Human Factors

Human Factors

by Gunnar Fahlgren


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Human Factors by Gunnar Fahlgren

The purpose of this book is, that readers might get interested in every day psychology, Human Factors, their own functions and how these can be used to improve their own well being, like stress management, in order to function better. It is a book for management, for staff members, teachers, parents, health-care professions, flight deck crew, cabin crew, engineers, flight controllers, maritime crews and maritime pilots. All will learn a lot about themselves, their own and others behavior and stress reactions.
By reading this book will improve your self esteem and your confidence.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781467872911
Publisher: AuthorHouse
Publication date: 12/08/2011
Pages: 220
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.50(d)

Read an Excerpt

Human Factors

By Gunnar Fahlgren


Copyright © 2011 Gunnar Fahlgren
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4678-7291-1

Chapter One

Our Human Factors

It is practically impossible to write a book on psychology, which suits both the experts and ordinary people. Then I would probably fall between two chairs and none of the readers would be interested.

So I have decided to write for non-experts and am consequently prepared to receive some criticism for producing a non-academic book on psychology.

This book is written by a pilot with a great interest in Human Factors. And my idea, when I started to produce it, is that it is easier for people to start reading, if the text is not too complicated, instead of reading a book on this subject, which can be regarded as a scientifically perfect publication. The book, with its short chapters on specific items of Human Factors, should also be a steady base for recurrent training, now mandatory, for both cockpit and cabin crew according to the European JAR-OPS.

My readers are supposed to be pilots, who would like to know a bit more about themselves and about Human Factors. But as even pilots are humans, I am sure that other humans might also read my book with interest and get valuable information from it. My purpose with the book is that readers might get interested in Every Day Psychology, Human Factors, their own functions and how these can be used to improve safety and their own well being in order to function better and longer.

Here you will get valuable information on Human Performance and Limitations necessary for pilots according to suggestions given by ICAO and requirements set by JAA in Europe and different CAAs worldwide.

So, Flight Deck Crew, Cabin Crew, Flight Instructors and CRM Instructors are the main groups who will find valuable information that can be used in their different roles.

But also others, like management, staff members, teachers, parents, policemen and so on, will learn a lot about themselves, their own and others' behavior and stress reactions. Other professions, which will benefit a lot from reading this book, are flight controllers, maritime crews and maritime pilots. Engineers in Nuclear Power Stations and other control rooms will also find the contents of this book most interesting and practical. I hope that you will notice that some important information is repeated and can be found in different chapters. Remember that a well-known psychological and pedagogical fact is that an important thing must be said at least three times in order to make the receiver understand and remember.

Human Factors

Unfortunately we often hear that Human Factors get the blame for this or that accident.

Maybe I am being a bit provocative when I state that Human Factors do not cause any accidents. Human Failure causes accidents but not Human Factors. On the contrary I regard our Human Factors as a fantastic construction or design, which contributes to making our lives good and gives us a positive time on earth.

As I see it, it is when our Human Factors stop functioning, that accidents occur.

Flight Safety has improved tremendously since 1956, when I started my career in an Airline, until 1990 when I retired.

The accident rate per 1 million take offs has been reduced from around 30 to 0,9. The statistics from the year 2010 says 0,54 for the IATA airlines. This means that there is a risk factor of only 0,000054% when you fly with those airlines. That is fantastic. It is marvelous. I wonder if such a safety improvement has ever been seen in any other industrial branch.

As I see it, even this improvement is a result of our excellent Human Factors. Human Factors, which we have all learnt to use to reduce human errors.

Human Errors

A very common introduction to Human Factors Seminars all over the world is this:

"Human errors continue to be the largest casual factor in aviation accidents. Current statistics indicate that between 70% to 75% of all aviation accidents are attributable to human errors." What is this? According to the first statement Airline Accidents have been reduced by 97% from 30 to 0,9.

But the percentage of human errors has, during the same time, increased from 30% to 75%!

Well, my dear reader, this is perfect! The closer we come to 0% for other reasons, the closer human errors come to 100%. That is simple mathematics.

It is good and, of course, accepted if "other reasons", like technical reasons, for an accident are 0%. So 100% for Human Failure is in fact also good.

Mass media is focusing on this increase in the percentage of human errors.

Passengers and airline crews get frightened. Frightening people seems to be an important business for the mass media. Instead of being frightened and worried, people should be happy.

The closer the human error score gets to 100% the better it is. So, the increase from 30% to 75% in a 40-year period is excellent. My message is: Avoid using percent when talking about Flight Safety.

Let us say that 60% of all accidents are to be found during the approach phase and only 5% during cruise. Let us say further that we manage to improve flight safety by concentrating on the approach phase and those accidents are significantly reduced. What will be noticed by the mass media? Well, we will most probably read the following headlines.

"Accidents on cruise have more than doubled during the last two years."

I would even like to say: It is thanks to our Human Factors, that we have this marvelous development in flight safety. The Human Factors of all people engaged in the Airline Industry have been focused on safety. That is why we have managed to reduce the accident rate.

A fairy–tale

Let me quote a few sentences from a fairy-tale by the famous author Astrid Lindgren. She is probably best known for her story "Pippi Long Stocking", but the book I will now quote has the title " The Robber's Daughter."

The daughter's name is KIRSTY and her father MATT is the robber.

Kirsty grew up in Matt's Fort. One day her father decided – Our child must learn what it's like living in Matt's Forest.

And from then on Kirsty was free to wander at will. But first Matt had one or two things to say to her.

"You must learn to watch out"

"Watch out you don't get lost in the forest"

"Watch out you don't fall in the river"

"Watch out you don't tumble into Hell's Gap"

"Now off you go! And remember, the safest thing is not being frightened".

So Kirsty went and she remembered. In the days to come Kirsty did nothing but watch out for danger. She hopped, skipped and jumped over the slippery stones along the riverbank where the river rushed most fiercely. The days passed. Kirsty watched out and practiced more and more. What luck, she thought, to find a place where she could both learn to watch out and practice not being frightened.

From this fairy tale we can learn a very important lesson for Qualified Safety Work in the future. We can't only tell pilots to watch out. We must let them learn to watch out and we must all practice not being frightened Remember Kirsty's father saying:

"The safest thing is not being frightened"

Are we frightened? Yes unfortunately we are. We all know that many of our passengers are frightened or feel uneasy when flying. But also Flight Operations, Civil Aviation Authorities, Aircraft Manufacturers, Insurance Companies, Governments and the Press constantly send signals indicating that they are frightened of the consequences, if an airline crew should fail when on duty, or let's say that the pilots do not watch out properly.

One way to frighten people is to say that 75% of all aircraft accidents depend on human failure.

Incidents contra Accidents

Another fact, that frightens people, is that since the 1980's all incidents have been reported and investigated. Before that time only accidents were reported and investigated. This is actually done to improve safety and has dramatically reduced the accident rate. But outside the airline sphere people get frightened because they cannot understand the difference between an accident and an incident.

The positive thing with an incident is; that it proves the Safety Net is functioning. The Safety Net, which is constructed by our Human Factors. The accident did not occur! But a lot of valuable information can be found in every incident to further improve the Safety Net.

Another important feature is that we have given Air Line Crew better aids to "learn to watch out" by introducing excellent simulators and realistic mockups.

We use our Human Factors in an active way to improve flight safety.

Human Factors do not cause any accidents.

In my opinion it is when our Human Factors do not function that accidents occur.

Human Factors breakdown will cause Human Failure.

This indicates that the most important thing to learn about Human Factors is to know which external factors have a negative influence on – or might completely block – our Human Factors. We must also learn to notice the warning signals, when we are approaching their outer limits.

Let me suggest the following Human Factors destroyers.

Stress: e.g. due to Environment, Poor Communication, Bad leadership, High Workload, Family Problems and so on.



Insufficient Training


Hunger & Thirst

Lack of oxygen

Unsuitable Attitudes (Complacency)

Stress is the main factor, which we must learn more about. Fatigue will switch off our Human Factors after a certain amount of activity.

Illness gradually kills our Human Factors.

Insufficient training is probably the main reason for the high accident rate in certain areas of the globe.

Drugs are a well-known reason.

Our attitudes must be flight safety orientated.

The LOOP - Perspective Concept.

My logotype is LOOP®, as I believe that this word is an important word regarding Flight Safety and for the well being of our lives. All my seminars and Human Factors courses are named LOOP-courses.

1. If every individual is "in the LOOP" the risk for Human Failure will be reduced.

2. When I was a young pilot flying the P51 Mustang and the Vampire, I noticed, when I was upside down on top of a LOOP, details on ground, which I had not seen earlier. My conclusion is: We have to make a mental LOOP now and then and try to look at things from unusual angles. We must try to look at ourselves not only in a mirror but also with the eyes of others.

Relevant "LOOP questions":

What do my friends, colleagues, crew, passengers, my family and my airline expect of me?

Are my attitudes relevant for the life I now lead, the occupation I have and so on?

3. As an airline pilot I made a lot of horizontal loops when I came to an airport and had to wait in a holding pattern. What I then noticed was that my perception of TIME changed.

One turn in the holding pattern takes about five minutes.

During those five minutes I got time for a lot of activity. My First Officer and I had time to calculate fuel and select another alternative.

We got weather information with wind and braking action to prepare for landing.

I got time for information to passengers on Public Address and to inform Cabin Attendants.

In such a "holding LOOP" I had the feeling that my time was extended. Those five minutes became longer compared with five minutes on cruise at full speed.

My conclusion is:

In our ordinary lives we often "cruise" at full speed. This causes a lot of stress, which might accumulate and give us too much to carry.

Then make a "holding LOOP".

Sit down for five minutes in a LOOP chair and ask yourself. Is my destination correct or should I select an alternative? Should I land and pick up some extra fuel or slow down to Long Range Cruise? Maybe I should change something in my life situation. Which Copilot could I speak to? On which frequency could I get some valuable information? Do not hesitate to approach a family member, friend or colleague. There are also professional helpers available.

To check if you have LOOP vision, I will give you this picture.

LOOP® vision

Look at the two dots below the picture. If you focus your eyes "behind" the picture, you will see four dots. Try then to get three dots by changing the setting of your eyes. Keep those three dots steady for a while and then raise your eyes and look at the picture without changing the setting of your eyes.

Then you will see a propeller.

Now you have learned to see things in another way.

Our Electrical System

Pilots are used to learning the electrical and hydraulic systems in their aircraft. So when I lecture on the Nervous System and the Blood System of our Human Factors, I usually explain it in terms of technical systems like the electrical and the hydraulic systems. Someone has figured out that our nervous system has about 480000 kilometers of nerves connecting all parts of our body to our brain. Actually they are not continuous strings like an electrical cord, but consist of hundreds of billions of Neurons. Each Neuron is isolated from its neighbor by a microscopic gap over which one Neuron can transmit messages to another Neuron. Each Neuron might have about 1500 connections (Synapses). Suppose we have 400 billion Neurons. Then we carry at least 600000 billion Synapses.

The first Neuron is produced about two weeks after conception and at birth most of them are complete, but the system will be continuously improving as the Synapses continue to develop until the age of around 20. When the fetus has an age of 30-40 weeks, about 20000 Neurons are produced every minute! Obviously all sorts of drugs put into that system, when it is under construction – less than 20 years of age – will cause a lot of damage and easily form drug dependence, which will cause problems for the rest of its life.

A Synapse consists of a transmitter and a receiver, so the message can only be sent in one direction.

The Synapses need a lot of oxygen. Above 10000 feet the system has to be served with extra oxygen to function properly. Ikaros crashed due to lack of oxygen, not because his wings melted from the heat of the sun, as the investigation team concluded at that time.


In order to understand stress reactions and why some persons sometimes do not see what they are supposed to and do not react as fast as expected, it is important to mention the so called absolute thresholds.

A certain minimum stimulation is needed to start transmission and give us sensory experience. We have so to speak thresholds, which hamper the signals from reaching the brain. The "height" of these thresholds will vary from time to time depending on physical condition and motivation. When under a high degree of stress those thresholds might even completely stop transmission, so all our senses will be blocked. (See chapter No. 5)

The Death of a Neuron

Neurons will die. They might die due to age. If they are not used they will die, so activate the brain. They might be killed by drugs or in an accident.

If they are dead they are dead. The damage can be repaired by letting new Synapses, from fresh Neurons, form a bypass around the dead Neuron. That takes time and also great desire and willpower from the bearer of the damaged system.

The Central Nervous System

Our brain and our spinal cord form the central nervous system. The brain might be seen as a super computer controlling the system. The spinal cord is an electrical bus bar connecting the central system to the peripheral system sending and receiving information to and from the rest of our body. The spinal cord has nothing to do with decision- making. The only actions the spinal cord can produce are reflexes and our medical doctors check those reflexes for function, when they tickle the soles of our feet or tap the tendon in front of the kneecap.

The Brain

Let me give you a brief schematic explanation of the brain. Which I sometimes call "Our BTE- computer, the Between The Ears Computer",

Very early in our evolution a rather primitive brain was formed on top of the spinal cord. Dr. Paul Mc Lean, National Institute of Mental Health, Washington DC, has named it the Reptile Brain. (It contains the Brain Stem, Medulla Oblongata, Pons Varolii, Amygdala (Emotions) and Cerebellum (Body balance so we can walk on two legs).

Feelings are formed and stored in the Reptile Brain. We can find basic needs such as hunger, thirst and sexuality here. If the Reptile Brain is not Controlled by our Cerebrum and its cerebral cortex, constructed much later in evolution, the consequences of our decisions can be catastrophic.


Excerpted from Human Factors by Gunnar Fahlgren Copyright © 2011 by Gunnar Fahlgren. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


1. Our Human Factors....................1
2. Decision Making....................31
3. Birds never land in tail wind....................53
4. COMPLACENCY In Crew Resource Management Terms....................69
5. STRESS....................87
6. Communication....................111
7. Transactional Analyses TA....................127
8. Sleep, Sleeping Disorders, and Jet Lag....................147
9. Defense Mechanisms....................163
10. The Holocaust and Human Factors....................167
11. Air Rage....................169
12. A good teacher, instructor, speaker....................181
13. Views on Flight Crew Management of Advanced Automatic Systems....................185
14. Leadership and Follower ship....................193
15. APPENDIX number one....................197
16. APPENDIX number two....................199
17. References:....................201
18. About the Author....................203

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