Demand for human factors and safety expertise continues to grow within aviation as well as other safety critical industries, requiring professionals who can make real and lasting improvements to performance and safety through the application of skills and knowledge. Safety critical systems require high human performance in addition to engineering excellence to meet the safety and business requirements of the aviation industry.

The Safety and Human Factors in Aviation MSc, accredited by the Chartered Institute of Ergonomics and Human Factors (CIEHF), equips students with industry-relevant skills, delivered through a mix of lectures and practical exercises by Cranfield University's well-established Safety and Accident Investigation Centre, which has supported global safety and investigation for over 30 years.


  • Start dateOctober
  • DurationFull-time MSc - one year
  • DeliveryTaught modules 40%, Group projects 20%, Individual research project 40%
  • QualificationMSc
  • Study typeFull-time
  • CampusCranfield campus

Who is it for?

This course attracts a wide variety of students, from aviation professionals in civil and military domains to high-quality graduates in engineering and social science disciplines. In the past we have welcomed students with backgrounds in civil and military aviation, avionics engineers, psychological practitioners, medical care and air traffic controllers. This wide range of skills and knowledge represented by students on the course provides a unique learning environment.

Why this course?

Delivered through the specialist Safety and Accident Investigation Centre, operating for over 30 years to support global safety and investigation, this course is unique in that it synthesises the study of human factors with the study of safety and safety assessment, creating a powerful combination that enables graduates to add value in applied aviation and safety critical contexts. It is designed to provide industry with successful and well equipped professionals who can make a real and lasting improvement to performance and safety through the application of skills and knowledge learned on the course.

Exclusive to Cranfield University, you will have the opportunity to fly during a Student Experience Flight in our National Flying Laboratory Centre’s (NFLC) light aircraft. This flight experience will complement your MSc studies, focussing on the effects of control, spatial disorientation and the cognitive challenges associated with flight. During the flight you will have the opportunity to take control of the aircraft. Each experience is 2 to 3 hours in duration and includes a pre-flight safety briefing outlining the details of the manoeuvres to be flown, a flight of approximately 1 hour, and a post-flight debrief. Read Wifan's blog on her flight experience.

Discover the unique facilities available to you as a student on this course: My subject | Cranfield University Virtual Experience.

Course details

The MSc comprises 12 modules; eight compulsory and two of the optional taught modules; two group project modules alongside an individual research project.

Course delivery

Taught modules 40%, Group projects 20%, Individual research project 40%

Group project

Two group projects are completed by students: 

The Capstone Group Project will provide a simulated industrial environment where knowledge and skills gained from the taught components of the course can be consolidated and applied to solving a human factors and safety problem. 

The Applied Safety Assessment module will provide students with an opportunity to apply the knowledge and skills learned in the Safety Assessment of Aircraft Systems module, in a practical scenario. In addition, the module aims to equip students with the ability to conduct a comprehensive safety assessment on an airframe whist working in a team, and to present the group work both orally and in a written report.

Individual project

Each MSc student is required to undertake an individual research project. The output of this project is a written report presented in the format of a scientific paper. The project aims to provide students with an opportunity to apply the technical and analytical skills taught during the course, in a practical way. The individual research project is a chance to study a specific subject or problem area in much greater depth and use some of the techniques learned during the course. You will be assigned a supervisor who will help to guide you in your research.

Previous Individual Research Projects included:

  • The analysis of behaviour associated with high workload in military air-traffic control
  • Checklist design in General Aviation
  • Safety in ground handling with Menzies Aviation
  • Pilot-autopilot conflict with Airbus.


Keeping our courses up-to-date and current requires constant innovation and change. The modules we offer reflect the needs of business and industry and the research interests of our staff and, as a result, may change or be withdrawn due to research developments, legislation changes or for a variety of other reasons. Changes may also be designed to improve the student learning experience or to respond to feedback from students, external examiners, accreditation bodies and industrial advisory panels.

To give you a taster, we have listed the compulsory and elective (where applicable) modules which are currently affiliated with this course. All modules are indicative only, and may be subject to change for your year of entry.

Course modules

Compulsory modules
All the modules in the following list need to be taken as part of this course.

Cognitive Ergonomics


    ​​This module aims to provide an introduction to key areas of human psychology that underpin principles, theories and models applied in aviation human factors. Topics in cognitive psychology are introduced and related to key concepts in aviation human factors such as mental workload and situation awareness. The challenges in measuring human cognitive work and performance are introduced together with a range of assessment methods. The module assumes no previous academic background in psychology or human factors.

    • The role of cognition in work.
    • Situation Awareness.
    • Mental Workload.
    • Teamwork and team cognition.
Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module you should be able to:

1. ​Conduct analyses in order to characterise user performance and relate these analyses back to elements of cognition.
2. Describe how humans process sensory information and apply this understanding to a variety of aviation contexts to understand and ensure safe human performance.
3. Evaluate a range of subjective and objective assessment methods available to measure cognitive work performance including assessment of situation awareness, workload.

Human Error and System Safety

    This module aims at providing you with the necessary knowledge and skills to appraise human error and factors affecting human performance, and to apply tools and methods for system safety.
    • Error types and classification methods
    • Hierarchical Task Analysis
    • Error management
    • Safety-I and Safety-II
    • Functional resonance analysis method
    • Systems theoretic process analysis


Intended learning outcomes

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

  • Identify the contributory factors leading to unsafe system conditions.
  • Conduct a hierarchical task analysis and classify different types of human error.
  • Appraise techniques available to manage human performance and error.
  • Evaluate Safety I and Safety II approaches.
  • Apply system-based risk analysis techniques to ensure system safety.


Human-Computer Interaction in Aviation


    ​​Human-Computer Interaction focus on system approach to address the flight deck design, human factors certification, incident and accident investigation, workload and performance, and human-information processing.​

    • Human-Computer interaction
    • Automation and automation surprise
    • Attention allocation
    • Human errors in flight operations.
    • Augmented Flight Deck Design
    • Certification and Regulations in Aviation
Intended learning outcomes On successful completion of this module you should be able to:

1. Apply the principles of Human-Computer interaction which relate to pilot performance.
2. Evaluate the design of the cockpit and understand pilot attention allocation pattern.
3. Application of Human Information Processing Theory (HIP) in aviation interaction design and evaluation.
4. Critically evaluate the problems and benefits of automation in flight operations.
5. Understand the processes and challenges of human factors certification.

Research Methods (MSc only)


    Industrial roles which draw on skill sets in safety and human factors demand the skill sets developed in this module in support of the course level learning outcomes.      

    Collecting data

    Doing research (research ethics, the research story, the thesis, the hypothesis).
    Introduction to experimental design - basic designs, experimental control, and minimising error variance.
    Qualitative data analysis.
    Questionnaire design (content, phrasing, response formats and analysis).

    Analysing quantitative data

    Exploring data (descriptive statistics, levels of measurement).
    Examining differences (parametric and non-parametric statistical tests).
    Examining relationships (bivariate correlation).
    Introduction to modelling data.   
Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module you should be able to:

  1. Be able to develop, plan and communicate research in a structured way.
  2. Be able to identify ethical issues when using human participants in research.
  3. Be able to develop effective questionnaires and subjective-rating scales to answer research questions.
  4. Be able to select and conduct appropriate qualitative and quantitative research methods and apply methods to different research needs.

Safety Assessment of Aircraft Systems


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

    Introduction and background

    Outline of relevant accidents and system design philosophy.  Discussion of acceptable accident rates and recent advances in systems.  Introduction to probability methods.

    Regulatory background 

    The development of requirements for safety assessment, FAR / EASA CS25—1309.

    Methods and techniques

    Introduction to the more common safety analysis techniques. Influence of human factors.  Common mode failures, traps and pitfalls of using safety assessment and examples of mechanical systems and power plants.

    Use of safety assessment techniques

    Determination of correct architecture of safety critical systems.  Fault Tree Analysis, Dependence Diagrams and Boolean algebra for quantification of system reliability.  Zonal safety analysis (ZSA), Particular Risk Analysis (PRA) and Failure Mode and Effect Analysis (FMEA) of aircraft systems.

    Practical examples of the application of safety assessment techniques

    Minimum Equipment Lists (MEL), Safety and Certification of digital systems and safety critical software.  Application of Aerospace Recommended Practice (ARP) 4761.  Typical safety assessment for a stall warning and identification system.

    Current and future issues

    Integrated and modular systems and their certification.  Certification maintenance requirements.  Flight-deck ergonomics.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module you should be able to:

  • Demonstrate an understanding of the regulatory background behind the Safety Assessment of Aircraft Systems. 
  • Evaluate and apply the technique(s) which is most appropriate for the system under consideration. 
  • Explain the theory behind each technique, including the strengths and weaknesses of each one, and be aware of possible pitfalls. 
  • Appreciate the role of safety assessment in the overall context of aircraft certification. 
  • Illustrate the issues to be faced for the certification of new systems and aircraft.

Applied Safety Assessment


    ​​This module will provide you with an opportunity to apply the knowledge and skills learned in the 'Safety Assessment of Aircraft Systems' module, in a practical scenario. The module aims to equip you with the ability to conduct a comprehensive safety assessment on an airframe whist working in a team, and to present the group work both orally and in a written report.​

    • Functional Hazard Assessment (FHA): The FHA exercise will identify the critical failure conditions of the system. Each group will classify the failure conditions in accord with the 25.1309 categories and identify the analysis techniques most appropriate to each.
    • Particular Risks: The Particular Risks appropriate to the system and its installation will also be considered as appropriate.
    • Enhanced Fault Tree Analysis (EFTA): In groups the you will carry out an Enhanced Fault Tree Analysis for the failure conditions identified by the FHA as being appropriate to this analytical technique.
    • Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA): This exercise will use existing system drawings in order to perform FMEA on the aircraft system.
    • Zonal Safety Analysis: Students will carry out a Zonal Safety Analysis on the aircraft zones in which the system is installed.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module you should be able to:

1. Explain the application of the main techniques for safety assessment.
2. Critically evaluate the functions of an aircraft system from a safety perspective and select the most appropriate analytical technique.
3. Conduct a variety of System Safety Assessment analysis methods in an applied context.
4. Plan the different aspects of a System Safety Assessment, allocating team tasks and resources as appropriate.

Aviation Safety Management

    To provide students with the fundamental skills required to manage operational safety within the aviation industry.
    • The fundamentals of a Safety Management System, and introduction to associated guidance material provided by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and other State safety regulatory bodies; 
    • Safety data, safety information and analyses; including reporting systems, investigation and Flight Data Monitoring (FDM);
    • Hazard identification and risk management, including an introduction to Enterprise Risk Management (ERM); 
    • Safety performance and safety health; including guidance on audits and safety promotion; 
    • Safety organisations, including guidance on effective management of safety teams. 
Intended learning outcomes

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

  • Describe the fundamental concepts behind Safety Management Systems (SMS), as defined by ICAO and other regulatory bodies;
  • 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;
  • Identify techniques for measuring safety performance; 

Aircraft Accident Investigation and Response


    This course is based around a case study approach to aircraft accident investigation. You will have the opportunity to experience important elements of aircraft accident investigation from initial notification of an event through to generating and communicating investigative findings. 

    You will be presented with a simulated accident scenario during which you will be exposed to all elements of the investigation such as evidence collection, interviewing, analysis and the generation of safety recommendations. 

    • Accident investigation approaches and response.  
    • On-site appraisal and preservation of evidence. 
    • Human factors in investigations. 
    • Witnesses and interviewing. 
    • Preparing and managing recommendations. 
    • Communication of investigation findings. 
Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module you should be able to: 

  • Describe the accident investigation process as applied to aviation. 
  • Identify roles and responsibilities within the accident investigation process. 
  • Critically assess analysis techniques used in accident investigation. 
  • To develop interview skills and recognise the limitations of interview based data. 

Safety and Human Factors in Aviation Course Induction


    To familiarise you with the Cranfield University environment and procedures, meet fellow students and staff. To develop personal skills in team working. To provide an introduction to the course structure and the tempo of the year. To introduce you to members of departmental staff.

    • Overview of the programme and course, technical writing and communication presentations, environmental issues. Learning styles, group and team working and self-study.
Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module you should be able to:

1. State the course aims and its teaching methods.
2. Be aware of the structure of the course.
3. Reflect on the personal skills required for individual and team working.

Capstone (Group Project)

    This module will provide a simulated industrial environment where knowledge and skills gained from the taught components of the course can be applied to solving a human factors and safety problem.
    • Introduction to the project.
    • Student-led planning and management of the project.
    • Student-led deliver of written and oral reporting of the findings.

Intended learning outcomes On successful completion of this module you should be able to:
  • Collect information from a variety of sources (for example electronic, subject-matter experts to support a group research project)
  • Appraise and critique the work of other practitioners and specialists
  • Plan, manage and complete work to a deadline within a team environment
  • Collaborate with other team members to produce a group report within a set deadline
  • Contribute effectively to a group presentation and competently defend the findings of the project.

Elective modules
One of the modules from the following list needs to be taken as part of this course

Flight Data Monitoring


    This module will provide an understanding of Flight Data Monitoring within a commercial organisation and to detail the uses, processes and responsibilities of a successful FDM programme.

    • The history of FDM and an overview of its objectives
    • CAP739, EASA and ICAO regulatory frameworks
    • Integration of FDM within a safety system
    • FDM technology
    • Setting analysis targets
    • Data recovery and analysis tools
    • Principles of data validation and assessment
    • Trace interpretation, with both theoretical and practical sessions
    • Database management
    • The use of statistics in data analysis
    • Animations and visualisation in data presentation
    • FDM in accident and incident investigation
    • The interface between the analyst and crews
    • Legal aspects of FDM data collection, retention and use
    • The use of FDM to justify operational and technical change
    • The potential of FDM within maintenance programmes.
Intended learning outcomes

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

  • Describe the key elements of an FDM programme and appraise the security and anonymity safeguards of a given FDM programme.
  • Critically analyse an FDM event, including evaluating data integrity and present the analysis in an appropriate format.
  • Propose and defend an FDM regime for application in their own company.

Training and Simulation


    The aims of this module are to enable you to identify training needs, develop training programmes and to explore methods for the training and simulation in aviation.

    • Systems approaches to training - a description of the systems approach to training and its practical limitations.
    • 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.
Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module you should be able to:

1. Evaluate the skills and knowledge related to training and simulation
2. Interpret the principles of training design and evaluate effectiveness of training
3. Apply simulation tools for improving training
4. Distinguish human factors concepts in the training and simulation domain
5. Practicing cabin safety and emergency evacuation

Human Factors in Aviation Maintenance


    The module aims to provide a broad overview of the nature and management of human error in the aviation maintenance domain. Key theories and frameworks for investigating maintenance human error, contributing factors and effects on operations are introduced. The challenges associated with practical application of currently available safety tools are examined together with the latest strategies to enhance understanding and management of maintenance error. This module does not require previous background in aviation maintenance and engineering.

    • 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. 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 benefits and challenges associated with the use and application of reporting systems and safety 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.


This course is accredited by the Chartered Institute of Ergonomics and Human Factors (CIEHF).

Your career

There are strong employment prospects for graduates in safety-related management and operational positions. Course graduates generally find suitable employment in a range of safety and human factors related roles. Previous graduates of the course have been successful in gaining employment with:

  • Airbus
  • BAE Systems
  • British Airways
  • Qinetiq
  • Virgin Atlantic
  • NATS
  • Honeywell
  • Easyjet
  • DHL
  • Royal Navy
  • Frazer-Nash
  • MBDA.

Cranfield’s Career Service is dedicated to helping you meet your career aspirations. You will have access to career coaching and advice, CV development, interview practice, access to hundreds of available jobs via our Symplicity platform and opportunities to meet recruiting employers at our careers fairs. Our strong reputation and links with potential employers provide you with outstanding opportunities to secure interesting jobs and develop successful careers. Support continues after graduation and as a Cranfield alumnus, you have free life-long access to a range of career resources to help you continue your education and enhance your career.

How to apply

Click on the ‘Apply now’ button below to start your online application.

See our Application guide for information on our application process and entry requirements.

I am very honoured to receive the ISASI Kapustin scholarship, which is a great encouragement and support for me and gives me the motivation and enthusiasm to continue studying and exploring in my field of interest. I also feel very fortunate and happy to be studying at Cranfield and to have received a lot of help from my teachers. Although there are a lot of inconveniences with the threat of Covid-19, the school and teachers have been very caring and helpful and have made my learning experience very good.
There are not many universities in the world that offer a course on safety and human factors, so this already shows that Cranfield is a very unique place. I realised that Cranfield was a place where I could really learn and create new opportunities.

My cohort has psychologists, pilots, engineers, air traffic controllers and so on, so if you are open to learning, you can really absorb knowledge not only from the professors, but also from your classmates, and that is very enriching. People are also from different nationalities, the cultural exchange is huge, and I particularly appreciate that.

I chose to study the SHFA master's because courses at Cranfield University combine research with practice. During my studies, I had to develop a safety assessment of an aircraft built by Cranfield University, Cranfield A1, and I am going to fly with Cranfield National Flying Laboratory (NFLC) as part of my course.

My career aspiration after graduating is to work in the airline industry as a safety engineer and Cranfield University is helping me in achieving this goal by teaching skills that are applicable to the safety engineering field. My favourite thing about Cranfield University is the Rolls-Royce flight simulator in the AIRC building, where I had the opportunity to simulate a landing with a sidestick and a tablet.


The course offered a perfect balance of research exposure and practical skills training, which I knew would be beneficial in enhancing my career. This opportunity presented a perfect amalgamation of learning and experience that I was looking forward to. The programme aims to equip graduates with skills and information to improve performance and safety in the aviation industry in a meaningful and lasting way and so I chose to enrol myself in this course.

There have been many highlights throughout the course, but personally, the most memorable experience for me was our visit to the Rolls-Royce Future Systems Simulator (FSS). It was fascinating to fly two sessions, one with the side-stick and the other with a complete touchscreen panel.

This MSc has helped me gain a deeper understanding of how human factors impact aviation safety and performance. The balance of research exposure and skills training in practical scenarios has provided me with a unique perspective on aviation safety and how to improve it.

Cranfield is a leading university in offering postgraduate courses specially in the field of aviation which many professionals in the aviation industry can relate to, including myself as an Air Traffic Controller.

The university has a strong recognition in the aviation industry and as well as strong connections with industry experts, which benefits the students who successfully complete their degrees to climb up the professional ladder.

Having worked as an Air Traffic Controller, I had a great curiosity to learn the human factor side of our operational roles, as we experience it while at work. This was the main factor behind why I selected the Safety and Human Factors in Aviation MSc.