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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:
- A320, vicinity Oslo Norway, 2008 (On 19 December 2008, an Aeroflot Airbus A320 descended significantly below its cleared and acknowledged altitude after the crew lost situational awareness at night whilst attempting to establish on the ILS at Oslo from an extreme intercept track after a late runway change and an unchallenged incorrect readback. The Investigation concluded that the response to the EGPWS warning which resulted had been “late and slow” but that the risk of CFIT was “present but not imminent”. The context for the event was considered to have been poor communications between ATC and the aircraft in respect of changes of landing runway.)
- 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.)
- SF34, en-route, near Caltrauna Argentina, 2011 (On 18 May 2011, a Saab 340 crew attempted to continue a climb to their intended cruising level in significant airframe icing conditions at night before belatedly abandoning the attempt and descending to a lower level but one where their aircraft was nevertheless still rapidly accumulating ice. They were unable to recover control after it stalled and a crash into terrain below followed. The Investigation attributed the accident to lack of crew understanding of the importance of both the detection of and timely and appropriate response to both significant rates of airframe ice accumulation and indications of an impending aerodynamic stall.)
- SW4, Sanikiluaq Nunavut Canada, 2012 (On 22 December 2012, the crew of a Swearingen SA227 attempting a landing, following an unstabilised non-precision approach at Sanikiluaq at night with questionable alternate availability in marginal weather conditions, ignored GPWS PULL UP Warnings, then failed in their attempt to transition into a low go around and the aircraft crashed into terrain beyond the runway. One occupant – an unrestrained infant – was killed and the aircraft was destroyed. The Investigation faulted crew performance, the operator and the regulator and reiterated that lap-held infants were vulnerable in crash impacts.)
- B738, vicinity Christchurch New Zealand, 2011 (On 29 October 2011, a Boeing 737-800 on approach to Christchurch during the 68 year-old aircraft commander's annual route check as 'Pilot Flying' continued significantly below the applicable ILS minima without any intervention by the other pilots present before the approach lights became visible and an uneventful touchdown occurred. The Investigation concluded that the commander had compromised the safety of the flight but found no evidence to suggest that age was a factor in his performance. A Safety Recommendation was made to the Regulator concerning the importance of effective management of pilot check flights.)
- … 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.