Better understanding Human Factors in Civil Aviation Security by Francis G Spranza

 Human Factors in Civil Aviation Security

No one with any practical experience can deny the importance of the applications of the science of human performance when it comes to improving the effectiveness and efficiency of civil aviation. From cockpit design to ATC display layouts; from the prepositioning of ground handling equipment to the location and design of the airport fire station; understanding the philosophy and applications of the dynamics of human factors has been a key design concept for several decades

However, only recently within the history of civil aviation has thought been given to application of Human Factors to the role of civil aviation security and those charged with performing the day to day tasks so critical to the airport and airline security function.

The AVSEC Framework

Today’s understanding of Human Factors in aviation can be traced from the post-world war II science of Systems Management Theory1 and subsequent implementation of Organizational Development 2 as a philosophy designed to make a system more effective, efficient and productive by examining the organization as a collection of interdependent and interrelated units all working towards a common goal or objective. These principals were adopted early on and applied to the concepts of Safety Management Systems (SMS) and Security Management (SeMS).

Within aviation, the framework for the application of an understanding of Human Factors and how they relate to the task of aviation security can best be understood by examining the four principal areas along which available resources will be deployed. These are:

  1. Operators – the human element involved in the task
  2. Technology – requiring end user focus
  3. Operational environment and organizational culture
  4. Certification

The diagram shown to the right, drawn from ICAO Doc 9808, illustrates the four key areas (shown as Axis) and their interrelationship in either operations based (where organizations must develop and implement supportive policies, process and procedures or performance based (concentrating on the objectives which must be met in order to provide objective data for certification of personnel and technologies)page1image19184  page1image19512 page1image19672

Man, Moment, Machine

Regardless of the state of technology to date, the single most important element within the aviation security system remains the human one. In this regard issues such as personnel selection, training, assessment and retention play key roles in assuring an airline or airport’s security effectiveness.

How do administrators select individuals who are most likely to do well on the job? Savvy HR administrators begin with a detailed job analysis. This instrument will identify relevant aptitude requirements in terms of:

  1. Task requirements – those specific duties involved the performance of the job at hand
  2. Functions performed
  3. Individual competencies – the KSA or (Knowledge, Skills and Abilities) required to successfully perform the task
  4. The organizational structure and environmental climate in which the task is to be performed.

Based on the results of the job analysis, a comprehensive training regime is developed to introduce students to the competencies required, evaluate the student’s ability to translate ‘theory into practice’ and provide input for specific curriculum development.

As the training evolves, it becomes imperative to compare the psychometric test scores of candidates against their performance within the real world environment. This is the case whether the task is x-ray screener, cargo screener, airport patrol officer or dispatcher. The same case holds for upper level courses in the areas of security supervision, management, and planning.

A Word about CBT

With the introduction of the: I-Pad, I-Phone and Moodle software 3 to the integrated student learning scene, CBT (or Computer Based Training) has grown from a strictly academic concept to a cost effective means to instruction in a remarkably short period of time. Today’s interactive distance learning modules can provide feedback on performance, gauge learning levels and record or display a student’s progress in real-time both for instructional as well as academic use.

In its ideal format a CBT Module incorporates tutorials – either in text or video format, with a capability for the student to answer questions or demonstrate the skill presented in the module. This enables students to both check their understanding and learning while presenting the opportunity to actually practice the skill where applicable. By combining Instruction with Simulation ( where students actually replicate a skill – be it radio discipline, x-ray examination or staff response decision making) CBT offers cost effective instruction which can be flex-scheduled to meet the employees needs and those of administrative scheduling. Thus, its utilization often eliminates the need for budgeting of items such as travel or visiting instructors and out of country tuition costs.

A cautionary note before running out to purchase the latest computer servers, workstations and software programs, CBT should be based on a thorough analysis of the task as well as the knowledge of the operating conditions and standards to be met.4


Whether instruction is presented in a traditional classroom setting or as a web based module, one cannot understate the importance of a period of OJT, or on the job training needed to validate the students learning and the learning process as a whole. Especially important, so much so that it is a legislated requirement for x-ray screeners and others who must demonstrate a variety of skills, temperament and judgment in a high risk environment. While the duration of the on the OJT observation varies from State to State, the need is near universally recognized.

OJT provides a unique insight into the student’s decision making and ability to avoid errors while accomplishing a given task. When coupled with random and periodic tests and realistic practicum evaluations, instructors and supervisors are better able to assess an employee’s abilities and future performance on the job.

Coming Next…

We will take a look at the relevance of human factors to a variety of aviation security technologies. References

1. 2.
4. ICAO Doc 9808 AN 756, Section

Categorías:Consultoría, Cursos, Eventos de la industria


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