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Aviation Accidents: Human Error

Updated May 17, 2022 | By Wilson Kehoe Winingham staff

Air travel remains the safest form of transportation, but when accidents occur, they are often catastrophic due to the size of the aircraft and the height at which they fly. One of the common causes of aviation accidents—other than mechanical failure and unforeseen events (weather, sabotage, birds, etc.)—is human error.

Aviation Human Error Statistics

According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), human error is the leading cause of both commercial airline crashes and general aircraft accidents. More than 88% of all general aviation accidents are attributed to human error, especially due to loss of control by the pilot during flight.

Pilot error may be the most common type of human error in aviation accidents, but they are not solely responsible. Other people involved in aircraft flights, such as flight crew members, air traffic controllers, and mechanics or maintenance staff who work on the airplane.

Types of Human Error in Aviation Accidents

When human errors are factors in an aviation accident, they can usually be broken down into three responsible parties: pilots or flight crew members, air traffic controllers, or maintenance staff.

Pilot or Flight Crew Error

Pilots make countless decisions and perform a multitude of actions while operating an aircraft, and sometimes they make mistakes. These mistakes are defined as either tactical errors, which are based in decision-making, or operational errors, which are a result of poor training. Flight crew members can also make in-flight errors that result in the injury of airplane passengers.

Examples of errors by pilots or flight crew members include the following:

  • Flying under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • Pilots experiencing fatigue
  • Confusion when using automated flight systems
  • Lack of proper training for pilots or flight crew
  • Skimming or skipping pre-flight or pre-landing checklists
  • Insufficient of communication between flight crew members
  • Negligence of flight crew members

Air Traffic Controller Error

Air traffic controllers, employed or sub-contracted by the FAA, monitor and regulate all aspects of airplanes in the air and on the runway. Their job is to direct air traffic flow and keep planes at a safe distance from one another.

Errors on the part of air traffic controllers include the following:

  • Understaffing
  • Fatigue
  • Inadequate training
  • Failure to issue safety alerts or warnings
  • Incorrectly guiding pilots
  • Poor coordination between air traffic controllers

Aircraft Maintenance Error

When aircraft maintenance is performed incorrectly, airplane parts can malfunction and cause dangerous flying conditions. There are several potential causes of maintenance errors:

  • Fatigue
  • Time pressure
  • Complexities of required tasks
  • Use of outdated manuals
  • Improper equipment or part installation
  • Incorrectly followed maintenance procedures

Contact an Aviation Accident Attorney Today

Our staff attorneys include two licensed pilots, each with a commercial license, flight engineer certificate, and instrument and multi-engine aircraft ratings. They also have experience flying Boeing 727s and many private aircraft.

If you or a loved one have been injured as a result of an aviation accident, you are urged to contact the Indianapolis Aviation Accident Attorneys of Wilson Kehoe Winingham. The lawyers at WKW can help you with the next steps in pursuing an aviation accident case. Call 317.920.6400 or fill out an online contact form for a free, no-obligation case evaluation.

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