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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 Sochi Russia, 2006 (On 3 May 2006, an Airbus 320 crew failed to correctly fly a night IMC go around at Sochi and the aircraft crashed into the sea and was destroyed. The Investigation found that the crew failed to reconfigure the aircraft for the go around and, after having difficulties with the performance of an auto go-around, had disconnected the autopilot. Inappropriate control inputs, including simultaneous (summed) sidestick inputs by both pilots were followed by an EGPWS PULL UP Warning. There was no recovery and about a minute into the go around, a steep descent into the sea at 285 knots occurred.)
- 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.)
- AT72, Shannon Ireland, 2011 (On 17 July 2011, an Aer Arann ATR 72 made a bounced daylight landing at Shannon in gusty crosswind conditions aggravated by the known effects of a nearby large building. The nose landing gear struck the runway at 2.3g and collapsed with subsequent loss of directional control and departure from the runway. The aircraft was rendered a hull loss but there was no injury to the 25 occupants. The accident was attributed to an excessive approach speed and inadequate control of aircraft pitch during landing. Crew inexperience and incorrect power handling technique whilst landing were also found to have contributed.)
- DH8B, Kangerlussuaq Greenland, 2017 (On 2 March 2017, a DHC8-200 took off from Kangerlussuaq in normal day visibility without clearance and almost immediately overflew three snow clearance vehicles on the runway. The Investigation identified a number of likely contributory factors including a one hour departure delay which the crew were keen to reduce in order to remain within their maximum allowable duty period and their inability to initially see the vehicles because of the runway down slope. No evidence of crew fatigue was found; it was noted that the vehicles involved had been in contact with TWR on a separate frequency using the local language.)
- 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.