Human Factors and Ergonomics in Aviation

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Growing up, I always wanted to become a pilot. However, where I come from, Rwanda, there was no aviation school by the time I went to college. In addition to that, it was more complicated to apply for a US visa to train in piloting than to attend a four-year college. So here I am at Tufts University majoring in Human Factors Engineering instead.

However, I appreciate being introduced to the field of human factors because it has brought so much into perspective that I would not have learned if I had only concentrated on piloting. In fact, in case I chose to pursue my dream of becoming a pilot, I will operate very well as I will be applying the understanding of the human psychology in regards to the functioning of a plane.

In the blog today, I would like to share with you about three applications of human factors and ergonomics in aviation that I was able to read in the article ” Human Factors Contribution to Aviation Safety” that was written by Dumitru and Boşcoianu (2015).

First, human factors are applied in aviation to manage human error. In order to reduce errors and mistakes a pilot may do, aviation human factors engineers are supposed to design the airplanes in a way that will be very clear to the pilot to avoid confusion that may lead to errors hence risking lives of many people.

In addition to that, an airplane that is designed following proper human factors and ergonomics should make it easy and fast for the pilot to process information. For example, in case of emergencies airplanes should have outstanding heuristics in order to instantly take appropriate measures before massive damages.

Finally, human factors in aviation play a big role in avoiding fatigue. Air transport enables traveling very long distances without resting for pilots. Therefore, pilots need to use airplanes that are human-centered designed i.e do not add more unnecessary, tiresome tasks.

Image result for well designed airplane controller

This was all for today. I hope you learned a little bit about why human factors and ergonomics are very important in aviation and many other related fields. In the following blogs, I will continue to explore opportunities for having the knowledge about human factors. Stay tuned!

References:
http://www.blog.kpmgafrica.com/africa-brief-air-namibia-bags-seventh-airline-award-and-more/
http://www.afahc.ro/ro/afases/2015/afases_2015/air_force/Dumitru_%20Boscoianu.pdf
https://www.avsim.com/pages/0312/XPlane/XPlane.html

Human Factors?

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Many times when people ask me what I study at Tufts University, I only say engineering because I am, most of the time, not ready to explain what Human Factors Engineering is. But, of course, they ask me “what kind of engineering?”. I say Human Factors Engineering expecting the question “what is human factors?”. In my own words through what I have learned so far, I tell them that human factors is human-centered design. However, I have learned that my answer is very limited in relation to what would make a person fully understand the term “human factors”.

According to PSNet (Patience Safety Network), human factors is the discipline that takes into account human strengths and limitations in the design of interactive systems that involve people, tools and technology, and work environments to ensure safety, effectiveness, and ease of use (2017). Therefore, as a person who is pursuing a career in human factors engineering, I should consider all the above aspects, i.e people’s strengths, and limitations, safety e.t.c),  in order to think through an important design I would like to create.

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Human Factors is very related to a term known as ergonomics which originated from a Greek words ergon [work] and nomos [natural laws]. According to HFES ( Human Factors and Ergonomics Society), it is the science of designing user interaction with equipment and workplaces to fit the user (2011).

The foundations of the science of ergonomics appear to have been laid within the context of the culture of Ancient Greece. A good deal of evidence indicates that Hellenic civilization in the 5th century BC used ergonomic principles in the design of their tools, jobs, and workplaces” (HFES, 2011).

It has since developed in many areas such as aerospace, healthcare, product design and other everyday life engineering fields.

Image result for memes about ergonomics

References:

  • https://worldwide.erau.edu/webinars/human-factors-aviation/
  • https://psnet.ahrq.gov/primers/primer/20/human-factors-engineering
  • https://www.saylor.org/site/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/psych304-8.3.5.pdf