Aviation Safety: Helping Pilots to Handle Stress in Critical Situations

A year ago, AXA and ISAE SUPAREO inaugurated a chair for flight safety to better understand the neural mechanisms of human error among pilots, identify risk factors, and devise solutions to mitigate their impact. ALL NEWS  |  Risk & Research
Mar 12, 2015

Improving aviation safety is a pressing concern for AXA, which as a responsible insurer supports fundamental research on global risks.

Dzung Nguyen-Tu
Head of Aviation and Space at AXA Corporate Solutions

We have observed a continuous improvement in aviation safety in the past ten years. The accident rate is currently at a historic low: one for every 4.4 million flights. However, 70% of the time, these aviation accidents are caused by human error.

How can we help aircraft pilots cope with excessive stress during special or difficult phases of flight? How can we understand the irrational decisions taken by crews and their apparent disregard of various alarms when unexpected situations occur? Accident analysis reveals that the complexity of modern transportation aircraft can overwhelm the most experienced crews when something goes wrong. The aim of the research led by Professor Dehais, holder of the AXA-ISAE Chair of Neuroergonomics for aviation safety, is to discover the underlying neural mechanisms of human error that cause pilots to persist in irrational decision-making.

The planned multi-disciplinary approach will combine the use of modern techniques in neuroimaging, signal processing, and artificial intelligence.

Outside of aviation, the research on human factors has applications for nuclear power operators, surgeons, and other high-stress occupations. But it has a medical use, too, helping stroke and brain injury victims.

Frédéric Dehais
Professor, holder of the AXA-ISAE Chair of Neuroergonomics for aviation safety

We found that stress may temporarily impair cognitive abilities in the same way as a stroke. This is why we have a strong cooperation with medical institutes to better understand the underlying neural mechanisms that can lead to human error in the cockpit or with patients.

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