Pioneer recognised

Aviation human factors pioneer Dr Rob Lee AO was officially inducted into the Australian Aviation Hall of Fame (AAHOF) during a ceremony in Wollongong on 24 November at the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society’s (HARS) museum at the Illawarra Regional Airport.

Dr Rob Lee AO was officially inducted into the Australian Aviation Hall of Fame. Deputy Prime Minister, the honourable Michael McCormack MP (pictured right)

The late Dr Lee, who passed away on 27 April 2018, is one of the first non-pilots to be inducted into the AAHOF.

Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) Chief Commissioner Greg Hood said Dr Lee was a visionary, who made an enormous contribution to the safety of aviation and other industries such as the nuclear industry, both here and overseas.

“He was a pioneer in ensuring that human factors became a key part of international aviation and other safety investigations,” Mr Hood said. “Rob was advised of his induction before he passed away and was greatly humbled and honoured. His passing was an enormous loss to the world, however he leaves a vast legacy in integrated safety systems and human factors.”

Attended by the Deputy Prime Minister, the honourable Michael McCormack MP (pictured above), Dr Lee’s partner, Sue, and brother Barry (pictured below), the induction ceremony remembered the professional triumphs of Dr Lee over his 40 years of service to Australian civil and military aviation.

In 1970, Dr Lee graduated from the Australian National University with First Class Honours in Psychology, winning the Australian Psychological Society Prize. In 1974, he completed his PhD in Psychology at the University of St Andrews, Scotland. His research focused on human performance in complex systems, with particular reference to aircraft operations.

In 1976, Dr Lee was appointed Senior Psychologist, Operational Command, Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF). He became the first RAAF psychologist to serve as a human factors specialist on RAAF aircraft accident investigation teams. In 1983, Dr Lee joined the Bureau of Air Safety Investigation (BASI) as the Bureau’s first human factors specialist. He established and developed the Bureau’s capability in human factors, systems safety and research. Dr Lee became Director of BASI in 1989.

During his directorship, he transformed the Bureau from a purely reactive investigative agency to an innovative multi-skilled organisation that concentrated equally on proactive accident prevention and safety enhancement. As Director of BASI, he increased practical cooperation in air safety investigation in the Asia Pacific region by negotiating memoranda of understanding with Indonesia, Singapore and Taiwan.

In 1999, Dr Lee was appointed Director of Human Factors, Systems Safety and Communications of the new multi-modal ATSB.

Dr Lee’s expertise was in high demand across multiple national and international investigations, including the Gulf Air A320 accident at Bahrain in August 2000, the Singapore Airlines B747 accident at Taipei in October 2000, and the mid-air collision between a B757 and a TU154M over Ueberlingen, Germany, in 2002.

He served as a member of the International Society of Air Safety Investigators, the European Association for Aviation Psychology (EAAP), and the Australasian Society of Aerospace Medicine. He was also Vice-President of the Australian Aviation Psychology Association.

Dr Lee was recognised with many distinguished honours nationally and internationally during his career. In the 2012 Queen’s Birthday Honours, Dr Lee was made an Officer in the General Division of the Order of Australia (AO) for distinguished service to the aviation industry, to the development of air safety and accident investigation standards, and to national and international professional associations.

Retired Chief of Defence Force, Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin AC, also paid tribute to Dr Lee’s legacy during the induction ceremony.

Chief Commissioner Hood said Dr Lee is remembered as being good humoured, having a positive manner and diplomacy.

“Dr Lee was a talented musician, as the lead guitarist of the band Mid-life Crisis,” Mr Hood said. “Every person in this room can settle more comfortably in their seats when flying because, indeed, the world is a safer place thanks to Dr Rob Lee.”

Aviation human factors pioneer Dr Rob Lee AO officially inducted into the Australian Aviation Hall of Fame
Dr Lee’s partner, Sue, and brother Barry pictured.

For further information on the AAHOF and its inductees, visit

Last update 26 November 2018