What do the terms Human Factors Foundation and Aeronautical Error Management Systems Training really mean?  And perhaps more importantly, why are we doing it and how does it affect me?


t is a fact that we are in the business of putting aircraft in the sky; after all, we are the Royal Air Force.  It is also a fact that ‘Human Factors’ and errors affect us all in our everyday life; it’s not just something that happens to Aircrew, or to the Engineers who service the aircraft or even solely in work.  Everyone, and I mean everyone, makes mistakes, bad judgement calls, speed on the way into work, breaks the rules, take shortcuts, take unnecessary risks and were then surprised when a horrible consequence impacts our lives.  Accidents, or perhaps more appropriately labelled as incidents, happen.

Mr Charles Haddon-Cave QC was charged with investigating the events which led to the sad loss of Nimrod XV230 in 2006.  The investigation report is a long but very thorough look into the ‘chain of events’ surrounding the aircraft, and more importantly, the tragic loss of so many lives.  The Military Aviation Authority (MAA) was established in response to one of the many recommendations from the report.  There are more than 100 further recommendations in the report; clearly something had to be done.

‘Human Factors’ (HF) is not just about the individual, but also the system we work in.  The Foundation Workshop currently being run here at RAF Coningsby investigates the relationships between the rules and procedures, the equipment and their configuration, the environment and us, human beings.  It looks at leadership, teamwork and communication. Through some student interaction, we look at the ‘Error Zone’, the organisational, physical and mental factors that affect us all on a daily basis.  It then asks the question what happens when something gives and what can we do about it to prevent it from happening again?

Think of an Iceberg, imagine one serious fatal accident at the top above the water.  How many near misses are just under the water level?  How many more reportable incidents are under that and, even further down in the depths of the dark murky water, the hundreds of unsafe acts, the “phew, I got away with that one”?  The Aeronautical Error Management System is there to encourage an open and just culture to stop those unsafe acts and to promote reporting of incidents.  Reporting incidents means they can be investigated and everyone can learn the lessons before something more serious happens.  The workshop also investigates error and blame, and then moves onto error management to highlight the importance that we MUST get this right NOW.

So, how does this affect me?  I sit behind a desk?  Or I cook the food in the Mess?  Why should I be bothered?  Because this does, unequivocally, without a shadow of a doubt, affect every single person in the RAF.

The case studies are fascinating; what do you think really happened on the Costa Concordia?  Who is going to get the blame?

FDS are running HF Foundation and AEMS courses everyday up until 31 Mar 12.  All Service personnel are mandated to attend.  If you are not in date with HF (the competency is lifed for 2 years), give TDF a call (ext 7861) and get your name down, it won’t be a waste of time.

FS Kev Frisby, FS Trg Development and HF Instructor