Choosing a Collegiate-training Aircraft with Confidence

Matt Vance


Qualitative preference is frequently used to make significant, programmatic choices between competing suppliers and products.   Translating qualitative choice into defensible quantitative representation is possible with patience, method and, care.  One example of this translation is the application of a popular Total Quality Management (TQM) tool, known as Quality Function Deployment (QFD), in the choice of a new/replacement, collegiate-training aircraft.  Using QFD is especially important when a fleet replacement is being considered as the cost of a new, current aircraft can easily approach $500,000; thus a significant fiscal commitment is incurred in replacing a multi-aircraft fleet.  A choice of this magnitude deserves multiple stakeholder inputs and requires respect from differing viewpoints.  The successful outcome of any decision process ultimately hinges upon confidently exercising the best choice.  The decision tool needs to be transparent, easy-to-understand and easy-to-apply.  The corresponding choice of a preference scale can either mask or illuminate driving criteria in the decision process.  This paper explores the application of QFD to the decision process across competing training aircraft choices and offers justification of the QFD non-linear “0, 1, 3, 9” preference scale.  Application research into the mechanics of human preference showed that if 95% reliability in choice between alternatives is desired, then the perceived difference between the choices needs to be a factor of 3.0, as is the case in the employed QFD scale.  Selection criteria used in the training aircraft decision, their dissimilar weighting, and the evaluation of competing aircraft in a recent collegiate-training aircraft selection are displayed as exemplars.

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