Travel around the world, or even within a single country, and you'll find human factors principles applied unevenly in aviation maintenance due, in part, to uncertainties among maintenance leaders and inspectors as to what this field is all about.
The recent announcement of a merger between US Airways and American Airlines does far more than create the largest airline in the U.S. (see page MRO28). It may be releasing vast amounts of cortisol into the brains of workers who are unsure what this combination may mean for their jobs and future.
Luxembourg Airport-based PowerJet Aviation specializes in aircraft sales and recycling, spare parts and airline consulting. Its disassembly and recycling facility is located at Chateauroux Airport, France. Aviation Week Contributing Editor Heather Baldwin spoke with CEO Karl Rickard, who is involved in the overhauled engine and engine parts business daily, to understand the market for engines coming off parked aircraft.
Aviation Week: Which engine parts are moving most quickly out of the shop today after an engine is dismantled?
Industry predictions call for 12,000 aircraft to be replaced in the global fleet over the next 20 years as they reach the end of their service lives. As airlines move to more fuel-efficient, quieter and more environmentally sensitive aircraft, older ones are shuffling downstream, often to be parked or dismantled. This may be happening faster than in the past, since operators appear to be deciding more quickly to disassemble, taking advantage of the spare parts market for early end-of-life aircraft and engine models.
The initial move away from punishing good technicians for maintenance errors began about two decades ago as savvy leaders began to understand the downside of disciplining to “fix” errors—and the upside of instead conducting a thorough evaluation of the “why” behind those errors. Since then, leading maintenance organizations have created non-punitive cultures in which committees dig into the causes behind errors with the aim of identifying whether changes in policy, process or documentation should be made to prevent future occurrences of the same errors.
Error reduction in a maintenance operation demands optimal performance from technicians. But in this era of downsized workforces, aggressive cost-cutting and constant time pressures, it's tougher than ever to extract peak performance from mechanics every day.
Lack of effective communication, one of the Dirty Dozen root causes of human error in maintenance, is to blame for many of the problems that crop up in the hangar. When organizations address this topic, typically they zero in on handovers between shifts and clarity of written items in logbooks. Rarely do managers step back and consider how they are communicating through the signage posted around the workplace. It may seem a small thing, but the words on your walls matter.
There are two types of strategies when it comes to safety. The first can be implemented by a verbal or written command, such as a change to a reporting procedure or a new training program. The second requires a change in human behavior—a far more difficult undertaking. Human factors initiatives tend to fall squarely into this second bucket.
In the quest to reduce errors and improve safety, managers too often focus on the wrong questions. They ask things like, “How can we reduce our incident rate?” and “How can I get workers to pick up debris on the shop floor?” What they should be asking is something like: What is keeping technicians from doing what they already know is right?
• Two technicians were discussing last night's hockey game while a third wrestled to maneuver a piece of heavy equipment. Although within 10 ft. of each other, the talking pair never volunteered to help and the technician handling the load never asked for it.
• When a large MRO switched its safety reporting initiative from a phone-based system to an Internet-based system, input from technicians skyrocketed from six calls in eight years to more than 800 reports in the first year alone.
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