Music Appreciation And Human Factors

Success is not based on "record" sales, but on the success of evolved safety cultures.

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 artists or identify an era of the recording. Because you just don’t care.

However, when you like a certain genre of music, you know the name of the artist, whether the tune is old or new. You appreciate the subtleties because it’s your kind of music.

I’ve come to the conclusion that the analogy to music appreciation helps explain why individuals say that all human factors initiatives are the same and have gone unchanged. They throw around comments like “HF is more than the Dirty Dozen, PEAR or the Swiss Cheese.” They know just enough buzzwords to discuss the topic, but they don’t appreciate the artists, can’t identify the subtleties of interventions, and generally are not big fans of “human factors.” But they do present a potential new market that must be convinced of the value of HF programs.

Is there a solution?

It may be very difficult for an opera star to convince the county/rock fan to change their listening/appreciation and buying patterns. Each can exist without the other, so that is OK.

But that’s not the same situation with regards to human factors. The industry needs everyone on board. Success is not based on “record” sales, but on the success of evolved safety cultures. That includes such programs as:

  • voluntary reporting systems;
  • detailed root cause analyses to determine HF contributing factors;
  • initial and recurrent HF training for all employees including HF trainers;
  • fatigue risk management programs;
  • addressing the issues associated with failure to follow procedures;
  • continuing to participate in government/industry HF forums.

The fact that HF contributes to 80 percent of events is testimony that ongoing HF initiatives are absolutely necessary and must involve everyone.



Music stars cater to their fan bases. They are also always trying to attract new listeners. They do that by establishing websites, Twitter accounts, newsletters and other media. They get out on the concert tours to meet the loyalists. They release new albums to ensure continued fan loyalty. They may record a duet with an artist from another musical genre. These activities may also help grow the fan base.

Let’s compare that to the promotion of human factors activities:

First, there must be an ongoing flow of fresh information.

The FAA HF website, for example, has been around since 1995, and since then it has been in a continuous state of update. Currently, it contains more than 1,700 human factors specific reports dating back to the initial series of human factors conferences in 1988. In fact, it serves as the sole online source of a handpicked (by John Goglia, retired NTSB official and Ground Support Worldwide blogger) collection of human factors-related aviation accidents dating back to the 1950s. The site contains a variety of HF training media, and even fatigue assessment software that is updated practically every month. In fact, the site is currently undergoing a complete interface revision, which will likely be launched by the time you read this article. (Log on to or

In addition, there are many other sources for current material. For example, the Civil Aerospace Medical Institute, along with the FAA’s Flight Standards Service, publishes a quarterly human factors newsletter. It is one click away from the FAA HF home page.

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

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