The number of airline mishaps attributed to pilot error significantly declined between 1983 and 2002, according to an analysis conducted by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. While the overall rate of airline mishaps remained stable during that time, the proportion of mishaps involving pilot error decreased 40 percent. The rate of mishaps related to a pilots poor decision-making declined 71 percent. The researchers attribute the decline to better training and improvements in technology that aid pilot decision-making. The findings are published in the January 2007 edition of Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine.
A 40 percent decline in pilot error-related mishaps is very impressive. Pilot error has long been considered the most prominent contributor to aviation crashes, said the studys lead author, Susan P. Baker, MPH, a professor with the Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research and Policy and the Bloomberg Schools Department of Health Policy and Management.
The study examined 558 airline mishaps between 1983 and 2002. Baker and her colleagues also looked at the circumstances of pilot error, which they characterized as carelessness on the part of the pilot and crew, flawed decision-making, mishandling of the aircraft or poor crew interaction.
Other key findings of the study included:
While the overall rate of pilot error mishaps declined, the reductions were offset by increases in mishaps that did not involve error by pilots; some involved errors by air traffic control or ground crews. The researchers also noted that there is a need to improve safety during the times when the aircraft is motionless on the ground or being pushed back from the gate. The study found that mishaps during these times more than doubled from a rate of 2.5 to 6 mishaps per 10 million flights.
Trends indicate that great progress has been made to improve the decision-making of pilots and coordination between the aircrafts crew members. However, the improvements have not led to an overall decline in mishaps. The increase in mishaps while aircraft are not moving may require special attention, said Baker.
|Contact: Tim Parsons|
Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health