The latest global airline safety analysis by the UK Civil Aviation Authority indicates that, despite advancing technology and improved aircraft reliability, crew judgement and actions remain the most consistent causal factor in global catastrophic accidents, says Dr Hazel Courteney, head of research and analysis.
For that reason, she says, quality pilot training remains the critical factor in preventing really serious accidents. Speaking at the Flight Safety Foundation international aviation safety seminar in Honolulu last November, Courteney presented a study on prioritising strategies with the highest potential to reduce the chances of catastrophic accidents, as well as less serious safety events.
She said: "Crew-related issues dominate accident causal factors, featuring in 75% of fatal accidents. It is important to note that this [statistic] does not imply that the pilot was at fault or to blame, because it is now well-established that 'pilot error' cannot continue to be the scapegoat for the many and various factors that can lead to the error occurring.
"However, it is important to include crew factors in this data [analysis] because it highlights the crucial importance of pilot performance in safety, and therefore reminds us to invest in anything that might support it - [ie] training and simulation facilities - and to minimise influences that might adversely contribute - time pressure, fatigue and distraction."