John K. Lauber Safety Award

John K. Lauber, PhD, started his career in aviation safety as a research psychologist at the Naval Training Devices Center in Orlando in 1969. While there he participated in many projects such as one involving the Lockheed P-3C Orion, still one of the Navy’s front-line antisubmarine warfare aircraft. While working on the Orion project at NASA’s Ames Research Center the move was made in early 1973 to begin studying pilot performance in a civil aviation setting.

The airline industry was beginning to recognize that the control and management of human error was critical to improving an already outstanding safety record. Ames Research Center, with the aid and assistance of Pan American and United among other airlines, conducted human performance research using high-fidelity flight simulators supplemented by naturalistic observation of line operations. Many of the ideas now in common use in airline training and operations had their origin in the work of this group with whom Dr. Lauber had become associated.

In 1985, Dr. Lauber was appointed by President Reagan as a Member of the National Transportation Safety Board. As a Member of the Board, Dr. Lauber had the opportunity to help shape national policy in matters having to do with transportation safety. He served two terms on the Safety Board and was able to help transform the concept of human error accidents from events that someone must be punished for to events that challenge systems engineering.

After the end of his second term at the NTSB, Dr. Lauber joined Delta Air Lines as Vice President, Corporate Safety and Compliance. During his tenure at Delta, Dr. Lauber was challenged with putting into practice that which he had been preaching in his earlier careers. But the fundamental challenge was still the same: how to achieve effective human performance in a complex, dynamic, demanding, and sometimes dangerous operational environment. In the end, Dr. Lauber was able to contribute in putting into place a top-notch safety program including a very wide-ranging human factors effort that is paying dividends throughout the organization.

After just over two years at Delta, Dr. Lauber was presented with an opportunity to join Airbus Industries as Vice President, Training and Human Factors. His primary responsibility is to manage the Miami training center, which supports Airbus customers throughout the Americas. However, Dr. Lauber also has broad responsibilities in safety and human factors, working closely with Airbus people in Toulouse, France, the headquarters of Airbus. Effective human performance is critical to safe and efficient operation of our air transportation system, and each of Dr. Lauber’s job functions is concerned in one way or another with achieving such performance.