Homegrown Human Factors Training: No FAA Speaker Required

April 20, 2017
Use the FAA human factors websites in combination with your experience, creativity, and personal knowledge of organizational requirements and culture to create the most relevant training

The author has delivered a lot of human factors training in the United States and worldwide. This article is motivated by some of his observations of the industry-developed maintenance human factors training. It is “good-news” story.

“We Are Starting/Modifying Our HF Training”

Nearly every week I receive an email that starts with a statement that the writer is developing or modifying their maintenance HF training. Often the request is accompanied by an invitation for me, or a colleague from the FAA, Civil Aerospace Medical Institute or an FAA Airworthiness Inspector to come and speak to your maintenance workforce. Of course, we are flattered by the invitation to visit your organization, to see your maintenance or manufacturing force at work, and then to deliver a portion or all of your training. If only we had the time and other resources we would be delighted to accept such invitations. We are increasingly convinced that we offer a better alternative which is our website (www.humanfactorsinfo.com or www.mxfatigue.com) in combination with your experience, creativity, and personal knowledge of organizational requirements and culture.

Our Invitation Counteroffer

I have been responding to the invitations by directing you to our website, Once I get you to our FAA website I steer you to the training HF materials, the Maintenance Human Factors Training Presentation System, the Fatigue Awareness Training, and the fatigue movie titled “Grounded.” All of these materials are in usable format and “open source” (code word for free). The Maintenance Human Factors Presentation System is generic legacy HF training. Most users choose to supplement the generic training with discussions about safety culture, voluntary reporting, and other current topics that are organizationally relevant.

When I suggest these sites I often ask for examples of the training that they've developed. In many cases I get to see the products that are derived from those websites and other places. I am usually positively impressed. You have the ability to select the information, graphics, and media that work for you. It is especially excellent when you add pictures from your workplace and use data from your safety management system or recent safety-related events. Just last week I asked a respondent for permission to use some of the ideas and graphics that he added to the FAA and CASA materials. I went from being the trainer to being the student. Thank you for that!

Why You Should Be the HF Training Developer or Trainer

Adult learning is called “Andragogy.” It refers to the training and education practices for adults/mature learners. Most adults, especially aviation maintenance technicians are very practical about what they want to learn and how to learn it most efficiently. Most adult learners seek immediate relevancy. For example, “tell me about good sleep habits and not about sleep theory;” “show me the fuel system and how to troubleshoot a pump failure or how to service a filter rather than how fuel is refined.” Since you know the workplace and organizational challenges you can ensure training that is relevant. You know what is important for your workers.

Because you can zoom on specific issues your training can be efficient and, more likely, effective. Since you know the general background of the students you are able to tailor the information to their knowledge and experience level.

If you, or a colleague, develop and know the human factors training materials it is easier to schedule training, as a formal class or even in short amounts at a shift meeting. You can ensure that recurrent HF training is precisely targeted at your workers.

Train the Trainer

It is important that you or your human factors trainer know some of the fundamentals of being a trainer. Just because you are a great aviation maintenance technician or maintenance supervisor does not qualify you as a human factors trainer. People always ask me “What are the qualifications of good maintenance human factors trainer?” The answer is never straight-forward. At a minimum they must be enthusiastic, have had some formal HF training, and know something about the aviation maintenance environment. That list of this author’s suggestions does not use the words certificate holder or college graduate. While an AMT certificate, maintenance work experience, and college training may be helpful the credential list should not make that a requirement.

A Word about Training Providers

It would be remiss not to mention outside contract training providers. This author confesses a positive bias for external human factors and other training providers, having spent many years in that role prior to FAA. External providers have a broad view of the HF topic and yet they see many specific maintenance training organizations per year. They have many examples of maintenance challenges. External providers have the resources to train their trainers and always provide new materials matched to regulations and local requirements. They get in, get out, and get paid. There is much to be said about the efficiency of a consultant. Each organization must decide what works best for them.

More Advice Wanted?

Loads of new maintenance human factors training development and delivery advice is on its way, with 2017 publication dates. During 2016 FAA accepted many excellent public comments on the proposed replacement for Advisory Circular AC 120-72 formally called Maintenance Resource Management Training. The public input, as always, added high value to the final document. That AC will be replaced with a new focus, mostly a way to direct readers to many sites and sources for HF training materials.

The newly revised Air Transport Association (now A4A) ATA Spec 104 Guide for Maintenance Training Development. Spec 104 is the product of the A4A Maintenance Training Committee and represents the work of many airlines from all of the Americas. It is an excellent substitute for any textbook on maintenance training development and delivery. It will be available, for sale, from the Airlines for America website (airlines.org) and is a must for all airline training departments.