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Data input errors

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There have been numerous accidents worldwide that were the result of simple human errors in data calculation or entry.

Data errors—such as the wrong figure being used as well as data being entered incorrectly, not being updated, or being excluded—happen for many different reasons.

The consequences of these sorts of errors can range from aborted take-offs through to collisions with the ground. Errors can occur irrespective of pilot experience, operator, aircraft type, location and take-off performance calculation method.


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What the ATSB is doing

As part of its investigation into an Airbus A340 tailstrike and runway overrun at Melbourne Airport in March 2009, the ATSB acknowledged the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) action in assisting setting up a working group with the European Organisation for Civil Aviation Equipment (EUROCAE) to study the feasibility of take-off performance monitoring systems and developing an equipment standard. The ATSB also made a recommendation to the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to address the existing standard that did not provide flight crews with a means to detect degraded take-off acceleration. The FAA has subsequently joined EASA as a member of the working group and, given this safety action, the ATSB has closed that recommendation.

In recognition of the hazards posed by data entry errors, the ATSB will continue to monitor output from the EUROCAE take-off performance monitoring working group and any associated developments that may assist in mitigating this risk.

What can you do?

While no one is immune from data input errors, risk can be significantly reduced through effective management and systems. Good communication and independent cross-checks between pilots, effective operating procedures, improved aircraft automation systems and software design, and clear and complete flight documentation will all help prevent or uncover data entry errors.

The ATSB advises operators to consider all the possible errors that could be introduced and then determine if the procedures in place will prevent these errors from occurring, or will provide an opportunity to detect them.

More information

An ATSB safety research report, Take-off performance calculation and entry errors: A global perspective, examines Australian and international occurrences between 1 January 1989 and 30 June 2009 that involved the calculation and entry of erroneous take-off data.

The following investigation reports also provide useful lessons on the potential dangers of data input errors:

Useful international reports include:

Related: SafetyWatch
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Last update 05 October 2016