Human performance and limitations in aviation: physiological and behavioural aspects
Human flight, since its origins, has been seen as an appropriate scenario for a whole series of issues related to the physics of flight, the architecture and safety of aircraft, as well as the physiology and psychology of pilots and passengers. During the First World War, the British Royal Flying Corps conducted a study aimed at clarifying the causes of many plane crashes. The results were very surprising. For every hundred pilots who died, only two had been shot down by the enemy, eight were victims of structural failure of the aircraft, while ninety deaths were attributable to errors induced by the negative balance between performance and limitations of the pilots themselves. Despite the progress of aircraft engineering and avionics, the man-machine relationship has always been the subject of speculation. The search for an appropriate know-how has not always managed to mitigate the “aeronautical fatalities”. Topics described in this paper highlight the reason for some useful needs for safe and efficient flights. Until new mutations of a molecular nature, the pilot is still a human being whose performance will have to deal with his limitations. The human factor in aviation still remains core of a heated debate.