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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:
- 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.)
- 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.)
- 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.)
- 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.)
- 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.)
- … 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.