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Enhancing a pilots decision-making skills

Man in reflective safety gear flying a drone

An understanding of the decision-making process provides pilots with a foundation for developing Aeronautical Decision Making skills.

Automatic decision-making

While some situations, such as engine failure, require an immediate pilot response using established procedures, there is usually time during a flight to analyse any changes that occur, gather information, and assess risks before reaching a decision. This is termed automatic decision-making and is based upon training, experience, and recognition.

Risk management and risk intervention are decision-making processes designed to systematically identify hazards, assess the degree of risk, and determine the best course of action.

These processes involve the identification of hazards, followed by assessments of the risks, analysis of the controls, making control decisions, using the controls, and monitoring the results. These steps leading to this decision constitute a decision-making process.

Enhancing a pilots decision-making skills

Aeronautical Decision Making skills can be enhanced by adopting and using a consistently robust structured framework for problem-solving and decision-making.

Situational awareness

Maintaining a good level of Situational Awareness is a key component of aeronautical decision making. There are many things a person can do to maintain their level of situational awareness:

  • Familiarise yourself with the system you are using. The easier you can find the information you need, the better your situational awareness will be.
  • Make sure you are actively gathering all the information required. There are many resources available to you so make sure you are using these wisely.
  • Keep up a good scan rate of the environment. For pilots flying visually, a maximum of 20% of the time should be spent looking inside, the remaining 80% of the time, the pilot should be looking outside.
  • Plan ahead and fly the plane. It is easier to make plans early when you have a low workload. This way you are keeping yourself stimulated during low workload times, and then when the workload increases, you have already made all the important decisions and do not need to use as much mental capacity. This gives you more time to scan the environment and keep a high level of situational awareness. Having alternative plans is also a good idea.
  • Try not to assume what is going to happen. If you assume something and it is incorrect, then the decision you make will also be incorrect.
  • Maintaining a good level of knowledge. Make sure that you keep your knowledge current. Procedures are continually updated month to month. You should know your aircraft inside-out.
  • Keep your skills current. If you can fly manoeuvres automatically, then you will have the spare mental capacity to concentrate on what is going on around you, rather than concentrating on operating the system itself.
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Drone Safety for Managers (Australia)

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