Perception – Part 2

By Sue Yost — December 05, 2012

Human Factors: Perception – Part 2:  Group Perception

The Last Article (AMU Aug-Sept) dealt with some of the problems with an individual’s perception and problems that can arise from them. The most common human factors that will affect an individual’s perception are lack of communication, pressure and stress from any source, and fatigue and health levels. This is a subject that is so deep and complicated that we could spend months discussing the various aspects, causes, and results, but my main purpose is to get you thinking about it.

The ironic part of this whole exercise for me was my perception, in the beginning, that it could be a great subject to write about, because there are so many areas to include. Much to my chagrin, it has become an exercise in frustration, just for that reason – so much information, so many areas, and so little time and space. But read on for my perception of some groups that will have a regular impact upon your work, and common misconceptions and perceptions.

No engineer can work without suppliers and customers, and these groups are not always the best educated in the needs and requirements of the AME’s work. The suppliers perception of an “AOG” and “asap” may be totally different from yours (you need that part yesterday) and they may not realize that this one component is holding up the whole inspection/repair process.

As for bogus parts, any perception that they are OK to use because they will get the job done cheaper – well, I just won’t go there. That is just so very wrong on so many levels, that it defies any rationalization.

Your customers are relying upon their aircraft to generate revenue, and when you have their little money machine in the hangar, what may be a simple component installation or skin repair to them will often include more detailed procedures on your part, and replacement of expensive parts. (Maybe you open an inspection panel and find corrosion). This will lead to more time and money than your clients had anticipated. Communication before, during, and after the job will help them to understand what has to be done to keep their aircraft flying and safe.

Possibly the biggest group that is totally uneducated about aviation is the public. The majority identifies anyone in aviation as a pilot (or in the case of a female, they will ask if you are a flight attendant). WOW, multiple misperceptions there. “No, I am an engineer” (and please don’t say “just an engineer”) and for the ladies, “No, I am an engineer” (or “No, I am a pilot”).

Maintenance is the forgotten part of the industry – the Cinderella in the hangar if you will – and as such, not recognized or appreciated for the critical work you do. (Read this article by Giselle Richardson: click on “articles to read” and click “Cinderella” in the Flight Department).

The other common perception that is perpetuated (by customer service agents) is that when your flight is delayed, it is usually broadcast that it is due to a mechanical failure and that will take X hours to fix. You never hear an announcement that they are scurrying around trying to find a flight crew that is not timed out to fly the thing, or that someone on the ground has mixed up the bags on a connecting flight and they have to re-sort them all. It is easier to cry “mechanical failure” and now it is your fault that they can’t board for Aruba to see Granny or have a major business meeting.

Perception in these cases is usually the result of inadequate information relayed, and/or lack of experience. An AME’s perception of the time needed, cost, and preparation required prior to undertaking a job can be seriously misguided or off-track if a plan is not already formulated and completed ahead of time.

So, what other groups can have perception problems? Oh, yes, managers and TCCA. All too often, a manager will give you unrealistic deadlines due to a lack of experience (he has never been an AME). He/she is putting production and profit ahead of professionalism and procedures (there are the 4 P’s). They told the customer the aircraft would be ready in 72 hours, when it will take closer to 90, or they have caved in to the customer’s pressure to get the job done faster. Managers (in their air conditioned/heated offices) also have to realize that in the dog days of summer, or mid-winter, staff will work slower due to extreme temperatures and the related fatigue

Managers may rationalize that if the job takes two AMEs four days to complete, then if they slam two more people on the job it will take only two days. Procedures and sequences need to happen to get the job done. Extra people often just get in the way and end up standing around because “too many cooks spoil the broth.”

Now, what about TCCA? Any misperceptions happening there? Well, maybe a couple. Probably the most common two I hear are the lack of consistent interpretation of the CARs, and the negativity associated with audits. “Oh no, an audit” is a cry heard throughout the hangar, as in many cases only the negative results are relayed to the workforce. Also, interpretation of the CARs seems to vary from one inspector to the next, and two years from now, when your inspector gets rotated to another region or retires, you have a new PMI and his perception of your operation, manuals, and records may not be the same as the previous one.

 Remember the definition of Perception from Part 1?

•   Awareness of something through the senses

•   The way in which something is regarded, understood

     or interpreted

•   Intuitive understanding and insight

People are human; humans see things differently when stressed, tired, or don’t have all the information associated with a task. Perception will change with experience, time of day, hours you have worked, and the norms of your workplace. Next time you are asked what you think of an idea, job, or plan, take the time to gather all information, ask questions, and consider the others in your team. If their ideas don’t jive with yours, talk about it, discuss the precepts, and get everyone on the same page, so that you are all pulling in the same direction.

Perceptions of safety and acceptable practices, CARs and manual interpretations, and the public perception of air travel are all there. Kick your safety nets into high gear, and keep perceptual errors out of the hangar.

About The Author

Sue Yost

SUE YOST is the owner and principal instructor for HPA Consultants, based in southwest Ontario. HPA conducts Human Factors training, initial and update, and also for pilots doing elementary work, and QA workshops, both classroom and online. HPA offers CARs courses, CRM, and SMS, First Aid and WHMIS. The company has added ‘Effective Auditing,’ a two-day course for anyone conducting internal or external audits, or responsible for the implementation of quality management procedures of an aviation company. Contact HPA Consultants at (519) 674-5050 or

View all articles by Sue Yost.

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