Having the Right Attitude...
Flying involves certain inherent risks. Many of those risks are associated with
the pilot, who may through action or inaction cause an accident. Research on
accidents having to do with the pilot reveals over half of these accidents are
related to decisions made by the pilot.
A person's attitude dictates how they respond to a situation. Having a good
attitude means recognizing your ability to affect flight safety as the pilot and
committing yourself to keeping your operation safe.
The pilot is the final authority as to the safe operation of a flight. The
training in this lesson, your flight training, and your flight experience can
provide guidance in making good decisions. The first good decision each pilot
should make is to apply lessons learned from aviation history to themselves and
The Error Chain...
The error chain, or poor judgment chain, refers to a series of bad decisions
leading up to an accident. It is rare that an accident be caused by a single bad
decision. Rather, accidents are usually caused by a series of bad decisions. The
pilot was provided warning signs, opportunities to break the error chain and
keep the flight safe. As one bad decision follows another, the available time
and alternatives diminish.
Aeronautical decision making, or ADM, is defined as "a systematic approach to
the mental process used by airplane pilots to consistently determine the best
course of action in response to a given set of circumstances". It guides pilots
in their response to a situation, so the error chain can be consistently broken.
Traditional Decision Making Vs. ADM...
Traditional decision making involves the pilot recognizing a change and then
responding to the change based on skills, procedures, and by thinking through
the problem. The ADM process involves the pilot managing attitude and stress,
and making a decision in a systematic way, then analyzing the result of the
decision to assure the expected outcome.
In order for ADM to be of assistance to the pilot, the pilot must be aware of
the situation. If something has changed, or something should have changed and
didn't, the pilot must recognize the problem. You can't deal with a problem you
are not aware of. This situational awareness is critical to the decision making
process. The pilot must perceive and understand what the airplane's instruments,
air traffic control, and the view outside the window is saying. He or she must
understand where the airplane is relative to weather, terrain, and obstructions.
Better situational awareness allows earlier detection of a problem. Lack of
situational awareness can result in the pilot being surprised by a problem, or
even prevent a pilot from ever discovering the problem, altogether.
Setting Up for Safety...
Recognize that every person has certain aspects of
their attitude that could influence them to operate such that the highest
possible safety is not maintained. Determine what aspects of your attitude would
be most likely to influence you to make a poor decision. Use this awareness of
yourself to modify your behavior.
Recognize and respect limitations, whether they be limitations of the airplane,
your own limitations, or some legal or operational limitation.
Learn to recognize and cope with stress. Stress can greatly affect a person's
ability to make sound decisions.
Use all resources. Pilots are provided a wealth of resources, such as normal
and emergency procedures, air traffic control, checklists, charts, placards, and
handbooks. Proper use of these resources make the operation safer, just as
training and currency make for a safer pilot. Each resource that is
intentionally or inadvertently not utilized increases the risk of an operation.
Evaluate the effectiveness of your decision making skills. Being uncomfortable
in an airplane is not normal or acceptable. If something happened you were
uncomfortable with, examine how you handled the problem. Find how to avoid
making similar decision errors in the future.
Making good decisions allows you to avoid uncomfortable or stressful situations.
Being a good pilot isn't about having superior flying skills compared with
everyone else. The safer pilot may have lesser flying skills, but avoids
situations in which they would be necessary. Training and currency develop your
flying skills to make you a good pilot. Good decision making ability makes you a