Aircraft Maintenance From Management Perspective Beyond Human Factors Management

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Human factors problems in aviation maintenance still present a significant risk to potential accident, liability and company expense despite required Human Factors Training. A brief history of Human Factors history and the increasing awareness of the importance of Crew Resource Management (CRM) shows these programs continue to be extremely important. However, Human Factor Management programs alone are not enough in this day and age and need to be constantly monitored and improved upon. Looking at the bigger picture through a Performance Excellence Framework system will ensure continuous improvements in delivering safe products and services, demonstrates effective and efficient operations and provides excellent communication opportunities between management, customers, mechanics, support employees, and stakeholders. Adopting a Performance Excellence Framework within an aircraft maintenance business will take safety to a higher level and reduce company costs in the long run. 

History of Crew Resource Management and Human Factors in Aviation Maintenance Programs

The evolution of Human Factors training (HF) and Crew Resource Management (CRM) clearly shows these programs are important, save lives and equipment and reduce costs after implementation. Beginning with civil aviation in the 1979 NASA sponsored an industry workshop in response to an increased frequency in aviation accidents. The conference “Resource Management in the Flight Deck” focused on CRM, a new term focusing on flight crew training where all resources, information and equipment would be utilized to achieve safe and efficient flight operations. Each major air carrier departed the conference committed to CRM training. (FAA 8.5) CRM is now a multi-disciplinary field drawing from psychology, social science, engineering, and behavioral- science. It optimizes a reduction in human performance and design errors. 

CRM has been so effective that surgery centers and other fields outside of aviation now utilize this resource. (France 2007) CRM is part of a broader Human Factors (HF) outlook. It wasn’t until 1988, when Aloha Flight 243, a Boeing 737 flying at 24,000’ turned into a convertible, when the top of the fuselage failed, that the FAA began holding meetings to deal with Human Factors (HF) in aircraft maintenance. (System-Safety) The U.S. Congress passed the Aviation Safety Act and directed the FAA to conduct research on all aspects of human performance in aviation. (Flight Safety) After this aviation accident, under the leadership of Bill Shepherd of the FAA, Human Factors in Aviation Maintenance Symposiums have been held annually. (System-Safety) Mechanics are human, like pilots and unintentional mistakes can be reduced through Maintenance Resource Management, just like the CRM used by flight-deck crews. 

Continental Airlines was the first to expand CRM and HF principles into maintenance and engineering in 1989, introducing its Crew Coordination Concepts program. (Flight Safety) Clearly, the time had come to implement HR safety measures in the aviation maintenance workplace. Companies identified the long term cost savings and improvements in safety that are seen when HF and CRM are implemented. 

As the culture of safety and communications continues to grow in the aviation industry, new and improved methodologies continue to evolve. Performance Excellence Framework provides another concept that will take Human Factors to the next level. It’s a well laid out framework that will work well in aviation maintenance business models looking to continue to improve safety and company culture. 

Performance Excellence Framework An Aviation Perspective

The Baldridge Performance Excellence Framework was established in 1987 to reward and support U.S. organizations in both business and government sectors with the goal being an improvement in overall organizational quality. Performance excellence is an increasingly important component of competitiveness, and the Baldridge Quality Award, handed out by the President, makes quality a national priority. Several aviation companies have achieved the award, namely Boeing (1998, 2003) and Lockheed Martin (2012). (Boeing, Lockheed Martin) This framework provides an additional company-wide perspective similar, yet larger in scope than Human Factor maintenance management alone. It is the next step for managers looking for excellence. 

The Performance Excellence Framework (PEF) focuses on a broader company view incorporating many aspects beyond Human Factors Maintenance. This framework follows a value-added approach for customers and businesses, building a system that will provide a competitive advantage over a long period of time. 

In a Human Factors survey conducted by Adrian Xavier of Embry Riddle, more than 50% listed “attitudes of personnel”, “training effectiveness” and “organizational culture” as top factors needing a review to better manage Human Factors in maintenance. (Xavier 26, 31) Clearly, required Human Factors Training is helping reduce safety problems in the workplace, yet more can be done to improve communication between management and workers.


Incorporating a Performance Excellence Framework into aviation maintenance business models will assist in finding better, newer solutions to safety and workplace problems. The key thrust of a Performance Excellence Framework is establishing a company-wide culture of continuous improvements in communication and innovation throughout the entire organization, not just safety and training programs alone. Reviewing the aviation maintenance company’s people, processes and results will generate new solutions and strategies to improve Human Factors beyond Human Factors and Crew Resource Management. Beginning with CRM, companies understand the importance of implementing innovative management approaches and processes between employee, technology, and machine. A Performance Excellence Framework works in the aviation sector, as demonstrated by Boeing and Lockheed Martin, and is another resource for companies looking to provide and expand the highest standards of safety and excellence within the aviation maintenance industry. 


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