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Dr. Kathy Abbott & Colleen Donovan

Kathy Abbott, PhD, Chief Scientific and Technical Advisor for Flight Deck Human Factors, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)

Kathy Abbott, PhD, FRAeS, has over 40 years of experience specializing in aviation human factors.  She currently serves as the Chief Scientific and Technical Advisor for Flight Deck Human Factors to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on human performance and human error, systems design and analysis, flight crew training/qualification, flight deck automation, and flight crew operations and procedures. Dr. Abbott has led the integration of human engineering into FAA/international regulatory material and policies. She has been involved extensively in accident, incident, and other safety data analysis. She serves as the FAA liaison to industry and other government and international agencies dealing with human factors. She is a private pilot with familiarization training in several large transport aircraft.

Colleen Donovan, Senior Technical Specialist, Flight Deck Human Factors, FAA

Ms. Colleen Donovan is the Senior Technical Specialist for Flight Deck Human Factors within the Aircraft Certification Service of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) with over 25 years of experience in aviation human factors.  Her focus has been on interfaces between the pilot and flight deck systems, such as Global Positioning Systems, moving maps, Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast, and weather displays. 

Ms. Donovan’s experience includes evaluating systems and developing policy for FAA’s flight test pilots, engineers, and human factors specialists. Additionally, she has experience conducting human factors research studies, as well as serving as managing human factors research grants and contracts at the FAA, the Volpe National Transportation Systems Center, and at Battelle Memorial Institute.   

Ms. Donovan gained international experience as a Human Factors Fellow for the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a specialized agency of the United Nations located in Montreal, Canada.  During her one-year fellowship, she was instrumental in producing ICAO’s first version of the Safety Management Manual, creating ICAO’s first regulatory and guidance material on Electronic Flight Bags, and in hosting ICAO’s first symposium on Unmanned Aircraft Systems.

Additionally, Ms. Donovan served as the Senior Technical Advisor to two FAA Administrators and four Deputy Administrators.

Ms. Donovan has a Master’s Degree in Experimental Psychology from Northeastern University in Boston and has her private pilot’s license.


Automated Systems and Manual Flight Operations: Finding a Balance

Although there are numerous safety benefits provided by automated systems, an over-reliance on these systems can introduce new hazards and risks. When automated systems do not work as intended or do not work well in the operational situation, pilots without sufficient manual flight operations experience and proper training may be reluctant or may not be adequately skilled to take control of the aircraft. It is important to seek a balance in training of automated systems and maintaining proficiency in manual flight operations.

The Federal Aviation Administration has encouraged operators to support their pilots in training and operational practice in both automated systems and manual flight operations. This presentation will describe data from accidents and incidents that provide the motivation for this encouragement. In addition, the presentation will describe current practices that operators are using to assure that their pilots are appropriately trained and proficient in manual flight operations knowledge and skills.