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ORAU and the Florida Institute of Technology College of Aeronautics are collaborating to determine—from a predictive research methodology—if understanding adverse events of aircrafts could result in a significant enhancement of safety protocols in the field of aviation risk assessments. Adverse events include those that arise from system, subsystem or component faults or failures because of damage, degradation or environmental hazards that occur during flight. The goal of this research is to help the aviation industry avoid adverse events and ultimately air collisions.

In U.S. aviation, the Human Factors Analysis and Classification System (HFACS) is considered the standard framework for investigating adverse events. Under this system, adverse events are generally considered to be the accumulation of multiple factors that lead to unsafe conditions. 

As part of the ORAU-Directed Research and Development program, this study proposes a comparative assessment of Bowtie—a risk evaluation tool that can be used to analyze and demonstrate causal relationships in high-risk scenarios—and the current HFACS frameworks for analyzing aviation incident data for aviation near misses. Using HFACS, the coded factors for each incident will be categorized into broader categories, which include organizational influences, unsafe supervision, preconditions for unsafe acts and unsafe acts.

The information will be entered into an incident risk software program, which allows researchers to build the Bowtie and incident diagrams from the aviation data collected. Once the data is complete, the software will build a comprehensive Bowtie and incident diagram for each hazard. Specific adverse event pathways can then be isolated to analyze any failures. A probability of occurrence also will be calculated for each of the HFACS categories.

“This research will set the stage to show credibility and value of the Bowtie analysis to be used with critical safety systems for aircraft,” said Sara Howard, ORAU research investigator. “Ultimately, we would like this data to help the aviation industry predict and try to avoid adverse events and collisions in the future.”

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To learn more about the ORAU-Directed Research and Development program, contact the University Partnerships office at 865.576.6513 or