Human Factors

Human Factors Engineering

SST provides broad-based Human Factors Engineering support services to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) at William J. Hughes Technical Center (WJHTC) in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The objective of these services is to generate and apply to system development, both new and existing knowledge about the capabilities and limitations of the human user in order to optimize performance, minimize error, and increase safety under a variety of operational aviation conditions. SST achieves this objective through the use of scientific methods, advanced technology, and the management of human engineering activities at all stages of system development; from its initial stages including concept evaluation and prototype design, to later stages of operational system testing, evaluation, and fielding. This is an iterative process involving the analysis, design, and evaluation of the man-machine interface.

This requires a multi-disciplinary approach involving such areas as engineering psychology, ergonomics and anthropometry, cognition psychology, and industrial design. SST’s engineers and psychologists are involved in the analysis of system requirements to usability testing and employ established evaluation techniques, such as cognitive task analysis (CTA), user-centered designs, computer human interface (CHI) studies, on-site inspections and evaluations, the use of focus groups, and structured human-in-the-loop (HITL) studies. The primary focus is to understand the way in which air traffic controllers and “traffic flow management personnel”, pilots, airspace security coordinators, and other experts interact with technology to execute safety-critical missions.

This collaborative approach is critical to SST’s Human Engineering evaluation efforts in that this method assesses the impact of the entire system on all aspects of the user. A Human Factors Analysis is conducted to ensure that the characteristics of the user are fully integrated into the design of the system. It is in this area that the human’s cognitive, perceptual and physical capabilities needed to efficiently operate, maintain, and support the system (or ancillary equipment) are evaluated. To minimize the potential for human error and the risk for injury, both a System Safety and Health Hazard Risk Assessment are also employed. Safety hazards associated with the design characteristics or operation of the system, such as those involving mechanical components, and features which may result in more serious bodily injury or cumulative physical impairment, such as noise, vibration, and temperature, are assessed, and either eliminated through design modifications or controlled through changes in operational procedures.

SST also considers the human user in other areas of system development.  A Manpower Evaluation is conducted to determine if the human resources allocated to operate and maintain the system are adequate to meet its demands.  Often deficiencies in manpower lead to an increase in operational workload and a corresponding reduction in human performance and safety. New or modified system requirements may also impact the ability of the target user population to operate the system under all of the conditions and environments anticipated.  A Personnel Skills Assessment is designed to provide a detailed description of the qualifications required by operators and maintainers, and to evaluate the degree to which available personnel possess the knowledge, skills and capabilities for successful system interaction. If deficiencies in this area are found to exist, an Instructional Training Assessment must also be directed to identify the type of training and education needed for user personnel to acquire the appropriate abilities. 

As part of our current support to the FAA’s Research Development and Human Factors Laboratory (RDHFL) at the WJHTC, SST studies such issues as the trade-off between advanced automation and the need to maintain situational awareness (SA). One example is the degree of reliability of “aircraft conflict detection automation” necessary to support user acceptance and improve performance without negatively impacting operator workload. Additionally, we are supporting several efforts related to the display of weather information to aviation personnel, including a series of simulation studies comparing various displays of weather in aircraft cockpits, and the development of a “style guide” for consistent, clear display of integrated weather and traffic information on the Traffic Situation Display (TSD) used by FAA Traffic Flow Management personnel. We also support updates to the FAA’s Human Factors Design Standard which is used globally for the design and acquisition of aviation systems, as well as for laboratory research advancing the body of knowledge about Decision Support Tools. Modifications to these guidelines are applicable to both Traffic Flow Management systems and to human-automation interaction in general.

We also conduct HITL simulations to support concept evaluation and investment/implementation decisions. SST performs all phases of HITL simulation, from planning, development and shakedown to data collection, processing, and analysis using operational personnel.  SST delivers briefings, reports, and scholarly literature for the FAA and the larger Human Engineering community. During HITLs studies and other operational evaluations, we conduct operator assessments of controllers and pilots, as well as construct evaluations such as SA and workload. SST employs these interactive simulations to quantify both motor and cognitive skills using recognized methods and metrics, including survey methodologies, and physiological measures such as electroencephalography (EEG), heart rate variability (HRV), and eye tracking. We also develop novel performance, SA, and workload measurement techniques, and tailor existing techniques to meet the needs of our customers and their specific testing and evaluation requirements.