Human Factors in Aviation

We assist our clients by consulting on human performance related factors contributing to aviation concerns, both during the design process and following an incident or accident. Typical issues we address include: operational performance, warnings and alerting effectiveness, system usability, anthropometric considerations, and technical documentation interpretability.

The field of human factors traces its origins to World War II and the work and experience of scientists and engineers involved in human operations of systems, especially flight systems, with a focus on considering an operator’s capabilities and limitations as they relate to the design of the system. Today, Exponent’s Human Factors scientists and engineers continue the tradition of applying knowledge of human capabilities and limitations to the performance of a wide range of activities within the aviation industry.

Aviation industry operators and passengers interface in a cross-functional, complex, high-workload environment. Interaction with various systems and people, often under strict time constraints, is required and human performance can be a critical component to efficiency and safety. Human factors approaches, knowledge, and expertise can assist in the design and evaluation of such systems, and can result in a design more robust with respect to human performance.

Examples of individuals and groups interacting in the aviation environment include:

  • Pilots 
  • Air Traffic Controllers 
  • Airline Passengers 
  • Gate and Ticket Agents 
  • Mechanics and Machinists 
  • Flight Attendants 
  • Baggage Handlers 
  • Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Operators
  • Aviation Security 
  • Airline Dispatchers

Within the context of evaluating human performance within this complex environment, we draw on our team’s knowledge, piloting experiences, and understanding of aircraft performance as well as from research in areas such as: aviation psychology, pilot behavior, perception, attention, workload, decision-making, learning, memory, language processing, anthropometry, aircraft systems and biomechanics.


Examples of our services include:

  • Comprehensive analysis of pilot behavior, attention, decision-making, workload and other human behavior characteristics. 
  • Evaluation of aircraft accident causation from a human performance and human error perspective
  • Design and evaluation of tasks, displays, and controls.  
  • Evaluation of the cause and effect of fatigue on operator performance. Contributing factors can include: cumulative sleep debt, rotating shift schedules, extended shifts and work weeks and circadian misalignment. 
  • Analysis of worker safety performance – baggage handlers; mechanics, gate crew and tarmac employees
  • Assessment of situational awareness and workload given alternative display interfaces such as those found in the flight deck and air traffic control centers.  
  • Cabin incident assessment of passenger and flight attendant injuries. Examples of injuries include: scalds from hot coffee, turbulence-related injuries and unexpected luggage departure from bins.  
  • Assistance with defining and implementing the methodology to demonstrate compliance with the new human factors certification guidance (EASA CS 25.1302, AMC 25.1302 and soon to be incorporated by the FAA).
  • Consideration of Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) technologies and components in investigation of Human Factors related issues.   
  • Evaluation of movement errors by operators.  
  • Analysis of cabin passenger safety.