend some possible ways of reducing the instances of plane crashes. For example, there is the need for the aviation personnel to gain extensive skills of the coordination and communication during the flight. In addition, the industry should stress on the adherence to the manufacture’s prescription to avoid complacence.

In fact, people encounter airplane crashes in different corners of the world. Indeed, some of the accidents remain fatal with many people losing their lives. How often do people escape death in case of such a catastrophe? However, the human safety represents the most questionable aspect of the plane accidents. Certainly, there is a question regarding the liable person in such scenarios. At first, the pilot is likely to be accused of the accident. Even though there is a high probability that such a situation will correspond to reality, there is the need to understand the fact that the crew personnel highly value their lives. Apparently, the plane crashes can result from different circumstance: from human factor to weather conditions. However, some of these factors are preventable, especially, when the communication systems meet the threshold requirements. In fact, timely communication in the aviation industry proves to be vital since it facilitates the system operations. For instance, the communication between the officer and the captain is critical during any flight. Any misinterpretations or misconception can endanger the entire crew. Apart from communication, technical competencies and due diligence also represent critical factors. Actually, it proves to be judicious for any crewmember, especially, the captain and officers, to have the required technical competence in handling the aviation matters. Additionally, the crewmembers must execute their duties with due diligence, since the lives of many people remain contingent upon their actions. In an attempt to clarify this report, the research considered a case that involved a plane crash. The crash of N303GA, a Gulfstream III corporate jet, which occurred on March 29, 2001, in Aspen, Colorado, forms the central topic of analysis of the research. However, the report extends to other related areas of human safety factors that the expert did not consider as the causes of the accident. Therefore, the report presents a detailed analysis of the plane crash with a focus on the human factor safety issues in the aviation industry.

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Gulfstream III Corporate Jet Crash

March 29, 2001, marks the time, when the incident occurred and many people lost their lives. After almost one and half decade since this catastrophic event, the world dedicated vast attention to the case, particularly, to the Airbourne Charter, Inc. that owned the jet. Apparently, some third parties, who have witnessed the case, have lost the memory about the crash, while the case remains vivid in the lives of the people, who lost their relatives that day. During that fatal act, two pilots, one flight attendant, and fifteen passengers died. Even though people tend to forget past events quickly, there is a need to mitigate such situations to avoid any possible future reoccurrence. In fact, the accident prompted a serious investigation of the matter in order to establish the possible causes of the incident. During the probe, the experts explored various areas to unearth the stimulus of the crash. After lengthy and tedious inquiries, they revealed that human factor represented the dominated cause of that accident that claimed the lives of many people. Actually, the pilots and the officer were highly blamed for their poor communication and quick decision-making. Moreover, the team blamed the management of the Aspen-Pitkin Country Airport (ASE), Aspen, Colorado, for their poor communication regarding the time of flight curfew. What is important, the pilot and the officer misinterpreted the time, which proves a suspicious nature of the cause of the accident. Since the accident occurred, when the flight intended to land, it appears that appropriate decision-making and proper communication would have salvaged the situation. However, since the country clearly informed about their night restriction concerning the VOR/DME-C approach, the crewmember did not have a possibility to access it. Logically, it appears that numerous human safety issues, not technical aspect, caused the accident. Thus, the analysis of the case allows identifying the subtle nuances that stimulated the crash.

Human Factor Safety Issues

From the report regarding the plane crash that claimed about eighteen lives, it remains clear that the human factor represents the cause of this fatal incident. The issues mainly concerned the competencies the experts used while handling the situation. Two pilots and the officer did not have a possibility to answer many questions due to their demise in the accident. However, their answers could not provide a solution to the condition but the investigation's aftermath could. The majority of the results identify the human safety factor to be the cause that led to the plane crashing while landing. At this point, it is important to isolate the circumstances that contributed to the crash.

Procedural Errors and Deviations

In any flight, taking correct actions and avoiding any deviation during landing prove to be fundamental. In fact, the task remains the sole responsibility of the pilots and the officers in charge of the flight. However, the report confirms that these professionals made many procedural errors and deviations during their final approach segment of the VOR/DME. In fact, the move marked their final approach to the ASE. The first procedural error was the failure of the crew to cross fixes at the specified altitudes. Since pilots and officers are the people with the appropriate technical competence, the failure to direct their cross to the right altitude remains to be a mystery. However, it is clear that the increasing pressure they experienced during the flight could compromise the resilience. As a result, wrong decisions attributable to poor estimations and communication could result. Moreover, the ad hog team that investigated the matter conceded to the growing pressures during the event as a likely cause of such errors. Another procedural error and deviation that occurred concerned the minimum descent altitude (MDA). Actually, the pilot and the officer descended below this altitude by causing the crash. The investigating team tracked the cockpit voice recorder (CVR), which helped them to arrive at the conclusion. The result presented that the pilot did not establish the visual contact with the runway. Apparently, it is impossible for the pilot to land the plane without locating or maintaining visual contact with the runway. In reaction to this dilemma, the flight crew would have reported the anomaly in advance in order to achieve a timely reaction. Despite the crew failure to establish the runway about 1.4 miles before the crash and 10 seconds before the accident, the pilot did not attempt to divert. However, it was late to prevent the crash due to the delayed decision to encounter the situation. Moreover, the blame of the pilot and the officer for the plane crash does not compromise the failure by ASE to report the night restriction in advance. Therefore, the untimely decision-making is detrimental to the aviation industry. Moreover, the failure to adhere to the manufacturer's procedures during such situations proves to be critical error that is worth preventing. According to the manufacturer, the captain should not deploy the spoilers after the extension of the landing gear and the selection of the final landing flap. Moreover, the specification required to set the engine power at 64 percent N2. On the contrary, the captain ignored the instruction and set the engine power at 55 percent N2. Therefore, it is clear that the flight crew ignored human safety. Logically, it is wise to follow the empirically recommended procedures rather than ignore them for no clear reason. In fact, there is a high possibility that the pilot and the officer would have saved the situation if they adhered to the manufacturer's recommendations.

Poor Coordination among the Crew

The conversation between the pilot and the officer provides the conclusion that the coordination between the officer and the captain was poor. During the flight and at the time of the plane landing, the captain should communicate such elements as the missed procedure and the instrument approach procedure. Instead, the captain believed in the execution of a visual approach to the airport. In addition, it was necessary for the captain and the officer to make a callout, which they never exercised. As a result, they could not obtain the information regarding the altimeter, the necessary course and fixes. Despite the reception of a report concerning the missed and the deteriorating visibility, the experts did not discuss and analyze it. Actually, these factors present the poor communication and coordination that prevailed among the flight crew. Thus, it is crucial to communicate and discuss any suspicious event that appears during the flight. In fact, it is not logical to assume the safe landing without clear visibility of the runway. Any captain and flight officers can only confirm the safety consideration as they land on the runway. Thus, making vague assumptions, while still being in the air, compromises a person's diligence and competence. Moreover, it proves to be wise to communicate every threatening procedure to prevent the problem in time. Unfortunately, the flight crew ignored the requirements and could not fix the situation. Pragmatically, it proves sensible to value human safety rather than wait for the tragedy to occur. In the event of such challenges as the detection of the runway or weather problems, there must be a clear coordination among the flight crew to mitigate any potential danger. Moreover, it is necessary for the captain and the officer in charge to share detailed information to fix any damage.

Pressure Control

The aviation industry is the area that needs resilient personnel. In fact, the flight crew encounters stressing situations that require sober mind an expeditious decision-making. Actually, the industry has witnessed many cases of weather problems and technical hitches that have forced captains to make unexpected decisions. The case of the Gulfstream III, N303GA is not an exception to the need for pressure control. What is important, the inquiry team identified the flight crew, which operating under pressure, to be a possible cause of the accident. Various communication instances between the pilot and the officer indicated the fact that they performed their duties under pressure. Moreover, the unanticipated incidences that occurred during the commencement and termination of the flight contributed to such a pressure. For instance, the flight's departure experienced a delay at the Los Angeles International Airport. Similarly, it encountered an expected landing curfew at ASE. In addition, the desires of charter customers to land at ASE and the passenger presence on the jump seats also accelerated the need to land at the Airport. Apparently, these incidences could cause the situation, when the flight crew operated under pressure. When the plane left Los Angeles International Airport after the delay, the crew could easily conclude that they overcame the problem. However, they could hardly expect the situation that awaited them at the terminal airport. Due to the failure to depart at the right time, the crew was tired and such a situation made them develop some level of stress, though they appeared to have managed it. The curfew at ASE seems to have worsened the situation because the crew had no idea about the restriction. Thus, the flight crew worked under pressure to beat the time set by the country. During their conversation, it can be clearly noticed that the time was a worrying factor throughout the flight before the accident. Since the rule banned any night landings from a particular time, the pilot and the officer interpreted the time in a wrong manner. However, the charter customer put pressure on the crew since he wanted to land at ASE. The continued communication of the customers made the crew experience more pressure to land at the airport. Finally, the presence of a passenger in the jump seat made them prioritize landing at ASE rather than take a turn. All these factors made the pilot and the officer to operate under stress, since they had no immediate solution to the problem. According to the investigation team, all these factors contributed to the stress of the flight crew that accelerated the crash. The aftermath of the crash mentioned above presents the need for the professionals of the aviation industry to have proficiency in stress management. The ability to remain resilient under tough conditions proves the quality the flight crew must possess. Moreover, human safety is appropriately considered only when the crew can judge situations and make decisions that can mitigate the condition. Some of these qualities failed to be conspicuous among the crew. In fact, they paid much attention to the charter customers and airport conditions without thinking of a possible alternative to landing at ASE. Moreover, the crew could not arrive at any resolution even ten seconds before the crash. This situation is an indication that they responded to the pressure rather than thought about the possibility to rescue the condition. The lack of coordination and improper communication also indicate the level of pressure individuals experienced during such circumstances. For example, the officer and the pilot could not have conclusive communication and coordination of matters to react to the problem. In addition, the captain failed to make a return decision even in the situation, when they could not establish the runway. Apparently, work under pressure can cause a person to execute instructions wrongly. Therefore, it is important to train the aviation professionals in pressure management.


The process of establishing the runway seemed to be the task that the captain and the first officer had to perform at the expense of controlling the flight. In fact, the captain made many comments that were never conclusive. Such a behavior presents the fact that there was a struggle, while attempting to establish the runway. At this point, the captain and the first officer converted their attention to the external environment, while concentrating less on internal factors. The scenario marks the first incident of attention distraction, while the flight crew and the passengers were aboard the plane. Moreover, the flight crew reported incidences of darkness and reduced visibility. There were also some snow showers near the airport. In such a way, the presence of darkness and the reduced visibility affected their attention at a great extent. In addition, the captain and the first officer were unable to locate the runway and clearly see the terrain. Actually, it is impossible to imagine the struggle the captain experienced while operating the plane in the presence of darkness. Thus, this factor distracted their attention, since they concentrated on the identification of the runway. There is also high possibility that they failed to identify the mountain they hit unexpectedly. In addition, the snow showers interfered the professionals' visibility and distracted their attention during the flight. Apparently, it appears impossible to prevent such distracters. The officers had a justifiable reason to concentrate the attention outside, as they approached the airport. However, this condition should not have interfered with their decision-making following the difficulty to establish the runway. In fact, they could utilize such an opportunity to reach a conclusion regarding the impossibility of safe landing. Thus, the captain and the pilot did not become judicious at this point. Therefore, it proves orderly for the crew to avoid attention distracters. Moreover, they should make reliable decisions when necessary.

Lack of Awareness of the Existing Restriction

The failure to access information seems to have contributed to the airplane crash. In fact, there is a need for the flight crew to obtain all the information from the point of departure and the destination. Any restrictions at these points need to be properly communicated and discussed. During the flight, the captain and the first officer discussed the curfew that existed in ASE. However, this fact drew their attention only after they contacted the ASE officials. Actually, they were largely unaware of the situation and, as a result, failed to have any plan for it. Thus, the crew only began to follow the time restriction, when they got this communication. Moreover, they did not have adequate information about the way the timing operations. The management of ASE issued a notice to the pilots (NOTAM) on March 27, 2001. In fact, the document restricted the nighttime landing in the airport. The experts realized vague communication on the VOC/DME-C, while performing their investigations. In addition, they ineffectively communicated the details of the restriction. The discussion that took place between the captain and the first officer confirms that they lacked knowledge about such restrictions. Thus, the interpretation of the NOTAM became difficult that made the crew make inconsistent decisions. In fact, the problem arose from the fact that authority used vague words in the notice. Poor communication also prevailed at the Denver Center, since they had not communicated such restrictions to their local controller at that moment. Consequently, the controller never communicated anything regarding the restriction due to the lack of information. Therefore, it becomes clear that any restriction needs proper communication to the air personnel before they take off from their airport of departure. Therefore, such a condition was likely to eliminate uncertainties that could mar the process.


What concerns the analysis of the Gulfstream III, N303GA crash, it proves to be worth developing certain recommendations intended to resolve the issues. In fact, the first action plan is to advance the flight crew training in terms of operating under pressure and stress management. The skills can help the professionals to manage difficult circumstances that require resilience. Additionally, it can help them to make quick but effective decisions. Furthermore, the aviation team should have good coordination and communication skills. Actually, the competence aims at making them discuss the matters actively and conclusively, while soliciting solutions to a circumstance. The next recommendation is to avoid complacence and follow the available instructions the manufacturer provides. Conclusion The analysis of the Gulfstream III, N303GA leads to the identification of many safety issues connected to human factor in the aviation industry. The ad hoc committee, which investigated the accident, blamed it mostly on the human errors rather than technical problems. In fact, both the flight crew and the ASE international airport, where the plane aimed to land, experienced difficulties with communication. In fact, the captain and the first officer failed to coordinate during the crisis. Moreover, poor coordination and communication contributed to the disaster. In addition, the captain appeared to be complacent during the situation. The claim holds, since the crew committed procedural errors and deviated from the manufacturer’s instructions. Pressure and distractions also contributed to the accident. In fact, the flight crew operated under pressure created after the delayed departure and uncommunicated curfew at ASE. In addition, the presence of darkness, reduced visibility, and the light snow showers contributed to the problem. Moreover, the failure of the flight crew to establish the runway distracted their attention during that moment. Thus, this situation forced them to focus on external factors rather than concentrate on the internal airplane operations. As a result, they thrashed the obstruction without notice. Finally, it is necessary for the aviation industry to improve the skills of their employees in such areas as coordination and communication during crisis. Moreover, there should be clear clarification regarding any restriction concerning the flight. In fact, these actions are likely to ensure human safety during the flight.

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