Music Appreciation and Maintenance Human Factors

When you don’t understand or appreciate a particular music genre it “all sounds the same.” Let me explain. If you don’t like classical, opera, folk, rap, or hip hop music, when you hear those genres of music you can’t differentiate among the...


The Chief Scientist/Technical Advisor program, working with CAMI, conducts an annual small workshop to identify challenges and solutions related to maintenance human factors. That multi-disciplinary group, including HF naysayers, has consistently said that the industry needs help with HF issues surrounding like:

• technical documentation;

• worker fatigue;

• proving the payoff of HF interventions;

• effective local use of data from voluntary reporting;

• communicating HF issues;

• fostering a just culture; and more

Ongoing FAA HF activity is based on the recommendations from that workshop.

If there were HF concerts then the FAA Maintenance Human Factors Symposia would be the maintenance HF Woodstock. Those meetings (co-sponsored by FAA, A4A, UKCAA and Transport Canada) had a positive impact over a 20-year period, starting in 1988. There has been a reduction in these over the last few years. However, the FAA Aviation Safety Action Program (ASAP) InfoShare meeting has provided an excellent replacement forum for human factors information. In addition, there are occasional high value commercial international maintenance human factors conferences. In order to win over new advocates and to reinforce the fan base, a maintenance HF symposium is overdue.

When Lionel Richie joined with the county singers for an album of duets he created an extremely successful product. The same way, human factors activities must harmonize with other programs. That should include voluntary reporting programs and the total safety management system, among others. 

Finally, maintenance human factors must prove its value. The money/time spent must have a financial and/or safety return (see July 2012 AMT Magazine). EASA recently cited FAA’s Return on Investment Process (See hfskyway.faa.gov) as a way to show the financial and safety payback on proposed SMS/Fatigue regulations. When you can demonstrate the impact of HF interventions it helps to win over supporters.

Keeping it fresh

The new hits must continue to emerge. New songs keep the fans and also ensure that “oldies but goodies” are revisited. Maintenance HF programs have been around since the late '80s. The old list of favorites includes the Dirty Dozen, the Swiss Cheese, and PEAR. But those old concepts/hits must be reinforced with new information and new media. The new training materials from CASA (see September 2013 AMT Magazine) are an excellent example that can result from an investment in content, graphics, and multimedia. The FAA fatigue training materials and the movie, “Grounded,” also exemplify the new materials.

Human factors trainers have relied on certain accidents for group work and discussions. If the aircraft was built before the students were born then you should consider new examples. The best stories seem to come from local voluntary reports and from the NASA Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS). Of course, the occasional NTSB reports provide great factual data.

No Grammy nominations

Maintenance human factors programs and interventions don’t have an annual awards show. Those awards are reduced worker injury, decreased aircraft damage, rework, or delay; and continuing flight safety. There is no annual Grammy Awards night. Instead, the payback and awards occur daily as the industry continues to deliver safe and cost-effective transportation to the world.

Dr. William Johnson is the FAA Chief Scientific and Technical Advisor for Human Factors in Aircraft Maintenance Systems, for the past 10 years. He comments based on nearly 50 years combined experience as pilot/mechanic; professor; engineering consulting, airline/MRO, and FAA scientific executive.

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