FAA Adviser: Following Procedure Not Just AMT Problem

 - May 7, 2019, 10:51 PM
Bill Johnson, chief scientific and technical adviser to the FAA, explains the systemic issues involved with following procedures. (Photo: Jerry Siebenmark)

The afternoon session at Tuesday’s NBAA Maintenance Conference in Fort Worth, Texas, was billed as “Worker Fatigue and Procedural Compliance,” but speaker and FAA chief scientific and technical adviser Bill Johnson spent most of the session focusing on failure to follow procedure (FFP). He suggested that it’s not just an aviation maintenance technician (AMT) issue, but an organizational one. “I was going to call this ‘Wake Up And Follow Procedures,’ but the problem with that is I would be suggesting that it’s fatigue causing the procedure issue,” Johnson said. “Our culture, whether it’s with respect to following procedure or fatigue, is the enemy.”

Johnson explained that FFP by an AMT can involve every person in the maintenance chain, including managers who pressure AMTs to complete their work on time, inspectors who overlook potential mistakes, the writers of the procedures, the lawyers who added cautionary notes, and language to the procedures, as well as the regulator whose guidelines necessitated the lawyer’s involvement. 

“Everyone is the problem” when it comes to FFP, Johnson said, but they can also be the ones to change that. It starts with the individual becoming a “safety champion.” Last fall, the FAA launched a self-directed training program, “Follow Procedures: The Buck Stops Here,” aimed at reducing FFPs in aviation maintenance organizations. So far, Johnson noted, 4,000 people have accessed the program’s website, www.followprocedures.com, and 80 percent of those taking the voluntary training have completed it. “Following procedures 100 percent of the time, that’s a pretty good idea.”