Human Factors Challenges

General aviation and airline maintenance solutions


Airline/MROs use initiatives like the Aviation Safety Action Program (ASAP) to help learn about threats and also about ways to reduce them. These safety initiatives can be scaled to GA maintenance organizations. Boeing has created a process to record a maintenance error and to help find “corrective actions.” The Boeing Maintenance Error Decision Aid (MEDA) has been around since the mid-’90s and is used by more than 700 airlines worldwide. Mid- and larger-sized GA maintenance organizations are using MEDA to help support SMS. Other programs, like the new FAA-A4A Maintenance and Ramp Line Operations Safety Assessment (MRLOSA) apply peer-to-peer reviews of normal performance. Scaled to GA, MRLOSA can collect data about threats before they become errors or injuries. Systems like MEDA and MRLOSA are not only a foundation for SMS but also a means to foster a safety culture.

5. Return on investment

Senior executives typically invest in materials or services that will improve the bottom line. To help make safety a priority, we must demonstrate that safety interventions not only improve quality and safety but also lower costs. If human factors programs show return on investment (ROI) then they will not be an easy target in lean times. AMT (July 2012) discussed ASAP and ROI as an example of how programs can combine to show the impact of HF initiatives.

General aviation and airline maintenance organizations can apply the same solutions. First, make it a priority to identify a few events that warrant corrective actions. Second, determine the cost of the events, the cost of the intervention, and how many events will likely be reduced by the intervention. Third, input the data into the FAA’s maintenance ROI software that is available at www.mxfatigue.com. The software is a well-documented easy-to-use set of linked Excel spreadsheets. This author has witnessed numerous maintenance organizations express amazement regarding how easy it is to use. Of course, the hard part is assigning values and event counts to the challenge, the solutions, and the eventual outcome.

6. Establish HF as a priority

There is a wide range of attitudes about human factors programs for maintenance. There are CEOs and managing directors of large and small maintenance organizations that can deliver a speech that promotes the importance of corporate attention to human factors. The same is true about regulators from all ranks. Some deliver heartfelt messages as if they were the instructors of a human factors course. When leadership has the knowledge and commitment it is reflected throughout the organization. That is true for any size company, fixing any size aircraft.

Recently, an international safety consultant commented that, initially, the quality of human factors programs, in the United States, went down after repair stations began following the EASA HF training requirements. He said that he saw many organizations were driven only by the need to check off the regulatory requirement rather than to find value in the HF program. Organizations are now realizing that human factors programs are an important piece of a safety management system.

There is an across-the-board effort to raise the priority of HF programs. The programs must be applied/practical and based on identified company deficiencies and examples. HF practitioners must demonstrate the safety and business case of the programs. The HF programs must become an integral part of the SMS.

7. Professionalism

Workers must be internally as well as externally motivated to “do the right thing.” That includes attitudes and behaviors on topics like: uncompromised compliance with company procedures and technical documentation; understanding and adherence to fitness for duty requirements with particular regard for fatigue issues; sensitivity to culture and the importance of workplace communication among diverse ages and nationalities; and other nontechnical and technical behavior and performance. Again, like safety culture, professionalism is contagious. There are no notable differences in the requirement for professionalism between GA and airline maintenance personnel.

8. Required inspection items

The topic of “required inspection items” made No. 8 on the important challenges in maintenance human factors. The reason is that many events in airlines and in general aviation are a result of incomplete inspection. On a risk assessment matrix, a missed inspection is not always ranked as “catastrophic” but it is ranked as a frequent occurrence. The term “required inspection” means just that. The workshop delegates felt that the tasks that require a double inspection are often treated as a normal and routine maintenance task. There is another risk that a mechanic may be lax, knowing that the work would have another inspection. The inspector, on the other hand, may expect that the mechanic was especially diligent due to the importance of the task and because it would get “an extra set of eyes” before flight. The result could be inspector complacency.

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