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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:
- MD82, Phuket Thailand, 2007 (On 16 September 2007, an MD-82 being operated by One Two Go Airlines attempted a missed approach from close to the runway at Phuket but after the flight crew failed to ensure that the necessary engine thrust was applied, the aircraft failed to establish a climb and after control was lost, the aircraft impacted the ground within the airport perimeter and was destroyed by the impact and a subsequent fire. Ninety of the 130 occupants were killed, 26 suffered serious injuries and 14 suffered minor injuries.)
- B738 / F100, Geneva Switzerland, 2014 (On 31 March 2014, a Geneva TWR controller believed it was possible to clear a light aircraft for an intersection take off ahead of a Fokker 100 already lining up on the same runway at full length and gave that clearance with a Boeing 737-800 6nm from touchdown on the same runway. Concluding that intervention was not necessary despite the activation of loss of separation alerts, the controller allowed the 737 to continue, issuing a landing clearance whilst the F100 was still on the runway. Sixteen seconds later, the 737 touched down three seconds after the F100 had become airborne.)
- 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, Cork Ireland, 2011 (On 10 February 2011, control of a Spanish-operated Fairchild SA227 operating a scheduled passenger flight from Belfast UK to Cork, Ireland was lost during an attempt to commence a third go around due to fog from 100 feet below the approach minimum height. The Investigation identified contributory causes including serial non-compliance with many operational procedures and inadequate regulatory oversight of the Operator. Complex relationships were found to prevail between the Operator and other parties, including “Manx2”, an Isle of Man-based Ticket Seller under whose visible identity the aircraft operated. Most resultant Safety Recommendations concerned systemic improvement in regulatory oversight effectiveness.)
- 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.)
- … 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.