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Human Factors and Safety Assessment in Aeronautics MSc/PgCert


MSc in Safety and Human Factors in Aviation

The MSc in Human Factors and Safety Assessment in Aeronautics is designed to provide industry with successful and well equipped graduates who can make a real and lasting improvement to safety. The programme aims to provide you with an understanding of the human factors and safety issues in design, manufacturing, operations and maintenance throughout the aeronautical industry.

Demand for human factors expertise continues to grow within aviation as well as other safety critical industries. An increasing recognition that errors causing costly accidents and incidents stem from normal and routine human behaviour means there is an escalating need for trained professionals to advise on and implement safe methods and systems of operation.

Cranfield’s world-leading course attracts industry professionals from organisations such as BAE Systems, British Airways, RAF and the Oman Air Force. This programme allows students to gain a foundation in human factors and safety assessment specifically applied to the aerospace industry.

Watch MSc course video:  From the student's perspective

  • Course overview

    The MSc in Human Factors and Safety Assessment in Aeronautics comprises ten compulsory modules, one non-assessed module and an individual research project. Teaching includes lectures, tutorials and seminars, case studies, group work, individual projects, business games, visits and guest lectures. Successful completion of the taught modules is required before you can progress to the research project.

    In addition to management, communication, team work and research skills, each student will attain at least the following learning outcomes from this degree course:

    • Describe the major influences upon human behaviour
    • Display an understanding of the aeronautical industry and areas where human factors play important roles
    • Analyse the role of human factors in the design, manufacturing, operation and maintenance disciplines
    • Apply human factors knowledge to specific areas of aviation.
  • Individual project

    The individual research project allows you to select an area of particular interest in aviation and aerospace human factors and examine this issue in more detail. This promotes cooperation with industry and forms links useful for a future career path. Recent project work has seen students working with organisations including:

    • Airbus
    • British Airways
    • easyJet
    • Virgin Atlantic 
    • Military organisations.
  • Modules

    The taught programme for the human factors masters is generally delivered from October to March and is comprised of eleven modules. The taught course modules cover the areas of human factors and safety assessment in aeronautics in comprehensive detail. The aim is to give an understanding of the human factors and safety issues in design, manufacturing operations and maintenance throughout the aeronautical industry. Students on the part-time programme will complete all of the compulsory modules based on a flexible schedule that will be agreed with the course director.


    • Introduction to Human Factors
      Module LeaderDr Jim Nixon - Lecturer

      This module aims to provide an introduction to key areas of human psychology that underpin principles, theories and models applied in human factors. Topics in cognitive psychology and social psychology are introduced and related to key concepts in human factors such as mental workload and situation awareness. The challenges in measuring human factors variables are also introduced. The module assumes no previous academic background in psychology or human factors.

      • Socio-technical systems
      • Issues surrounding human related accident causation
      • Human Information processing (including perception, memory and selective attention)
      • Social psychology
      Intended Learning Outcomes

      On successful completion of the module, you will be able to:

      • Apply psychological theory to understanding performance in aviation-related tasks.
      • Appraise how aspects of cognition and personality can influence human performance.
      • Understand key human factors concepts and have awareness of how they can be measured.
      • Evaluate the complexities and difficulties of determining human causation in accidents.
    • Fundamentals of Flying (non-assessed)

      To provide students with an overview of the aviation environment, within which they will be expected to apply human factors and safety principles throughout the course. Students will be introduced to airport and aircraft operations, and the influence of economic and regulatory factors, and the principles of airliner operation (Boeing 737). This module must be attended by all students who do not have professional flight crew experience.


      Aviation Fundamentals

      • Basic principles of flight
      • Stability
      • How automation is used in everyday operations
      • How aircraft fly and operate
      • Aircraft systems

      Economic Environment   

      • Impact of economic deregulation
      • Airline cost structures
      • Factors influencing airline costs

      Airline and Airport Operations

      • Airport safety and risk analysis
      • Nature and location of aircraft accidents
      • Third party risk
      • Air transport security
      • Benefits of aircraft warning systems
      • Reporting systems
      • Accident case studies
      • Aircraft ground handling operations
      • Airside safety management
      • Health and safety
      • Ramp safety management
      Intended Learning Outcomes

      On completion of this module, you will be able to:

      • Describe airline cost structures and the factors that influence such costs.
      • Describe the key issues in airport and aerodrome operations and be familiar with the environment that aims to ensure the safe and efficient operation of aircraft.
      • Understand basic principles of flight and the components of an aircraft.
      • Understand the fundamental task of the pilot, in terms of flying the aeroplane and operating basic systems.
    • Safety Assessment of Aircraft Systems
      Module LeaderDr Simon Place - Senior Lecturer

      To familiarise students with the various approaches to the problems of assessing the safety of increasingly complex aircraft systems.

      • Requirements for safety assessment as part of Regulatory Approval and Continued Airworthiness process
      • Development of requirements for safety assessment, FAR and EASA CS25-1309
      • Introduction to probability methods and safety analysis techniques
      • Common mode failures
      • Fault Tree Analysis, Dependence Diagrams and Boolean algebra for quantification of system reliability
      • Reliability analysis using Weibull distribution
      • Zonal safety analysis (ZSA) and Particular Risk Analysis (PRA)
      • Failure Mode and Effect Analysis (FMEA)
      • Typical safety assessment for a stall warning and identification system
      • Certification maintenance requirements
      Intended Learning Outcomes

      On successful completion of the module, you will be able to:

      • Explain the theory behind each technique for safety assessment, including the strengths and weaknesses of each one.
      • Evaluate and apply the technique(s) which is most appropriate for the system under consideration.
      • Differentiate between the various stages of safety assessment in the development of an aircraft or system.
      • Illustrate the issues to be faced in the certification of new systems and aircraft.
    • Human Performance and Error
      Module LeaderDr Hamad Rashid - Lecturer, Safety & Human Factors

      This module aims at providing students with the necessary knowledge and skills to appraise human error and factors affecting human performance, and to apply tools and methods for error prediction and measurement. The module aims to give practical knowledge of error prediction, and to provide an appreciation of other remedial actions.

      • Human error
      • Error classification and reduction
      • Error prediction tools/methods
      • Hierarchical Task Analysis (HTA)
      • SHERPA
      • Measuring human error
      • Workload and fatigue
      • Crew resource management
      • Decision making
      Intended Learning Outcomes

      On successful completion of the module, you will be able to:

      • Discuss some of the factors affecting human performance, leading to human error.
      • Appraise some of the techniques available to assess human performance and error.
      • Critique error classification and management approaches.
      • Apply at least one error prediction method.
    • Human Factors in Aviation Maintenance
      Module LeadersDr Simon Place - Senior Lecturer, Dr Hamad Rashid - Lecturer, Safety & Human Factors,

      The aim is to give students a broad overview of maintenance human error in the aviation industry. To provide students with an understanding of the nature and consequence of human error in aviation maintenance and the current strategies and tools being used to combat it.


      The nature of the maintenance environment

      • An overall appreciation of the general environment in which humans operate when carrying out maintenance. This includes both civil and military environments.

      Maintenance management

      • Organisation, line and base maintenance, planning, maintenance control, error management systems, shift handover, blame cycle, communication in the workplace, workplace environment, work/job design.

      Regulatory framework

      • Legal requirements and EASA/Part 145 Maintenance Human factors.

      Designing for human factors

      • What can be done by the designer to reduce and mitigate human error. Design philosophies and human-centred design.

      Human error management in maintenance

      • The use of reporting systems and how these can be implemented. Methods used to assess the nature of errors and reasons under-pinning them. Currently used tools such as Boeing’s Maintenance Error Decision Aid (MEDA) and Human Factors Analysis and Classification System (HFACS). Emerging methods and research to enhance understanding and prediction of maintenance error.
      Intended Learning Outcomes

      On successful completion of the module, you will be able to:

      • Describe the regulatory background and the environment within which aviation maintenance takes place.
      • Evaluate current methods for maintenance error management (reactive, proactive and predictive).
      • Appraise the links between aircraft maintenance and safety.
      • Analyse ways in which maintenance errors can be reduced at the design stage.
    • Training and Simulation
      Module LeaderDr Wen-Chin Li - Senior Lecturer

      To provide students with the knowledge and skills necessary for the design and evaluation of training from an applied and theoretical perspective, including analysis of training needs, identifying the structure of training contents, and developing the methods of evaluation required to investigate training effectiveness. Also, the module aims to equip students with the ability to understand the role of simulation in the work setting, especially as it relates to training and simulation in aviation domain.

      • An introduction to training - including its definitions and history.
      • Systems approaches to training - a description of the systems approach to training and its practical limitations.
      • Training needs analysis - an introduction to training needs analysis.
      • Training design - introduction to training content and structure; theories of training instruction, training instruction and delivery; trainee characteristics.
      • Simulation in the work context - an introduction to simulation as a training tool; types of simulators and fidelity issues; validating simulators and simulation, human factors integration.
      • The future development of simulation - current state of the art in a changing world of work; a glimpse into the future and virtual reality.
      • Transfer of training - theoretical approaches and transfer enhancing factors; models and methods of evaluating training effectiveness, evaluating simulator effectiveness.
      Intended Learning Outcomes

      On successful completion of the module, you will be able to:

      • Develop the skills and knowledge related to training and simulation.
      • Explain the principles of Training design and evaluate effectiveness of training.
      • Utilise simulation tool for improving training.
      • Integrate Human Factors concepts in the Training and Simulation domain.
    • Flight Deck Design
      Module LeaderDr Wen-Chin Li - Senior Lecturer

      To provide students with an understanding of the human factors issues associated with the design of modern, highly automated aircraft cockpit. The contents relate to the Acceptable Means of Compliance (AMC) of EASA for Design Considerations and Guidance.

      • Human-computer interface design and cockpit ergonomics
      • Principles of design considerations and guidance
      • Displays and situational awareness in flight deck
      • Cockpit display and control
      • Workshops for flight deck design

      The lectures described above are complemented by a series of workshops in which the delegates have an opportunity to practise these techniques described. The workshops to accompany the above lectures will focus on the ergonomics principles for designing flight deck.

      Intended Learning Outcomes

      On successful completion of the module, you will be able to understand:

      • The principles of flight deck design related to pilots’ performance.
      • Cockpit design and cross-cultural issues.
      • Auditory warning and alerting systems.
      • The problems and benefits of automation on the flight deck.
      • The evaluation of pilot’s performance and workload in the cockpit.
    • Aviation Medicine
      Module LeaderDr Matthew Greaves - Snr Lecturer in Accident Investigation

      This module aims to provide students with a background to human physiology, anatomy and biology relevant to occupational health, and to provide an understanding of occupational health service provision, including the role and liability of the workplace manager.


      Occupational health & human physiology

      Human anatomy and physiology relevant to human factors, including:

      • Respiratory and circulatory systems
      • Sympathetic & parasympathetic nervous system
      • Biomechanics
      • The effects of occupation on health
      • Occupational health and illness (functions and limitations of occupational health services, management and legal aspects of occupational health).

      Aviation Stream
      Aviation medicine, including:

      • The atmosphere and the high altitude environment, including radiation
      • The hypobaric environment, hypoxia and decompression
      • Effects of acceleration
      • Limitations of the sensory system
      • Health and pathology in the aviation environment
      • Regulatory aspects.
      Intended Learning Outcomes

      On successful completion of the module, you will be able to:

      Appreciate basic human physiology and anatomy relevant to human factors.  
      Describe some of the common issues in occupational health.
      Explain the principles behind the management of the occupational health function, including legal/regulatory aspects.

    • Aviation Safety Management
      Module LeaderProfessor Graham Braithwaite - Head, Transport and Safety Engineering

      To provide an advanced understanding of the core concepts underlying aviation safety and how safety management systems are implemented.

      • Safety management philosophy and implementation
      • Safety leadership and culture
      • Business case for safety investigation
      • Hazard identification & risk management
      • Flight data monitoring and safety data management
      • Safety controls: Market, regulation and fault systems
      • Change management
      • Safety reporting, analysis and investigation
      • Crisis management
      Intended Learning Outcomes

      On successful completion of the module, you will be able to:

      • Describe the fundamental concepts behind Safety Management Systems (SMS), as defined by ICAO and other parties.
      • Select and implement techniques for the identification, quantification and management of hazards and risks.
      • Critically assess strategies for developing and enhancing safety culture including the role of leadership, structure and reporting systems.
      • Critically assess the ways in which safety is measured and managed in airport, airline and other aviation operations.
      • Collaborate and contribute effectively to the crisis management exercise, and other group workshops, appreciating the contributions made by other team member.
    • Research Methods and Statistics
      Module LeadersDr Wen-Chin Li - Senior Lecturer, Dr Jim Nixon - Lecturer

      To facilitate the use of basic research methods techniques and fundamentals of statistical analysis.


      Collecting Data

      • Doing research (research ethics, the research story, the thesis, the hypothesis)
      • Introduction to experimental design - basic designs, maximising experimental variance, experimental control, and minimising error variance
      • Qualitative data analysis
      • Questionnaire design (content, phrasing, response formats and analysis)
      • Survey administration – sampling and practical considerations
      • Reliability and validity of measurement tools

      Analysing Quantitative Data

      • Exploring data (descriptive statistics, levels of measurement)
      • Distributions (sampling distributions, normal distribution; Z scores)
      • Examining differences (parametric and non-parametric statistical tests)
      • Examining relationships (bivariate correlation, multiple regression)
      • Modelling data (Introduction to Exploratory Factor Analysis and Reliability Analysis)
      Intended Learning Outcomes

      On successful completion of the module, you will:

      • Have an awareness of the research process.
      • Understand the importance of research ethics when employing human participants.
      • Understand the key elements of the ethics proposal and their relevance to ensuring ethical conduct.
      • Have awareness of the tools and techniques to collect data.
      • Be able to appraise and select various research methods and statistical techniques in application to different research needs.
      • Be able to critically evaluate research from any methodological domain in terms of its suitability and effectiveness.
      • Have skills and confidence using IBM SPSS when conducting quantitative analysis.
      • Be able to interpret the results of statistical analyses and relate these back to hypotheses.
      • Be able to propose and apply analysis and interpretation skills appropriately to data.
    • Aircraft Accident Investigation and Response
      Module LeaderDr Wen-Chin Li - Senior Lecturer

      The process of accident investigation will be considered as a whole from notification and disaster response through evidence collection and analysis to the preparation of a final report and recommendations for change. Different approaches will be considered including ‘no-blame’, criminal and coronial investigations with particular emphasis on the role that human factors practitioners can play in the investigation and in dealing with the consequences of an accident and its associated recommendations.

      • Accident investigation approaches and response
      • Investigation as it relates to safety management systems
      • Disaster response/emergency planning
      • On site appraisal and preservation of evidence
      • Working with interested parties
      • Operations/Systems/Engineering investigations
      • Design and crashworthiness
      • Human factors in flight operations
      • Witnesses and interviewing
      • Analytical methods
      • Cross-cultural issues in accident investigation
      • Preparing and managing recommendations
      Intended Learning Outcomes

      On successful completion of the module, you will be able to:

      • Describe the accident investigation process as used in a number of industries.
      • Identify roles and responsibilities within the accident investigation process.
      • Critically assess analysis techniques used in accident investigation.
      • List common causal factors and their frequencies.
      • Apply human factors knowledge and skills to the investigation of incidents and accidents.
  • Assessment

    The taught modules (40%) are assessed by an examination and/or assignment. The Group Project (20%) is assessed by a written technical report and oral presentations. The Individual Research Project (40%) is assessed by a written thesis and oral presentation.

  • Start date, duration and location

    Start date: October

    Duration: 1 year full-time or 3 years part-time (MSc). 2 years part-time (PgCert)

    Teaching location: Cranfield

  • Overview

    Cranfield is a unique postgraduate university, with unusually strong industry connections, particularly in aviation. At Cranfield we thrive on a student mix of experienced professionals and high quality graduates. This breadth of skills and knowledge makes for a stimulating learning environment, where students from a variety of background disciplines can work together, sharing ideas and expertise, and enriching the student experience well above post-graduate courses at most traditional universities.

    This human factors and safety assessment in aeronautics masters has received strong support from the aerospace industry, including Boeing, the Civil Aviation Authority and the National Air Traffic Services.

    All modules are delivered over an intense five-day period, making your study timetable easy to manage and reducing the number of days required at Cranfield away from work. The individual research project (MSc only) can be completed with only minimal time required at the University, for tutorials and supervisory meetings.

    Cranfield University is very well located for visiting part-time students from all over the world, and offers a range of library and support facilities to support your studies. This enables students from all over the world to complete this qualification whilst balancing work/life commitments. This MSc programme benefits from a wide range of cultural backgrounds which significantly enhances the learning experience for both staff and students.

  • Your teaching team

    Our teaching staff spend a significant amount of their time as practitioners in the aviation industry; working with major manufacturers, airlines and operators, maintainers, the military and regulators. Cranfield University can provide up to date practical as well as academic training that will help you make a serious contribution to human factors and system safety in your future career. Teaching staff include world leaders in aviation psychology, human factors, accident investigation and aircraft design.

  • Facilities and resources

    As a Cranfield student you will have access to our range of outstanding research facilities for research work. These include a suite of aircraft flight deck and cabin simulators, eye tracking and physiological monitoring equipment and a library of psychometric tests and assessment materials.

    Cranfield University offer a comprehensive library and information service, and are committed to meeting the needs of students, creating a comfortable environment with areas for individual and group work as well as silent study.

    Experience and familiarity with using the more specialist industry resources will be recognised and valued by future employers. Developing skills to make the most of our rich information environment at Cranfield is not only important to you whilst you are studying, it is also vital for your future employability and career progression.   

  • Entry Requirements

    Typically a 1st or 2nd class UK honours degree or equivalent in engineering, aeronautical engineering, mathematics, ergonomics, psychology or other science. Other qualifications (eg HND or alternative) may be acceptable, provided that there is evidence of sufficient relevant work experience.

    English language

    If you are an international student you will need to provide evidence that you have achieved a satisfactory test result in an English qualification.  The minimum standard expected from a number of accepted courses are as follows:

    IELTS - 6.5

    TOEFL - 92 (Important: this test is not currently accepted by the UK Home Office for Tier 4 (General) visa applications)

    TOEIC - 800 (Important: this test is not currently accepted by the UK Home Office for Tier 4 (General) visa applications)

    Pearson PTE Academic - 65

    Cambridge English: Advanced - C

    Cambridge English: Proficiency - C

    In addition to these minimum scores you are also expected to achieve a balanced score across all elements of the test.  We reserve the right to reject any test score if any one element of the test score if too low.

    We can only accept tests taken within two years of your registration date (with the exception of Cambridge English tests which have no expiry date).

    Students requiring a Tier 4 (General) visa will also need to meet the UKBA Tier 4 General Visa English language requirements.  The UK Home Office are not currently accepting TOEFL or TOEIC tests for Tier 4 (General) visa applications. Other restrictions from the UK Home Office may apply from time to time and we will advise applicants of these restrictions where appropriate.

    ATAS Certificate

    Students requiring a Tier 4 General Student visa to study in the UK may need to apply for an ATAS certificate to study this course.

  • Fees

    Home/EU student

    MSc Full-time - £7,500


    This is the total fee charged for the award and a payment plan system is offered.

    MSc Part-time - £17,500 (Yr 1: £7,000, Yr 2: £5,500, Yr 3: 5,000) *

    PgCert Full-time - £3,000

    PgCert Part-time - £7,000 *

    Overseas student

    MSc Full-time - £17,500

    MSc Part-time - £17,500 (Yr 1: £7,000, Yr 2: £5,500, Yr 3: 5,000) *

    PgCert Full-time - £7,000

    PgCert Part-time - £7,000 *

    Fee notes:

    • Fees are payable annually for each year of study unless otherwise indicated.
    • The fees outlined here apply to all students whose initial date of registration falls on or between 1 August 2014 and 31 July 2015 and the University reserves the right to amend fees without notice.
    • All students pay the annual tuition fee set by the University for the full duration of their registration period agreed at their initial registration.
    • Additional fees for extensions to registration may be charged.
    • Fee eligibility at the Home/EU rate is determined with reference to UK Government regulations. As a guiding principle, EU nationals (including UK) who are ordinarily resident in the EU pay Home/EU tuition fees, all other students (including those from the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man) pay international fees.
  • Funding

    Some funding may be available for suitably qualified UK/EU students. Please contact us for details.

    Cranfield Postgraduate Loan Scheme (CPLS)

    The Cranfield Postgraduate Loan Scheme (CPLS) is a funding programme providing affordable tuition fee and maintenance loans for full-time UK/EU students studying technology-based MSc courses.

  • Application process

    Online application form. Applicants may be invited to attend for interview. Applicants based outside of the UK may be interviewed either by telephone or video conference.

  • Career opportunities

    Cranfield’s Course graduates find suitable employment in this sector. Former graduates of the MSc in Human Factors and Safety Assessment in Aeronautics are currently employed by:

    • Airbus
    • Airclaims 
    • British Airways
    • QinetiQ
    • Virgin Atlantic
    • London Underground
    • Nissan
    • easyJet 
    • Royal Navy.

    This course takes you on to further career opportunities in aviation and other safety-critical industries. There are strong employment prospects for graduates in safety-related management and operational positions.

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