Aviation Capstone Project Paper on Surviving Aviation Incidents

Surviving Aviation Incidents


Aviation incidents can cause psychological trauma on the individuals involved in the incidents. Such trauma may have adverse effect on the crew and passengers, and therefore the need for intervention measures for the crew and passengers after such incidents (Cox & Wandrag, 2007). Although the intervention measures may be immediate, some of the effects may last and therefore the need for follow-up intervention measures, particularly for the crew (Leonhardt & Vogt, 2006).

The effects of aviation incidents may include trauma and aversion to flight for the passengers. For the crew, there is the risk of enduring psychological problems, which may indeed affect the quality of work and performance for these professionals (Bor & Hubbard, 2006). It is thus for this reason that there is need for post incident support for both the crew and the passenger of any aviation incident.

Literature review

Planes remain some of the safest modes of transportation. However, there are instances when incidents and accidents occur in the aviation industry (CAA, 2007). The incidents and accidents have adverse effect on the crew and passengers involved in such cases. By extension, the incidents affect the families of the victims. Given the delicate nature of the aviation industry, the trauma and psychological distress caused by such incidents may have catastrophic effects on the crew, especially when no post-incident intervention is done (Homan, 2002).

Perhaps the danger of non-intervention after an incident is best exemplified by the 1977 collision of two B747s that killed 583 people. Under distress, one of the pilots took off after conviction that he had received take-off clearance (Homan, 2002). Previous diversion due to a terrorist bombing and the threat of a diminishing legal time all worked to cause distress on the captain, causing him to take off before receiving clearance.  

The dangers of distress following a traumatic aviation experience therefore call for intervention measures aimed at the survivors of the incidents to help them cope with the incidents. Although Gangloff (2013) intimates the need for cushioning within the aircraft to prevent injury, the need for posttraumatic interventions for the survivors is equally important (Kenville et al., 2009; Transport Research Board, 2011).

Although it is possible to have interventions on the ground, internal intervention, among crewmembers is a starts towards surviving such incidents. According to Bienefeld and Grote (2014), the crew can offer a support system through shared leadership in a multiteam system. Although such an intervention measure excludes the passengers, it offers an avenue and support system for the crew before touching down for professional and more qualified support systems.

Cox and Wandrag (2007) intimate that there is need for a support system, given the positive relationship between the support and the positive outcome. Such a support system (at the airport and over time) has reputational benefits, has value for money, as well as reduces the incidence of psychiatric injury (Cox & Wandrag, 2007).

Research Question

  1. What are the effects of aviation incidents and how can one cope after such an incident?

Theoretical Framework

This research hinges upon the contemporary trauma theory. With consensus on the effects of traumatic events on the adaptation of humans towards life, such events warrant study and intervention as mitigation measures against any form of negative impact to an individual’s life as a result of the event. In their basic form, traumatic events threaten life and may cause bodily harm, as well as bring individuals into close encounters with death. According to Suleiman (2008), after such an event, it is possible that the brain will not be able to assimilate such an incident, responding through different mechanisms including psychological numbing or halting normal emotional responses.

The brains processing of such incidents may on the other hand also include dissociation. The extreme stress in this case causes the individual to dissociate part of himself/herself from the experience, eventually resulting into multiple personalities (Suleiman, 2008). The theory of contemporary trauma further argues that such individuals may suppress the traumatic experience to the point of forgetting it. However, such suppression is dangerous as the memory of the experience remains embedded in the individual and will affect the individual’s association (Suleiman, 2008). It is for this reason; therefore, that immediate intervention is necessary for any individual who has undergone a traumatic experience.

With this in mind, both immediate and long-term interventions for aviation incidents are necessary. The idea that the aftermath of an incident can be traumatic calls for intervention measures for the victims of the incidents. Both post-traumatic stress disorder and multiple personality disorders are real threats to the survivors of such incidents. Surviving thus requires both psychological and psychiatric help for the victims as they work towards recovery.  The need for such measures therefore calls for research into measures available for mitigating the effects of the incidents on individuals, as well as help them cope in the aftermath of the incident.


  1. Aviation incidents have adverse psychological effects on the victims
  2. Surviving aviation incidents requires both immediate and long-term intervention measures


Bienefeld, N. & Grote, G. (2014). Shared leadership in multiteam systems: How cockpit and cabin crews lead each other to safety. Human Factors, 56(2), 270-

Bor, R. & Hubbard, T. (2006). Aviation Mental Health: Psychological Implications for Air Transportation. Hampshire: Ashgate

CAA. (2007)Surviving after an accident. Vector, 9-12

Cox, S. & Wandrag, M. (2007). Initial trauma support at UK airports: An evidence based framework. London: City University

Gangloff, A. (2013). Safety in accidents: Hugh DeHaven and the development of crash injury studies. Technology and Culture, 54(1), 40-61

Homan, W., L. (2002). Stress coping strategies for commercial flight crewmembers. Journal of Aviation/Aerospace Education & Research, 12(1), 15-27

Kenville, K., A. et al. (2009). Helping Airport and Air Carrier Employees Cope with Traumatic Events. Washington, D.C.: Transport Research Board

Leonhardt, J. & Vogt, J. (2006). Critical Incident Stress Management in Aviation. Burlington: Ashgate Publishing Limited

Seleye-Fubara, D., Etebu, E. & Amakiri, C. (2011). Aero-disaster in Port Harcourt, Nigeria: A case study. Annals of African Medicine, 10(1), 51-54

Suleiman, S., R. (2008). Judith Herman and Contemporary Trauma Theory. Women Studies Quarterly, 36(1&2), 276-281

Transport Research Board (2011). Traumatic event assistance for aviation employees. Impacts on Practice