Aeronautical Decision-making

Captain Judy’s Corner

Early in 2020, our lives changed when the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic. Governors and state agencies issued emergency orders for the temporary closures of businesses and organizations in an effort to reduce the spread of this virus. All segments of the aviation industry have felt the impact. Transportation was listed as one of the l0 essential services permitted to continue operations, which included flight training. The principles of aeronautical decision-making can be applied to this and other situations.

Epic Flight Academy took immediate and proactive action to ensure all operations continued without interruption. Epic leadership went beyond the recommended advice provided by the Centers for Disease Control. (Note: The photo above was taken prior to the virus outbreak, which is why no one is wearing a face mask.)

Our dedicated staff disinfected aircraft, simulators, classrooms, and all other areas. Online ground school classes began within 2 days of state orders. Social distancing, face masks, and hand sanitizer became the norm on campus. Epic has always taken every precaution to assure the safety of our students, instructors, and staff both in the air and on the ground.

Determining a best course of action through this pandemic also involved personal choices. Student pilots learn early in their training a systematic approach for determining the best course of action for a given circumstance. This learned decision-making process relies on situational awareness, problem recognition, and good judgement to reduce risks. 

What are the differences between ADM, CRM, and SRM?

Aeronautical Decision-making (ADM) and Risk Management are useful before and during the flight. Learning the decision-making process benefits every aspect throughout our lives, including personal choices during this pandemic.  

For over 25 years, the airline industry has implemented ADM training called Crew Resource Management (CRM). As a result, there has been a significant reduction in human error accidents. Building on the airlines’ success, the private industry developed a similar program called Single Pilot Resource Management (SRM).

The decision-making process includes ADM, which begins with awareness of our situation. The FAA has developed various decision-making checklists, called models, for pilots to use during a given set of situations. These models provide a logical way of making a decision.

What is DECIDE?

One of these aeronautical decision-making models is called the DECIDE process. In this model, we first detect a change or deviation from our planned action. We then estimate the correction required. We choose a desirable outcome then initiate change by doing something. Finally, we continue to evaluate the effect of our corrective action. 

Here is an example of how the DECIDE model might work for determining personal choices during the pandemic:

D = Detect

D = Detect: Identify the decision that needs to be made. Make required changes to safely and effectively continue flight training goals.

E = Estimate

E = Estimate: Explore your different options. Continue flight training following recommended precautionary guidelines for COVID-19. Or, discontinue training and return home until the pandemic subsides.

C = Choose

C = Choose: As you explore options, consider the consequences of each. Take every precautionary action while continuing flight training activities for completing goals on time. Or, delay training, which would require additional recurrence flights resulting in extended goals and finances.

I = Initiate

I = Initiate: Identify what’s important and valuable so you can make a choice that honors your standards. Value health, safety, well-being, and the joy of learning while continuing flight training. Or, remain in the safety of self-isolation at home.

D = Do

D = Do: After analyzing your options and evaluating your values, you need to decided to do something. Actions include: online ground school, temperature check before entering buildings, and social distancing. Also, use the foot door opener, wear a face mask, wash hands often, and don’t touch face with hands.

E = Evaluate

E = Evaluate: Evaluation is an important final step of the decision-making process. This allows you to assess how your choice impacted your health and happiness. Progress in flight training while evaluating health and well-being. 

ADM training also includes stressors. Under normal circumstances, our aeronautical decision-making process operates effectively. When stressors are present, the decision-making process can become strained or fail altogether. If the pilot fails to properly evaluate the given circumstances, the outcomes might not be successful.

Risk Factors for Pilot Safety

What is IMSAFE?

One of the best ways for a pilot to perform a personal preflight evaluating physical or mental readiness for flying is to use the IMSAFE checklist.   Determine your physical and mental readiness during this pandemic and at all times as outlined below. This is just one more way to hone your aeronautical decision-making skills.

I = Illness

I = Illness: Pilots should not fly if ill as this may interfere with good decision-making. Staying at home if not feeling well is also the best course of action. Ask yourself: “How do I feel today? Am I sick?”

M = Medication

M = Medication: Know your body’s reaction to medication.  The FAA provides guidelines for prescription and over the counter medications. Whether flying an aircraft or driving a car, ask yourself: “Am I taking any medicines that might affect my judgment or make me drowsy?”

S = Stress

S = Stress: While the FAA regulations list medical conditions that require grounding, stress is not among them. Stress causes concentration and performance problems whether flying an airplane, driving a car, or in everyday situations. Ask yourself: “Am I stressed? Do I have pressure from a deadline? Do I have money, health, or family problems?”

A = Alcohol

A = Alcohol or Drugs: FAA regulation 91.17 states that no person may act or attempt to act as a crew member of a civil aircraft within 8 hours after the consumption of alcohol or while under the influence of alcohol. As little as one ounce of liquor, one bottle of beer, or four ounces of wine can impair judgement. A pilot with an alcohol concentration of 0.04 or greater in a blood or breath specimen may not operate as crew member. Operating with a hangover is also considered to be under the influence of alcohol. It is important to know your body’s reaction to alcohol  If in doubt, DON’T! The same applies to drugs. DON’T!

F = Fatigue

F = Fatigue: Fatigue continues to be one of the most deceiving hazards to flight safety. Fatigue may not be apparent to a pilot until serious errors are made. Ask yourself: “Am I tired and not adequately rested?”

E = Emotion & Eating

E = Emotion and Eating: Nourishment and hydration play a role in decision-making as much as other factors. Ask yourself: “Am I emotionally upset?  Have I eaten and drank plenty of water?”

Discover the decision-making process benefits by using these checklists for personal choices during this pandemic and beyond. Epic’s students are better prepared with greater situational awareness, problem recognition, and good judgement through ADM training.

YouTube Videos

Did you know Epic has shared training videos on this important topic? Check out both Part 1 and Part 2 for Epic lessons in aeronautical decision-making!

By Captain Judy Rice

Captain Judy Rice
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