Human Factors Toolbox

May 22, 2008
FAA offers the Maintenance Human Factors Presentation System

The FAA has released tools to help maintenance organizations tailor human factors presentations to match their specific requirements. The Maintenance Human Factors Presentation System (MHFPS) has nearly 150 Microsoft PowerPoint slides, 10 video snippets, and 40 animations. Why did the FAA Flight Standards Service create the system and what can it do for your company?

FAA inspectors asked for it
The project stemmed from the results of a 2007 survey to U.S. FAA airworthiness aviation safety inspectors (Johnson and Hackworth, 2008). FAA inspectors said that they wanted material to help them make presentations to their FAA peers and to industry audiences. They wanted material that contained appropriate multimedia — like videos and animations — but also editable PowerPoint slides with organized content.
The requirement demanded interesting and high-value topics, but not necessarily a complete human factors course of instruction. In many cases, technical personnel, such as inspectors or engineers/mechanics, have many valuable stories but not the accompanying instructional media. The request from FAA inspectors is the same as comments received from every segment of the aircraft maintenance industry, to include general aviation, helicopter operators, airlines, maintenance repair organizations, military, and others. From this, the idea of the MHFPS was born.

Repeat after me, please — ‘MHFPS is not computer-based training (CBT)’

The MHFPS is a very large software package. It is delivered on DVD and is not conducive to web-based distribution. With its high-resolution videos, flash animations, and multiple graphical PowerPoint slides, the system consumes over 1 gigabyte in storage. It works well on a 2-gigabyte memory drive, allowing you to have all the original content — along with your own customized presentation — on the same memory stick. In fact, one of the goals of the system is that it lets you customize the presentation — adding, deleting, and modifying slides as they relate to your organization.

There are a few basic expectations to start. You must have a DVD and you must have PowerPoint. External audio speakers enhance the videos and animations. If your computer permits “auto run,” the DVD will start automatically and bring up the main menu, shown in Figure 1. If your system does not permit auto run, just open the DVD directory and select “Start Menu Click Here.”

The MHFPS does not require a written user’s manual. You should watch the “Instructions for Use” video before delivering a presentation. This short video describes the system and its use, and is available by clicking the top left box from the launch menu. You can run the standard presentations directly from the launch menu.

Once you get creative
Your last choice on the launch menu, before “Exit,” is to load the entire program to your own computer. Then you can make as many changes as your knowledge and creativity allow. Select “Copy to Computer” to have the system automatically load the software to the root of your C drive in a directory named MHFPS. Because of the many hyperlinks within the program, it is important that you keep your presentations within the MHFPS directory. The PowerPoint “help” resources may be very useful to you once you start moving hyperlinks and “hidden slides,” as there is a chance that you may need to reset some of the links.

Creation — the media and the content
The MHFPS covers a set of generic topics that blend a touch of basics with concepts that the presenter can apply to the specific workplace. It creates a forum to discuss major world aviation events as well as local data from a company’s error reporting data. It also provides information and web links to ensure continuing education opportunities. MHFPS includes the following main topics:

  • Introduction to human factors
  • History of human factors
  • Human factors spectacles
  • The PEAR model (with fatigue)
  • Human error and event reporting
  • Maintenance accidents
  • Where to get more information

The media takes three formats. First, the foundation is based on PowerPoint slides. The slides have a standardized format, modern graphics, and optional notes for the speaker. Newly produced video snippets, two to four minutes in length, are the anchors for primary sections of the system. There are 10 videos. The third media offering is Adobe Flash animations, provided by Lufthansa Technical Training. Lufthansa saw the value of the MHFPS for not only FAA inspectors, but also for the world. Therefore, it contributed production ideas and approximately 40 animations from the nearly 250 contained in its human factors web-based training program ( The MHFPS is not a substitution for the computer-based training of Lufthansa or any other CBT provider. Repeat — the MHFPS is not CBT and is not a substitute for the many excellent courses and human factors consulting offered by many first-rate providers worldwide.

Contacts to obtain MHFPS in your region
Asia-PacificHong Kong Civil Aviation Department[email protected]Asia-PacificSingapore Institute of Aerospace Engineers[email protected]Europe-UKInternational Federation of Airworthiness[email protected]North America and OtherFAA Civil Aerospace Medical Institute[email protected]

The MHFPS uses easy-to-remember methods to apply human factors principles at work and in life outside of work. One example is the four-minute video on “human factors spectacles” (Figure 2). This segment provides a way to see human factors not only in the workplace, but also in one’s personal life. It permits the presenter to run the video and let it serve as a basis to discuss various ways to view human factors issues. Users have commented that the dialogue between the actors in the videos is fun to watch, while delivering a very useful message.

The largest and most content-intense section in the MHFPS addresses the PEAR model, developed by Bill Johnson and Mike Maddox in the early 1990s. PEAR represents people, the environment in which they work, the actions that they perform, and the resources necessary to perform work. Figure 3 is a sample of a graphic from one of the Lufthansa animations that answer the question, “Why use models to explain things?”

The PEAR model is a way for the presenter to explore a variety of human factors that affect work and life. The system lets a presenter provide as much, or as little, detail that they choose. For example, the MHFPS has a video, many animations, and a number of slides that address fatigue issues. Fatigue issues are included in the “people” portion of the PEAR model chapter.

One size doesn’t fit all
It is a challenge to present slides made by another. The MHFPS system offers notes for each slide, but presenters are not bound to a script or limited to the nearly 150 slides in the program. The introductory video encourages you to add your name and logo. You should take ownership of the presentation. One of the videos describes MHFPS as a “giant Lego-like collection of human factors information.” Use the blocks to build a presentation that works for you.

Availability and distribution
The MHFPS is available through professional associations, local FAA offices, other international regulators, and at FAA booths at conventions. The Table on Page 30 shows the best contact to obtain a DVD from your region. FAA is welcoming others to help distribute the system worldwide.

Other documents on the MHFPS DVD
In 2006 and 2007, FAA teamed with industry to develop two operators’ manuals for human factors (Figure 4). One manual is for aviation maintenance and the other is for other airport operations — like ramp, fueling, deicing, baggage, and more. The maintenance version won the FAA Administrator’s 2006 award for Use of Plain Language. These two manuals are complementary to the MHFPS and are packaged on the DVD. They are also available at

The author acknowledges that the MHFPS was a combined effort of the Flight Standards Aircraft Maintenance Division including Jay Hiles, Jennifer Ciaccio, and Marcus Cunningham, with additional support of the FAA Chief Scientific and Technical Advisor Program. The animation files, provided by Lufthansa Technical Training, were invaluable to the program development and quality.

Johnson, W.B. and Hackworth, C. (2008). Human factors in maintenance: surveys reveal the importance of regulations mandating human factors programs. The FlightSafety Foundation AeroSafety World, March 2008.

Dr. Bill Johnson is chief scientific and technical advisor for Maintenance Human Factors, Federal Aviation Administration. He can be reached at [email protected].