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Stress is a bodily response to a stimulus that disturbs or interferes with the “normal” physiological equilibrium of a person and, in the context of aviation, refers to a state of physical, mental or emotional strain due to some external or internal stimulus.
Understanding the factors that lead to stress, as well as how to cope with stressful situations, can greatly improve a individual's performance. Also, understanding that colleagues may react differently to the same stressor is important and can help you control a situation that can quickly get out of hand if an individual is having a negative reaction.
Accidents & Incidents
Events on the SKYbrary database which list stress as a significant contributory factor:
- E55P, Blackbushe UK, 2015 (On 31 July 2015 a Saudi-operated Embraer Phenom on a private flight continued an unstabilised day visual approach to Blackbushe in benign weather conditions. The aircraft touched down with excess speed with almost 70% of the available landing distance behind the aircraft. It overran and was destroyed by impact damage and fire and all occupants died. The Investigation concluded that the combination of factors which created a very high workload for the pilot "may have saturated his mental capacity, impeding his ability to handle new information and adapt his mental model" leading to his continuation of a highly unstable approach.)
- A319, vicinity Zurich Switzerland, 2014 (On 17 October 2014, two recently type-qualified Airbus A319 pilots responded in a disorganised way after a sudden malfunction soon after take-off from Zurich required one engine to be shutdown. The return to land was flown manually and visually at an excessive airspeed and rate of descent with idle thrust on the remaining engine all the way to a touchdown which occurred without a landing clearance. The Investigation concluded that the poor performance of the pilots had been founded on a lack of prior analysis of the situation, poor CRM and non-compliance with system management and operational requirements.)
- BE20, Nadi Fiji, 2010 (On 25 April 2010, a Beech King Air touched down at Nadi with its landing gear in the transit position after flying a night approach during which a significant electrical system failure had occurred. The landing gear retracted and the aircraft left the runway to the side and came to a stop resting on its fuselage. The Investigation attributed the electrical failure, which directly affected the landing gear operating system and required two diodes to have both failed was likely to have meant that one would have failed on an earlier occasion with no apparent consequence.)
- B752, vicinity Cali Colombia, 1995 (On 20 December 1995, an American Airlines Boeing 757-200 inbound to Cali, Colombia made a rushed descent towards final approach at destination and the crew lost positional awareness whilst manoeuvring in night VMC. After the crew failed to stow the fully deployed speed brakes when responding to a GPWS ‘PULL UP’ Warning, the aircraft impacted terrain and was destroyed with only four seriously injured survivors from the 163 occupants surviving the impact. The accident was attributed entirely to poor flight management on the part of the operating flight crew, although issues related to the FMS were found to have contributed to this.)
- B734, en-route, New South Wales Australia, 2007 (On 11 August 2007, a Qantas Boeing 737-400 on a scheduled passenger service from Perth, WA to Sydney, NSW was about three quarters of the way there in day VMC when the master caution light illuminated associated with low output pressure of both main tank fuel pumps. The flight crew then observed that the centre tank fuel pump switches on the forward overhead panel were selected to the OFF position and he immediately selected them to the ON position. The flight was completed without further event.)
- … further results
Related OGHFA Situational Examples
|Situational Example||Flight Phase|
|De-icing and Latent Organisational Factors (OGHFA SE)||Take Off|
|Disorientation During Vectored Go-Around (OGHFA SE)||Missed Approach|
|Fuel Leak and Confirmation Bias (OGHFA SE)||Climb, Cruise, Descent|
|Fuel Starvation, Stress, Fatigue and Nonstandard Phraseology (OGHFA SE)||Cruise, Descent|
|Landing Gear Failure (OGHFA SE)||Landing|
|Takeoff Weight Entry Error and Fatigue (OGHFA SE)||Take Off|
|Unidentified Fire On Board (OGHFA SE)||Cruise, Descent, Landing|
Related OGHFA Material
- Flight Safety Australia: Fit to Fly?
- Fighting Pilot Fatigue, video by Boeing’s Fatigue Risk Management team in partnership with Delta airlines to portray the effects of fatigue on pilots. It describes technologies in the flight deck that can monitor and prevent fatigue-related events.
- Safety Behaviours: Human Factors Resource Guide for Engineers, CASA (Australia), 2013. Chapter 6 deals with stress for maintenance personnel.