Newswise — Washington, DC (November 18, 2020) – The Human Factors and Ergonomics Society (HFES) applauds Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Administrator Steve Dickson’s order that returns the Boeing 737 MAX to service following the fatal Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crashes last year and the aircraft’s subsequent grounding.

The Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines crashes were the latest in a long string of accidents caused by insufficient attention to automation reliability and pilot understanding of automated systems in aircraft system design. In December 2019, Dr. Mica Endsley, HFES’s Government Relations Committee Chair, testified before the U.S. House of Representatives in a hearing that examined the FAA’s oversight of the aircraft’s certification. Dr. Endsley’s testimony focused on how human factors engineering should be applied and prioritized in the design and development of all civilian and military aircraft systems and how those standards were not followed in the design and certification of the 737 MAX. Automation confusion and loss of situation awareness are common challenges brought on by the inherent brittleness of automation, lack of automation display transparency, and inadequate automated system training. 

Accidents such as these, and their costly aftermaths, can be easily prevented. The Society is monitoring efforts by Congress that seek to restore FAA’s oversight mechanisms, require human factors design and testing throughout aircraft systems development and certification, and promote a strong safety culture at all aircraft manufacturers. HFES strongly supports legislation to address not only the specific failures associated with the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines crashes, but also other issues related to human use of automation.

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About Human Factors and Ergonomics Society

The Human Factors and Ergonomics Society is the world’s largest scientific association for human factors/ergonomics professionals and scholars with more than 3,500 members globally. The mission of HFES is to advance the science and practice of designing for people in systems through knowledge exchange, collaboration, and advocacy. HFES members include psychologists and other scientists, designers, practitioners, and engineers, all of whom have a common interest in designing systems and equipment to be safe and effective for the people who operate and maintain them.

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