There are a lot of accidents cause by pilots flying in poor weather. Decades ago Canadian aviation authorities tried to rectify this by increasing meteorological knowledge requirements and offering more opportunities for ongoing learning, and I think also improved weather information products. In the process, someone realized that pilots knew what kind of weather was forecast, knew the implications for their flight, and went flying in it anyway. It wasn't about what the pilots knew or how good the forecasts were. It was about the decisions they made with that information.
So we have Human Factors training, about the human, not mechanical or meteorological, factors in the accident chain. The theory is that if we understand why and how humans make stupid decisions and arm ourselves with some strategies to avoid such decisions, that we will make safer decisions. It's mandatory recurrent training. I recently had to ground a pilot I supervise because company records didn't show human factors training to be complete.
Last time mine was up for renewal, the safety coordinator and ops manager had signed us up for an online course. That's not an uncommon nor even a totally unwelcome form of information delivery these days. The NASA icing course is fantastic. Also free. This one wasn't, but after the first few minutes my expectations were not high.
Omen #1: The course can only be accessed though Internet Explorer.
Omen #2: When I open the course in IE, the server barfs a full page of java error messages because it can't handle the fact that I have a three letter language code set in the browser for my first choice language.
I reset the browser to en-ca and then again to plain old en and the server will finally talk to me. It asks me, "Do you think you could ever make a mistake leading to a potential aviation accident like that shown in the photograph?"
While the photograph is loading I think, "yes" because I know I make mistakes. The text is saying something similar. And then I look at the picture. It's a helicopter. So I amend my thought to, "No, I probably wouldn't try to fly a helicopter, but if I did, it would look like that shortly."
Omen #3: The next words are "However, this program will help you, an Aircraft Maintenance Technician (AMT), avoid the error you don't intend to make by raising your awareness of how those errors are made."
Um ... I'm not an AMT. Have I got the wrong course here? It's all registered to my name. Good abbreviation though. A way to refer to AMEs and apprentices in one go without having to know their paperwork status.
Omen #4 The words "to facilitate your learning you should view the "Human Factors in Aircraft Maintenance" video. The video can be obtained from Transport Canada."
Wait, they are doing web delivery of a course that requires me to go to a branch office of Transport Canada and borrow a video cassette? Okay TC has probably got it on DVD now, but geez, are they going to deliver the content or a pointer to it?
Every slide is illustrated by accident porn: the crumpled strewn remains of an aircraft. It probably sounds really macabre but in aviation we do think about these things all the time. I learned to fly in an airplane that had the words "serious injury or death" placarded in at least two different places on the dashboard in front of me. You pretty much have to present a pilot (or aircraft maintainer) with a crumpled ball of snot and aluminum to make us sit up and pay attention.
Sometimes the text doesn't change when I advance to the next slide and sometimes only part of it changes, so I have to play "spot the difference" to get the content. The core of the content is a menu of "dirty dozen" human susceptibilities. I've seen these before on maintenance breakroom posters. It's the AMT (see, I'm using my newly acquired knowledge) equivalent of the Five Dangerous Attitudes that the pilot-oriented courses teach. The student can work through the dirty dozen in any order, but even though the course encourages you not to try to do it all at once, there is no bookmark, done flag or other indication of which ones you've completed.
There are videos embedded in some slides. Possibly they are embedded in all the ones where nothing seemed to happen when I clicked next, so I clicked next again. If so, the course allowed me to go on without viewing the video. It tells me to "Click on "Continue" to see a suggestion." There's no continue button and I can't go on because the next is greyed out. I pressed the button for French, because that wasn't greyed out, and the program crashed. I log back in and look at some more, then it crashes again on refresh.
There's irony in that I'm doing this training while somewhat fatigued from last night's overnight flight and distracted by constantly checking the weather for tonight's, two of the dirty dozen right there. I'll go get a nap and tell you more about it later.