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.

Student pilots have the ability to prevent being involved in a decision related accident by developing good decision making as they progress through flight training. This involves having a positive attitude toward safety, recognizing and managing risks, recognizing your own limitations, and handling stress appropriately.

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 their operations.

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...

As you gain flight experience, continue to think about how you can be as safe as possible in your flying. 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 safe pilot.

ยง 91.3 Responsibility and authority of the pilot in command.