12 September 2019


Submitted by Yenziwe Dhlomo

Human Factors training has become a powerful tool in improving aviation safety. In recent years, commercial airline accidents have decreased, however, General Aviation (GA) has not seen the same improvement.  This is according to Refilwe Ledwaba, founder of the Girls Fly Programme in Africa (GFPA), qualified Fixed Wing and Rotor Wing pilot and the country’s first black woman to have flown for the South African Police Service (SAPS). 

Speaking at the recent Fourth African Symposium on Human Factors and Aviation Safety (ASHFAS 2019) and the Fourteenth Ergonomics Society of South African Conference (ESSA 2019) joint conference held in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, Ledwaba said Human Factors has had a tremendous impact on global commercial aviation but unfortunately not enough emphasis is placed on it during local GA training. 

“General Aviation has not enjoyed the same amount of research as the commercial aviation industry. And whilst the research numbers clearly show commercial aviation has benefited from Human Factors, GA in South African and around the world which has not seen a noteworthy decline in accidents in recent years,” she commented. 

“What needs to be done? We need to assess what worked (in the commercial airline industry) and apply it in general aviation.” Ledwaba also added there is currently no clear framework for the application Human Factors in the GA industry and when there is training, the context and content is usually used for the commercial aviation industry.   “What we require is Human Factors training that is relevant and applicable to the General Aviation industry.

We are therefore hoping academics and subsequent research will take on the challenge and focus on Human Factors for GA.  We need to understand why we are still having so many incidents and accidents in the general aviation industry,” Ledwaba commented. 

Fellow conference keynote speaker, Dr Steven Shorrock, Human Factors Safety Specialist, Edinburgh, Scotland, echoed Ledwaba’s call for relevant Human Factors application.  

In his talk Research and Practice in Human Factors in Safety Management: Islands in a Common Sea he remarked: “As a fundamental human value, subject to laws, regulations and standard, one might expect considerable interest in the research-practice relationship in safety, and by extension Human Factors.  There is, however, very little research that directly addresses the topic, “he said.  

The successful and very well attended ASHFAS 2019 and ESSA 2019 three-day symposium was hosted by the Air Traffic and Navigation Services (ATNS) in partnership ESSA, the University of the Witwatersrand and Rhodes and proudly sponsored by ATNS, Tsogo Sun, COMAIR, FormFunc, the South African Civil Aviation Authority and the Rail Safety Regulator of South Africa.