How situation awareness could save your life

Research output: Contribution to specialist publicationArticle


In December 1972, three days before New Year, Eastern Airlines flight 401 from New York crashed on approach to Miami when the pilot and crew, all focusing on a malfunctioning landing light, failed to register the plane was losing altitude. In 2007 a truck and train collided on a rail crossing in Kerang, Australia, when the truck driver failed to notice the approaching train. In 2010 the crew of BP’s Deepwater Horizon drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico seemed unaware of the scale of the problem until the rig exploded.

Although each case is unique, the same phrases appear: “Failed to notice”, “unaware of”, “lack of awareness”. These all point to a lapse in “situation awareness” – an important factor in the run up to each incident. But what exactly is situation awareness, what can lead to a lapse and how can you improve and develop your own sense of it?
Original languageEnglish
Specialist publicationThe Conversation
PublisherThe Conversation UK
Publication statusPublished - 22 May 2018

Bibliographical note

Amy Irwin received funding from the ESRC for a PhD studentship (student: Oliver Hamlet) which will investigate non-technical skills in helicopter flight.

Oliver Hamlet receives funding from the ESRC and a UK based helicopter operator for a 3 year PhD exploring the non-technical skills utilised by helicopter pilots.


  • Road safety
  • Air accidents
  • Fatigue
  • Occupational safety


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