Making Safer Skies
December 22, 2006
“Basically this is a research lab for the FAA,” Williams explained. “We look at issues related to human factors or the interface between humans and machines.”
Williams’ section of the lab is the Flight Deck, which is concerned with aircraft cockpits and how pilots interact with the displays and controls.
“The basic purpose of the lab is to assist the FAA with standardization and guideline issues,” Williams said. “For instance, there are new displays coming out for aircraft and we will help the agency establish guidelines for those displays.”
Since joining the lab in 1992, Williams has developed qualification guidelines for personal computer-based aviation training devices; developed guidelines for advanced general aviation transportation experiments; conducted research on the design of Global Positioning System human interfaces; conducted research on the organization and use of datalink information for the general aviation pilot; and conducted research on advanced primary and navigational flight displays for advanced general aviation aircraft.
He also works in support of the Alaska Capstone Project for the equipping and evaluation of general aviation aircraft with advanced primary and navigational flight displays.
“That’s an effort to improve safety in Alaska with small aircraft, through the use of advanced cockpit technology.”
Most recently, he’s become involved with looking at unmanned aircraft civilian applications.
“I like the notion that we are improving the safety of air travel,” Williams said. “That’s our main charter here. It does help people.”
The issues Williams deals with hit close to home. He is a pilot himself and his son-in-law is attempting to become an Army helicopter pilot.
After he graduated from OBU, Williams earned his master of science degree in experimental psychology and then his doctorate in experimental psychology and cognitive process from the University of Oklahoma, the latter coming in 1986.
“I got into graduate school at OU and my main area of interest there was called cognitive psychology and deals with learning memory and essentially topics related to human factors,” Williams said.
“My research topic led me to general field of human factors. After I earned a Ph.D. degree in 1986, my first job offer came from General Dynamics in Fort Worth. I have just remained in the field since. After leaving GD, I worked for an army research lab in Arizona and then joined the FAA in 1992.”
He’s also widely published, with more than 40 articles and other publications.
“Part of our job is to be published in the general literature,” said Williams. “I have a book chapter related to human factors of unmanned aircraft, specifically aircraft accidents and implications for human factors.”
The study includes external pilot issues, issues involved with piloting by automation and the issues associated with control handoff, or the exchange of the controls from one pilot to
“We make recommendations regarding the systems,” said Williams. “Some should be changed to accommodate the users in a better way to improve the system. Sometimes we make recommendations for training.”
Williams said OBU gave him a good foundation to build on.
“I thought that the academic environment of OBU was excellent,” said Williams, who came to OBU out of East Central High School in Tulsa. “The courses that I took did not necessarily relate to what I’m doing now, but the scholarly activities we did was good preparation for the settings in
He also carried off fine memories of life in the Bison Glee Club.
“I really enjoyed my time there,” said Williams. “I have lots of stories. I used to live in Baxter Hall on the third floor of Brotherhood Dorm. We had a lot of fun playing basketball and playing pranks on one another.”
Williams has been a member of Council Road Baptist Church for 12 years. He plays in the church’s orchestra and sings in a small group.
He met his wife, Jodi, while he was in the Glee Club and Jodi was a BGC Little Sister. She now works as a librarian at Western Oaks Elementary.
Their oldest daughter, Melissa, is in the Army at Fort Hood. Their teen-aged daughter, Megan, is a 2006 graduate of Putnam City West High School.