Human Factors in Accident Investigation (HFAI)


Course Description

Human Factors in Accident Investigation (HFAI)

Duration: 4.5 days
CEUs: 3.6
Tuition: $2,875 USD 

Human Factors is defined as the scientific study of the interaction between humans, machines, and each other-essentially everything Determining accident causation involving WHAT happened can be relatively easy given the right training. Determining WHY an accident occurred requires an advanced level of training and skills. Most investigations leave much to be desired in this regard.

Human error is implicated in most, if not all, aviation accidents. Accident investigators, therefore, need information, tools, and procedures to discover the role human error has played in an accident/incident being investigated. This course teaches the required material for investigators (a) to identify the human error issues involved in an accident wherever they occurred (e.g., in the cockpit, ATC, management, maintenance, etc.), and (b) to know when and how to call on the required Human Factors experts for further analysis.

The course starts with a brief review of the role of human error in aviation accidents using the SHELL, Reason and Helmreich models from an investigator perspective as organizing frameworks. A taxonomy of unsafe acts (organization, supervisor, and operator) is presented. The course then focuses on what the investigator needs to know about the individual human and the various factors which tend to make humans make mistakes including the ability to process information, deal with a physiologically challenging environment, and perform within a potentially sub-optimal workplace. Training and negative transfer, as well as procedures, will also be presented as additional factors leading to human error.

Although human error has been implicated in 70 to 80% of all civil and military aviation accidents, most accident reporting systems are not designed around any theoretical framework of human error. As a result, most accident databases are not conducive to a traditional human error analysis, making the identification of intervention strategies onerous. What is required is a general human error framework around which new investigative methods can be designed and existing accident databases restructured. Indeed, a comprehensive human factors analysis and classification system (HFACS) has been developed to meet those needs. Specifically, the HFACS framework has been used within the military, commercial, and general aviation sectors to systematically examine underlying human causal factors and to improve safety through proactive and predictive statistical analysis.

HFACS instruction is initially provided then progresses into practical HFACS 7.0 analysis and application via interactive case studies. Attendees are divided into groups, provided with case studies and are expected to conduct an HFACS 7.0 analysis. Results are presented in class and groups are provided feedback on their efforts. Nano-code capture, database architecture & quality control (standardization) and statistical analysis are applied via the HFACS 7.0 taxonomy.

Building on the material presented, the course will then provide an integrated discussion summarizing from an investigator's perspective current understanding about causes of human errors and what mechanisms should be in use for their reduction. The course concludes by providing the accident investigator with a systematic framework and process to identify human error issues involved in an accident as well as the factors which may have led to those errors.

T he Human Factors in Accident Investigation course is a “deep-dive” into the almost- infinite aspects of how and why human error occurs. The course provides attendees with the tools and knowledge to transform this seemingly nebulous subject into a scientific and valid process, producing a complete and comprehensive investigation that examines ALL aspects.

HFAI culminates with several case studies that will challenge you to identify, analyze and validate all aspects from active failures in the cockpit to organizational (latent) failures at the highest levels.

Who Should Attend

  • Individuals who need to understand the human error issues in aviation accidents and how human error and human limitations can cause accidents.
  • Accident Investigators or those who participate in accident investigation.

How You Will Benefit

  • Practical examples and case studies will enhance your theoretical knowledge.
  • This course is accepted by the Board of Certified Safety Professionals for Continuance of Certification credit.
  • This course is one of the required courses for the certificate in Human Factors Aircraft granted by SCSI.
  • SCSI will award 3.6 CEUs to each participant who successfully completes this course.

Course Topics:

Human performance

Display design principles

The Psychology of Witness Interviewing

Cognitive interviewing

Predictive investigation

Stress (self-imposed)

Night Vision Devices

Data mining and statistical analysis

Aeromedical/flight physiology





Crashworthiness and crew survivability


Valid and reliable scientific tests

HFACS (7.0)

Stress (external)

Military & Civilian aspects

Task saturation

Shape coding

Human error



Stress and Fatigue

Training and negative transfer

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Stress (external)

Sleep/shift work

Spatial disorientation/visual illusions

Detection and response

System design and displays

Aviation psychology

Organizational issues


Latent & active errors


Course Administration

The Human Factors in Accident Investigation Course consists of 4.5 training days (36 classroom hours). Students receive a textbook, class notes lecture outlines, additional reference material and a Certificate of Completion. The classes start each morning at 0800 and end at noon on the last day.

Student Feedback

  • "Excellent class."
  • "Airline case study provided a great opportunity to discuss all of the issues surrounding automation human factors"
  • "The material was fascinating and presented in an entertaining manner."
  • "The case studies were great. Excellent explanations and  relating to real-world events."