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Safety and Risk

General Aviation Safety

As part of the PEGASAS COE, we are helping to make general aviation safer. Nicoletta Fala is using flight recorder data to understand fixed-wing GA safety. Our long-term objective is to identify and develop innovative ways to significantly and demonstrably reduce GA risk. Our current focus is on identifying and developing metrics and measures that can contribute to this goal. We propose to identify and evaluate risks, and to monitor intervention effectiveness by developing algorithms and models that analyze a variety of data sources, from flight recorder data to pilots’ own reports of their perceptions and actions. Ultimately, our aim is to contribute towards a spectrum of safety analysis products that can benefit a wide range of stakeholders, from individual pilots with minimal formal safety background all the way up to professional safety analysts.

Understanding Failures in Systems Engineering

The objective of this research is to contribute to the fundamental understanding of why failures occur in systems engineering. Despite our best efforts, systems engineering continues to fail, and the rate of failures shows no sign of decreasing. Current approaches based on methods, tools and processes are not working. We need to do more than propose better processes—we need a foundational basis that is informative and can be adapted to a broad range of circumstances and industries (e.g., mining, oil and gas, chemical, and aerospace) to guide design and operational choices that help prevent or mitigate failures.

Deep water fire

This photograph is of the Deepwater Horizon rig after several factors led to a blowout, which destroyed the drilling rig and dumped enormous amounts of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. In today’s modern world, disasters rarely have just one simple cause. Insight can be gained when looking at losses from a Systems Engineering perspective, and this information can be used to prevent future losses.

This work contributes to such a basis in a three-step process:

  1. Detailed analysis of past system engineering failures to identify deficiencies in systems engineering;
  2. Investigations of systems engineering in practice at industry and government organizations to challenge or validate these findings; and
  3. Use of these findings to improve systems engineering curricula and delivery methods.

Benefits to Society: Failures in systems engineering have serious consequences. They can lead to loss of life. They can also lead to expensive program cancellations and recalls. As increasingly complex systems are developed more, and more costly, failures will likely occur. This research will contribute to reducing these failures and form the basis for sound, data-informed changes to the fundamentals of systems engineering.

The educational component combines research-based course improvements with rigorous assessments of actual student learning (as opposed to self-reported data) across a longitudinal set of courses and has not been reported before in systems engineering education. The findings will be used to improve the systems engineering curricula and delivery methods.

You can see a list of the reports we have used in our research.

Safety Engineering

In this work we explore ways of improving the safety of systems through better design. Recently, we published a paper outlining a set of safety principles.