Success Story: Federal Aviation Administration Anthropometric Survey

Jan 6th, 2018

One thing our clients and government agencies know is that human populations can change over time, sometimes drastically. And they need to know how those populations change. As a result, it is important to continually update databases that are used for designing or manufacturing garments and other products that are used by particular populations.


Project Origin

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) maintains a comprehensive collection of body size data to be used in the design and sizing of FAA systems, equipment and facilities. Back in 2006, the data that had been collected was 20 to 50 years old, and most of the measurements had only been taken on military personnel. As a result, the database did not accurately reflect the anthropometry of today’s FAA technical operations (tech ops) workforce.

FAA officials reached out to Anthrotech to conduct a new anthropometric survey of the current tech ops workforce for the purpose of updating the Human Factors Design Standard that the FAA used to develop and design workspaces and safety guidance.


How Anthrotech Helped

Data collection efforts for this anthropometric survey took place between November 2006 and August 2008 (and yes, often times data collection projects of this magnitude can take years to complete). Measurements were taken in 25 different locations around the U.S. on more than 1,200 tech ops personnel who had been recruited by the FAA. The sampling plan created for this study was designed to reflect the major demographic groups with regard to age, sex and racial/ethnic background of the tech ops workforce. Measurements taken included:

  • Abdominal Depth
  • Sitting Hand Breadth
  • Abdominal Depth, Sitting
  • Standing Hand Length
  • Buttock-Knee Length
  • Index Finger Length
  • Chest Depth
  • Index Finger Width
  • Elbow Rest Height
  • Knee Height, Sitting
  • Elbow-Fingertip Length
  • Palm Length
  • Elbow-Grip Length
  • Shoulder Breadth
  • Eye Height, Sitting
  • Sitting Height, Erect
  • Eye Height, Standing
  • Sitting Height, Relaxed
  • Forearm-Forearm Breadth Stature
  • Functional (Index-Finger) Reach
  • Thigh Clearance
  • Functional Leg Length
  • Vertical Arm Reach
  • Functional (Index-Finger) Reach, Extended

One unique fact about this survey is that the participants were measured while clothed, and the clothing varied greatly in thickness because measurements were taken in different seasons and in locations with varying temperatures, from Alaska to California. Often, anthropometric surveys are conducted with minimal clothing, but allowing participants to keep their clothes on was done strategically. Data from clothed participants simplified using the data because workspace designers wouldn’t have to factor in a clothing allowance – it was already built into the data.



We statistically weighted the results of the measurements so they would accurately represent the demographic distribution of the tech ops’ population. After we completed our analysis, we also recommended appropriate changes to the Human Factors Design Standard. 

For example, we found that, for some of the values in males in the 95th percentile particularly – like Abdominal Depth Sitting and Bideltoid (Shoulder) Breadth – current measurements were significantly larger than in the previous database. This difference could make a significant practical difference in workplace design. The four-inch difference in Abdominal Depth Sitting, just to name one, meant future designs would accommodate many more workers. 

The FAA was able to utilize our recommendations to update the Human Factors Design Standard to accommodate tech ops professionals. As a result, the FAA was able to ensure that future designs were made with the most accurate, most inclusive measurements in mind.

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