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On the design of flight-deck procedures
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  • Abstract:
    In complex human-machine systems, operations, training, and standardization depend on an elaborate set of procedures which are specified and mandated by the operational management of the organization. These procedures indicate to the human operator (in this case the pilot) the manner in which operational management intends to have various tasks performed. The intent is to provide guidance to the pilots, to ensure a logical, efficient, safe, and predictable (standardized) means of carrying out the mission objectives. However, in some operations these procedures can become a hodge-podge, with little coherency in terms of consistency and operational logic. Inconsistent or illogical procedures may lead to deviations from procedures by flight crews, as well as difficulty in transition training for pilots moving from one aircraft to another. In this report the authors examine the issue of procedure use and design from a broad viewpoint. The authors recommend a process which they call "The Four P's:" philosophy, policies, procedures, and practices. They believe that if an organization commits to this process, it can create a set of procedures that are more internally consistent, less confusing, better respected by the flight crews, and that will lead to greater conformity. Although this report is based on airline operations, principles may be applicable to other complex, high-risk systems, such as nuclear power production, manufacturing process control, space flight, law enforcement, military operations, and high-technology medical practice.

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