Aviation Research and Development: A Framework for the Effective Practice of Human Factors, or "What Your Mentor Never Told You About a Career in Human Factors . . ."
John E. Deaton CHI Systems, Inc., Orlando, FL
Jeffrey G. Morrison Space Warfare Systems Center, San Diego, CA
Since its meager beginnings in the chaos of the second world war, human factors has come to fill a substantial role in aviation. In fact, it is arguably in this domain that human factors has received its greatest acceptance as an essential part of the research, development, test, and evaluation cycle. This acceptance has come from the critical role humans, notably pilots, play in these person-machine systems, the unique problems and challenges these systems place on human perception, physiology, and cognition, and the dire consequences of human error in these systems. As a result, there have been numerous opportunities for the development of a science of human factors that has contributed significantly to the safety and growth of aviation.
Times are changing, and with the end of the Cold War, funding for human factors research and development is shrinking along with military spending. Being a successful practitioner in the field of human factors will require considerable skills that are beyond those traditionally taught as part of a graduate curriculum in human factors. New challenges are being presented that will require a closer strategic attention to what we do, how we do it, and what benefits accrue as a result of our efforts. This chapter offers snippets of what, we hope, passes for wisdom based on the authors' experience in the practice of human factors. It describes questions and issues that the successful practitioner of human factors must bear in mind to conduct research, development, testing, and engineering (RDT&E) in any domain. The bulk of the authors' experience is with the Department of Defense (DoD), and this is the basis of our discussion. Nonetheless, the lessons learned and advice should be applicable across other endeavors related to the science of human factors.