Ashley Reives, Edmundo Sierra
Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) is the transformation of how airplanes traverse the sky in the National Airspace System (NAS). For close to six decades, planes have used World War II era technology—NextGen is an upgrade to satellite-based technology. This paper assesses the state of human factors integration with NextGen through the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Acquisition Management System (AMS).
The development of NextGen is too complex for a single disciple to design and implement, as the NAS is a System of Systems (SoS). The successful development of NextGen requires a team of program managers, systems engineers, subject matter experts, and specialty engineers that spans the knowledge domains applied to all aspects of the system development life cycle.
Systems engineering is a discipline that concentrates on the design and application of the whole system as distinct from the parts. In the FAA, systems engineering is conducted throughout the lifecycle management process and is aligned with the AMS. The AMS was created by the FAA to incorporate organizational best practices from various functional disciplines to develop agency-wide policy and guidance. The role of the systems engineer in the AMS is to orchestrate the involvement of the specialty engineering disciplines to achieve the best possible solution that meets the need.
Human factors engineering is a critical specialty engineering discipline. In the FAA, it is a multi-disciplinary effort to generate and apply human performance information to acquire safe, efficient, and effective operational systems. Human factors engineering should be integrated with the systems engineering and development effort throughout the lifecycle management process.
The FAA’s Human Factors Acquisition Working Group (HFAWG) develops and reviews human factors engineering requirements for representation in AMS Policy, promoting the use of System Engineering principles. The HFAWG is a cross-organizational body of human factors stakeholders that reviews and develops policy, process, and guidance to support compliance with Acquisition Management Policy.
The authors utilized expert elicitation to gather information from 12 subject matter experts (SMEs) in the HFAWG. First, the authors delivered an overview of human factors artifacts in lifecycle acquisition management phases and decision points. After the overview, the authors asked the members to fill out a questionnaire to assess the state of human factors in AMS based on their experience. The authors also used a second questionnaire to develop a free-flowing discussion among the participants to identify shortfalls.
An analysis of the SME data collected was used to assess the state of human factors integration in the AMS lifecycle. The results indicated a lack of human factors guidance across multiple phases and the underutilization of available guidance. SMEs reported techniques for improving visibility and adoption of human factors guidance. The results will be applied to the improvement of human factors guidance into systems engineering and other FAA process guidance, and will be used as a baseline for review of AMS policy.