Human Factors in the News: Next Generation Aviation

I don’t know how I missed this back in March! They even use the words “human factor” in the title! The article is an interesting overview of the “NextGen” systems coming to aviation and explains our field to the general public.

Air traffic overhaul hinges on ‘human factor’

From the article:

Human factors’ engineering
Even amid the amazing technological achievements and wondrous capabilities of the 21st century, the most critical connection in the airline industry remains the same as it was at the birth of aviation: the human touch.

That’s where Domino comes in. Armed with a degree from George Mason University in human factors engineering, Domino studies the way humans interact with machines.

A classic task of the human factors engineer, Domino says, “is to ensure that information is being presented at the right time to a pilot and in the right form so that the human cognitive capabilities are not simply overwhelmed.”

The question is, says Domino, “What should you put in front of a pilot and in what form should that information be?”

Nice job, CNN.

Photo Credit: AviaFilms on Flickr

One thought on “Human Factors in the News: Next Generation Aviation”

  1. let me weigh in with my humble opinion(s).

    This is in a nice article, and if you do want to get a decent picture of what NextGen might be, MITRE is definitely the place for it. Also, let me get the name-dropping out of the way, and say that Dave Domino is a great researcher.

    More broadly, I would say that NextGen does not necessarily hinge on the “Human Factor.” I think NextGen actually hinges on a combination of political and economic issues that no one really knows how to overcome. The Human Factors challenges, while not trivial, are actually well researched, and can be overcome with a little creative thinking.

    NextGen issue #1: No one knows what NextGen actually is. A few years ago, I attended a panel discussion on NextGen at an HFES annual meeting. Several folks from the FAA and NASA were on the panel and gave interesting presentations about the concept of NextGen and the challenges ahead. During the discussion, I asked the panelists if they had any idea of when we would know if we had achieved “NextGen”. No one had a real answer. People just recited the same words that can be found in the NextGen Concept of Operations (Joint Planning and Development Office (2007). Concept of Operations for the Next Generation Air Transportation System, Version 2.0). The concept of NextGen is generally described with vague statements like “a world with shared situational awareness between controllers and pilots” and slightly more objective ones such as “increased throughput in the national airspace system” or “decreased delays.” Well, the issue is that we already do or try to do all of those things. So, without knowing what a system has to look like as a whole in terms of having objective performance measures, then we will not know if we ever get there there.

    NextGen issue #2: if it smells like NextGen, it must be NextGen. Because we don’t actually know what it is, then everything (or a lot of things) seem like they are (or should be) part of NextGen. For example, Jeppesen comes up with a fancy airport map display, then it must be NextGen. Honeywell develops a new Flight Management System, then it must be NextGen. So what you get is a bunch of ‘silo efforts’ to push specific technologies along to market without truly understanding their contribution to NextGen (or their interaction with other technologies).

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