I totally thought this would be the first week that I would be able to get back to flying, but unfortunately the weather did not allow this to happen. My instructor and I tried to schedule a flight lesson several nights in a row, but the low ceilings and poor visibility (with fog, mist, and conditions perfect for icing) were prohibitive. We ended up canceling each time, so for this week I’m focusing on the discussion we had from Commercial Ground.
The first two lessons have covered a lot of material on aeronautical decion making (ADM) and the logical process that pilots use to determine the best course of action for a particular scenario. The strong critical thinking skills and risk management techniques used by commercial pilots are some of the main factors that make make aviation as safe as it is.
While it may seem obvious, there are two main time frames for a pilot to make decisions: before flight, and in-flight. A “Go/No-go” decision happens anytime before takeoff, and it is the most important step in managing risk. The PIC can always decide to delay a flight, re-route a flight, or choose to cancel all together.
Once in the air, a pilot has to make to the decision to continue or discontinue the flight based on the situation encountered. Some of the options available would be to return to the departure airport, divert and land at a different airport, hold and wait to see if conditions change, or to continue on and attempt to land at the planned destination. While there might be several possibilites that all might work, the key is to pick the best or safest option.
One of the tools we’ve been learning to use is the 3P Model. For each of the 3 P’s (Perceive, Process, and Perform) there is an accompanying acronym.
Perceive Hazards: [PAVE] Pilot, aircraft, environment, external pressures.
-Take in a all available information and ask yourself what parts of the flight might be risky.
Process Hazards: [CARE] Consequences, alternatives, reality, external factors.
-Acknowledge that as a pilot you are not invulnerable, and determine what threat is presented by the hazard. Think about what other options might help get you out of a challenging situation.
Perform Risk Management: [TEAM] Transfer, eliminate, accept, and mitigate.
-Find ways to reduce the chance of a bad outcome. Possibly let another more experienced pilot attempt a portion of the flight, or choose a different aircraft with better capabilities.
Evaluate the Outcome: After you’ve taken a course of action or done something to change the condition of the flight, go back and evaluate what affect your decision had. Ask yourself it it worked, or if it made the situation worse than before. This final evaluation should happen continuously and repeatedly throughout the flight.
It’s been a great topic to study about, and I appreciate the chance to talk through several different emergency scenarios. Next week should be interesting as we start learning about common carriage rules and more E6-B calculations.
Last of all, here is a video (By Pilot Workshops) of a real life situation that involved several of the steps mentioned. The pilot in a light aircraft that was not certified for icing conditions became trapped above the clouds, and ended up having to make a tough decision about how to get through. There were a few mistakes made in the beginning of the flight, but overall it was an excellent example of using risk management techniques to get out of the emergency situation and make a safe landing.