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Human integration into the life-cycle of aviation systems

Periodic Report Summary - HILAS (Human integration into the life-cycle of aviation systems)

The 'Human integration into the life-cycle of aviation systems' (HILAS) project aimed to develop a 'system life-cycle' model in which knowledge generated about the human aspects of the system at the operational end is transformed into an active resource for the design of more effective operational systems and better, more innovative, use of technologies.

The HILAS project contains four parallel strands of work: the integration and management of human factors knowledge; flight operations processes and performance; the evaluation of new flight deck technologies, and the monitoring and assessment of maintenance operations. A knowledge management system linking all the strands of the project will facilitate the use of the project’s knowledge both inside and outside the project. It will also examine how to transform operational knowledge to stimulate new design concepts. A standardised European model for flight operations performance monitoring and process improvement will be developed using cockpit integration technology. The evaluation of new flight deck technologies will address new and emerging technologies, such as synthetic vision, head-mounted displays and multi-modal dialogue systems. The human factors of these technologies will be evaluated in an integrated simulation rig. An integrated and standardised set of tools and methods will be developed for assessing and managing human factors across the aircraft maintenance lifecycle, from design to operations.

Whereas the flight deck strand had a clear bounded experimental methodology, which enabled it to deliver its programme of work very much according to the plan, in the flight operations, maintenance and knowledge integration strands there was a rather uneasy tension between action research and system development methodologies. Operational organisations, unlike large design and manufacturing organisations do not have research and development departments - thus research and development activities have to meet the short-term operational or organisational goals of the participating organisations, as well as the medium to long term research goals of the project. This fits well within an action research framework which concerns the implementation and evaluation of change, but these HILAS strands also had a mandate to develop supporting software systems. For the first two years of the project a system development methodology predominated, but this met a crisis when it was impossible to reconcile the range of scenarios offered - some of which were closely tied to specific software developments and others having a wider organisational context. The action research logic tended to dominate in the following period, with the software development programme being focused on a small number of distinct initiatives in different companies. As the integrated organisational framework became more mature in the last year of the project there was a concerted attempt to bring together a renewed system development programme, based on integrated services architecture. This was partially successful, and provides a strong platform for continuing research and development to bring the software concepts more downstream towards a commercially viable concept.

The project was structured into the following main work packages:
- Knowledge integration research strand
- Flight operations & maintenance research strands
- Flight deck research strand

The flight deck strand developed a two cycle experimental programme to support the development and validation of a suite of human factors evaluation tools designed to meet emerging certification requirements. During this programme a set of new tools were developed, integrated with existing tools and deployed in a simulation rig with specific new applications of technology. The integration of a diverse set of human factors methodologies in a simulation environment, and the development of a common framework for analysing and applying the results of these methods represents a significant innovation, integrating a cost-effective HF assessment of new flight deck prototypes, within the technology development cycle.

The flight operations and maintenance strands progressively integrated their research and development programme to produce a best-practice set of organisational processes for managing operational performance, risk and change, together with implementation guidance, documented case studies & evaluations of implementation in industrial partners. A services architecture to support an integrated set of software tools and methods was developed. A set of operational process models were developed representing the flight process (pre-flight to post flight) and a range of line and base maintenance processes. A methodology was developed for the in-depth analysis of the human role in operational processes. Methods for the survey and analysis of different aspects of organisational culture were developed and implemented in a number of organisations.

A knowledge management system was developed to manage the project’s knowledge and materials. This facilitated and supported the emergence of an active collaboration network, especially between Flight Operations and Maintenance partners. This enables the development and sharing of best practice, based on the centres of excellence concept, in which the different participating organisations developed their own best practice in their areas of strength, supported by HILAS partners. Sharing and integrating this knowledge created the overall HILAS organisational concepts.

The overall conceptual framework developed in the HILAS project represents a significant advance on the current state of the art. This framework has the following characteristics. It is systemic in its approach to the operational systems of aviation, addressing their underlying functional/ causal logic. It is naturalistic in addressing how these systems actually function in the normal operational world. It is dynamic in examining and supporting the processes underlying stability and change. Its scope encompasses the aviation system-of-systems, using the links between flight operations and maintenance to explore and develop the interactions between these components of the overall system. It attempted an ambitious integration of different modes and levels of analysis in a theoretically inclusive synthesis, from the actions of people in the organisation and process, the understanding that supports these actions and the shared cultural meanings.