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Reducing Mishaps by Understanding Human Factors Engineering

23 March 2023

From Jennifer Cragg

NAS Patuxent River, Md. - As new aircraft, equipment and technology are created, a need to understand the human engineering factors that contribute to their operational safety is paramount to mishap reduction. As Naval Aviation evolves, it requires an understanding of how science and engineering impact the operators who fly and manage these aircraft.

While Naval Aviation is aware of the contributions of flight surgeons, less is known about the aeromedical dual designator (AMDD) program and the benefits it provides to Naval Aviation. The AMDD program is typically for medical officers to seek a dual qualification in Naval Aviation to better understand the effects of flight on the human system; however, for the first time in the program’s nearly 100-year history, a non-medical doctor has been winged as a dual designator, and just recently completed his fleet utilization tour flying the MH-60R Seahawk.

As a Medical Service Corps (MSC) Officer who is designated as an Aerospace Experimental Psychologist (AEP) and now Naval Aviator, Lt. Cmdr. David Rozovski, the lead Human Systems Engineering Instructor with the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School (USNTPS), is dedicated to applying his research into human factors to better determine why mishaps occur to prevent them.

USNTPS is located at Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division (NAWCAD), at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland.

His dual-qualification serves as an example of the unique demands of Naval Aviation and the new air weapon systems that have been developed with high sensitivity to human factors engineering. This has caused a requirement for a limited officer inventory skilled concurrently in the professional qualifications of a Naval Aviator and an aeromedical professional.

“Within the test community, there are a multitude of engineering disciplines. As the human element provides such a complex interaction between the user and those disciplines, aeromedical professionals form that bridge between the engineers and the pilot,” said Rozovski, who has completed an undergraduate pre-medical degree in psychology. He has also obtained a master’s in aviation human factors specifically studying the V-22 Throttle-interface Design.

Just prior to entering the Navy, he completed his Ph.D. from Purdue University in Industrial Engineering, Human Factors, where he built and tested his master’s work.

“The benefit of the aeromedical community is that we can serve as that intermediary between the designers and end users with regards to human factors engineering issues, effectively serving as a translator,” he said.
That benefit of the AMDD program, according to Rozovski, is assistance in reducing mishaps through human factors engineering.

“Human factors are the number one causal factor, accounting for approximately 85 percent of aviation mishaps,” said Rozovski, who has logged more than 1,600 hours in over 55 different types of aircraft.
Rozovski added that different disciplines approach Naval Aviation engineering differently which can impact how a problem is solved through immersive inclusion on and off the flight line.

“Test flying itself focuses on making objective, non-emotional observations that are communicable to both the engineers and pilots with the end goal of enabling design changes in a meaningful and descriptive way,” he said.

From 1918 to 1935 no official designations were approved to train medical officers to establish their dual qualification. However, in 1935, the first dual physician/aviator was designated, giving rise to the AMDD qualification. The AMDD program was created to provide human systems specialists additional training to further their understanding of the effects of flight on the human body to improve their contributions to their area of expertise. To date, there have only been 71 individuals to undergo this additional training. Their assignments were selectively made to meet the identified requirements of billets, projects and programs requiring the skills of both disciplines in a single individual. The billets have predominantly remained with Navy research and development (R&D) and Test and Evaluation (T&E) commands and associated activities.

Rear Adm. W.A. Moffett, who is considered the first Chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics and the “Father of Naval Aviation,” called for a small number of naval medical officers to be trained as flight surgeons. At that time, Moffett believed that all naval flight surgeons should be trained as pilots so they could handle in-flight emergencies, and ultimately have a better understanding of the effects of flight on the human body to contribute in a more direct and meaningful way.

“Admiral Moffett’s brilliance in understanding human design nearly 100 years ago was way ahead of his time,” Rozovski said. “While aircraft are vastly different today then where we started, he still recognized that structures, and aerodynamics were not going to be the major cause of mishaps, it would be people.”

At NAWCAD, Naval Aviation bridges medicine with technology where both civilians and military partner to enhance safety among aviators, air crewmembers and maintainers. NAWCAD is the Navy’s largest warfare center with over 300 labs advancing capability and operational readiness for naval aviation and warfighters.

Of the 300 labs, more than a dozen are dedicated to human systems research. Teams of scientists and engineers work to improve warfighting equipment including visors, goggles, hearing protection, helmets, seats, suits and mission systems. They also conduct other research dedicated to the improvement of human capabilities and safety that require this type of gear.

Rozovski said that his combination of skillsets of a human systems specialist and Naval Aviator allow him to view Naval Aviation through multiple lenses whether on a weapon system, a cockpit design or an item of personal flight equipment. AMDD medical officers bridge a gap by providing a fleet operational perspective and human factors engineering expertise to active duty and civilian engineers, advancing Navy and Marine Corps platforms and equipment.

“An improved understanding of the roles and capabilities of dually designated, aeromedically trained officers has now led to the more precise codification of the dual designator program, with the inclusion of naval flight officers (NFO), as well as aerospace physiologists, aerospace experimental psychologists, aerospace physician assistants and aerospace optometrists. This truly is one of our most powerful tools in working towards improving aviation human factors capability and safety,” he said.

For questions about the AMDD program or if interested in applying, contact Rozovski at

Jennifer Cragg is a communications specialist with Naval Aviation Enterprise Public Affairs.


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