The Impact of Weather on Aircraft Accidents

The Impact of Weather on Aircraft Accidents

Table of Contents


The situation presented by the FAA paints a grim picture concerning the level of safety of aircraft particularly in adverse weather conditions. Several adverse weather conditions have a significant impact on the aviation industry from the communication systems at the control tower to the aircraft systems in the actual planes. It has indeed been established that harsh weather conditions contribute approximately 23% of the total aviation mishaps annually (Idowu, James & Igbru, 2012). These damages cost the government and the public massive financial losses, wastage of time, physical injury and even loss of lives. Conducting a study into the causes, types and occurrences of unfavorable weather and their impact on the aviation industry will go a long way in reducing the losses and improving the quality of services offered by aviation companies. However, placing the blame of increasing airplane accidents fully on the weather is largely incorrect. Various other factors affect the effectiveness and safety of aviation systems in a similar manner and an analysis of these factors will form the next section.

Counter Argument

Adverse weather conditions have been proved a significant causative factor in aviation accidents. These assertions have been backed by authoritative aviation regulatory bodies and organizations such as FAA. However, arguing that weather is a major causative factor in these accidents is potentially flawed and misplaced. Conversely, human error can be blamed as a more significant and controllable cause of aircraft mishaps. According to Weigmann & Shappell (2003), approximately 70-82% of all airplane accidents are cause by human error. Consequently, human error is preventable and therefore, these accidents can be reduced to a minimum. While on cannot readily conclude that accidents happen in neutral environments, a larger part of the chain of events that cause an accident are triggered by human operators. These risky actions taken by human aviation operators can be either violations or genuine errors. Regardless of the nature of the accidents, lives and property is still lost making aviation safety an imperative topic for analysis.

Concerning human errors, these include physical or mental mistakes on the part of the operator that directly or indirectly cause a series of events that lead to aircraft accidents. Violations refer to flouting regulations that were laid down by different organizations and bodies. The reason why human error is very influential in determining the level of safety lies in the nature of the industry. Aviation is procedural and has explicit processes that apply to different phases of the flight and flight control procedure. However, some situations lack the official procedure and may call for a decision to be made form several options. The resultant choice in these situations determines the success or failure of the particular flight. These errors may be skill-based or perceptual in nature. Perceptual errors are more numerous when compared to skill based ones as they rely on the individual judgement of each operator which may be influenced by several other sub factors. However, skill-based factors are usually covered in aviation regulations and are attached with accompanying penalties.

The issue arises in the understanding of human error as a causative factor in aviation accidents because accidents caused by weather contain concrete circumstantial and demographic variables that are properly defined for instance visual meteorological conditions and records of aviation and in-flight instruments. Conversely, human error is much more multifaceted and this makes it complicated to apply any type of classification that is both easy to comprehend and universally acknowledged. Nevertheless, with the introduction of Human Factors Analysis and Classification System (HFACS) in the 19th century, the challenge of investigating into human error was finally overcome.

Several aspects of preparation among aviation operators are vital in all the activities that occur in the aviation sector. Considering this aspect, adverse mental states that negatively affect employee performance and add up to dangerous acts. The major ones among these include loss of awareness, mental exhaustion, dysrhythmia, and destructive attitudes such as boldness, contentment, and misplaced stimulus. Equally significant are those unfavorable physiological states that rule out the secure operation of flights. Psychological issues that might apply to aviation are problems such as disorientation, visual delusions, hypoxia, intoxication, and a whole myriad of medical and pharmacological deformities that can affect performance. Lastly, physical and mental limitations where operators lack the aptitude or information necessary to make fast and crucial decisions in aviation.

Author’s Argument

            In the article titled ‘Weather and Aviation: How Does Weather Affect the Safety and Operations of Airports and Aviation, and How Does FAA Work to Manage Weather-related Effects?’ Gloria Kulesa’s main point argues that weather is the main factor behind a large number of aviation accidents on an annual basis. In her article, she argued her point using different examples of weather conditions that presented the worst challenges to airplanes and flight control. Factions that present harsh weather conditions as the main cause of aviation accidents use the results of studies from different organizations to make such a decision. The analysis of these material

Thunderstorms were the most common weather conditions that contributed about 2-4% of weather related mishaps. Thunderstorms have the effect of causing turbulence in the largest advanced aircrafts. They can also break aircraft parts. Apart from the actual planes, thunderstorms also close airport activity, interfere with tower communications and cut off power and phone lines. In-flight icing cause rapid degradation of plane parts and affects the readings of vital instruments that control, altitude, direction and pressure. Icing also leads to impairing of engine performance that lowers the amount of power available to the plane. Other major weather conditions that affect airplane performance include volcanic ash expulsion that causes visibility problems as well as clogging of airplane vents and equipment that ca lead to engine failure. De-icing and fog are other minor weather conditions that are also influential in causing airplane accidents. Analyzing the efforts put in place to handle these adverse weather conditions will provide the way forward on the best way to reduce natural causes of aviation accidents.

Plan of Action and Conclusion


 Idowu I. A., James K. O. & Igbru P.A. (2012).The Impacts of Extreme Weather and Climate Events on Aviation. Environment, Ecology & Management. No. 1, 12-20.

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