As flights become longer and technology becomes more sophisticated, the quantity and variety of passenger activities, such as eating, drinking, sleeping, exercising, movie viewing, electronic shopping and gaming, and conducting business, will increase. What will be the physical and cognitive effects of these activities on the well-being of this "captive audience"?
Future changes should be made to the aviation human factors discipline in general. There is a need for an increase in the extent and accuracy of physical and statistical computer human-modeling tools. Current methods of modeling human figures within electronic mockups of aircraft parts and interiors are still relatively crude for accurate analysis. As for user data, state-of-the-art methods do not yet bridge gaps in user data for various populations. There still may be data gaps between designers and users. There is a wealth of information available, not only from passengers but also from crew members, maintenance personnel, and assembly mechanics, that goes virtually untapped, even at world-class aircraft manufacturing companies. There is currently no method or tool for bridging language or cultural barriers. And, finally, improvements are necessary in the aviation industry to ensure that human factors engineering methods are applied to cabin interior products and systems early in the design process.
Currently, only a limited number of procurement contracts require human factors involvement and signoff in the design activity. If this practice were to be made standard, it would help to make the human factors discipline a useful resource across all areas. Increased use of human factors methods should bring increased evidence of their benefits.
The engineering profession is making exponential technology advances in many directions. Human factors specialists today must be very diligent about trying to match these new advanced technologies to users. The temptation to focus only on technology in the spirit of advancement is great. It is the responsibility of the human factors specialists to keep aircraft--or any technology--from growing beyond the capabilities and limitations of its users. The solution is for human factors professionals to work together with design engineers to develop and apply new technologies that incorporate the human as a system component. Developing measurable and defensible user requirements is the key to making this happen.
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