Since the beginnings of commercial aviation a century ago aviation safety has undergone continuous growth, decade after decade, as a result of the continued work of aeronautical industry. Since then we have witnessed several advances like the navigation systems, the improvement of the engines and the new technologies in design –e.g. the ‘fly-by-wire’ piloting control- which have permitted that nowadays the probabilities of passing away in a plane were three times lower than being struck by lightning and hundred times lower than doing something so quotidian as riding a bike.
However, apart from the great technological progress, commercial aviation faces huge challenges regarding safety in the near future, mainly concerning the human factor. According to the ‘Global Aviation Safety Study’ of Allianz Global Corporate and Specialty (AGCS), carried out by Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, by the year 2050 it is estimated that about 16 billion passengers will need to be flown yearly, that is, 384% more than in 2014. This increase will be inseparably associated with a rise of the number of commercial pilots; as we can read on ‘The Pilot and Technician Outlook’ by Boeing the airlines will need 533,000 new pilots in the next 20 years, that is, an average of 54,000 new pilots each year, whom will require to be trained in a market that nowadays is able to account a maximum of 44,000.
Therefore, airlines and flight training centres face a big challenge. More so if we bear in mind that, according to the AGCS Study, 70% of fatal accidents occur as a result of human error, with pilot fatigue a major contributor. Pilot fatigue -appearing especially because of the high duty times with inadequate recovery breaks and the circadian disruptions when flying at night and in different time zones- causes a decrease in pilot’s abilities that jeopardizes flight safety:
decreasing the ability for perceiving the available information through the instruments and increasing the time needed for controlling the whole control panel.
Thus the training of the cabin crew gains even more importance, so the efforts should be redoubled for training pilots who have the necessary background to face with reliability situations of high stress and fatigue in the absence of the airplane’s automated systems. For achieving this goal is essential for the pilot to know the working environment totally, get completely familiar with the instruments on the cockpit panels and master the basic flight procedures since the very beginning of the training, freeing up a higher percentage of simulator hours to practice abnormal and emergency situations –not for nothing, according to the ‘Line Operations Safety Audit’ by the University of Texas, 98% of commercial flights confront threats to the safety -4 threats per flight in average- while in the 82% of them errors occur, specifically 2.8 in average.