To address challenges to the aviation industry's economic health and safety, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is collaborating with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and other federal partners to plan and implement the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen). NextGen will transform the current radar-based air traffic control system into a satellite-based system. Pilot and air traffic controller roles and responsibilities are expected to become more automated, thereby requiring an understanding of human factors, which studies how humans' abilities, characteristics, and limitations interact with the design of the equipment they use, environments in which they function, and jobs they perform. FAA and NASA are tasked with incorporating human factors issues into NextGen. As requested, this report discusses the extent to which FAA's and NASA's human factors research (1) is coordinated and (2) supports NextGen. To address these issues, GAO reviewed coordination mechanisms and planning documents and synthesized the views of nine aviation human factors experts.
Recommendations for Executive Action
|Office of the Secretary||1. The Secretary of Transportation should direct the FAA Administrator to create a cross-agency human factors coordination plan in cooperation with NASA, as the JPDO has previously recommended, that establishes an agreed-upon set of initial focus areas for research, inventories existing facilities for research, and capitalizes on past and current research of all NextGen issues.|
|Office of the Secretary||2. The Secretary of Transportation should direct the FAA Administrator to assign a high priority to filling the vacancy of human factors integration lead and structure that position and the program director of Human Factors Research and Engineering Group (HFREG) position in a manner that provides the authority to ensure that human factors research and development is coordinated, considered, and prioritized in all phases of NextGen development.|