Music Appreciation And Human Factors

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

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

If there were HF concerts, however, particularly when it comes to a specialized focus on the aircraft maintenance industry, 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 since the first meeting some 20 years ago.

Although there has been a reduction in these meeting over the last few years, 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 human factors conferences. However, in order to win over new advocates and to reinforce the fan base, another maintenance HF symposium is overdue.

Like duets, human factors activities must harmonize with other programs. That should include voluntary reporting programs and the total safety management system among others.

Finally, human factors must prove its value. The money/time spent must have a financial and/or safety return (For more details, see “How To Prove The Value Of Safety” October 2011 Ground Support Worldwide). In a related and more recent addition to the subject, the European Aviation Agency cited the FAA’s Return on Investment Process as a way to show the financial and safety payback on proposed SMS/Human Fatigue regulations. When you can demonstrate the impact of HF interventions it helps to win over supporters. (There’s more on this process at



The new hits must continue to emerge. New songs keep the fans and also ensure that “oldies, but goodies” are revisited.

HF programs have been around since the late-1980s. 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 Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority, for example, has set a new international standard for high-quality human factors training materials. The FAA fatigue training materials and the movie, “Grounded,” also exemplify new materials.

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

When it comes to HF, there is one thought where we won’t find a match with the music industry. There isn’t any one annual Grammy Awards ceremony. Instead, however, our awards can come anytime we reduce worker injury, decrease aircraft damage, stop rework and delays that come with not performing a task the right way and continue to increase flight safety for everyone. That recognition can occur every day 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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