You might remember from the 2013 AvKiwi course – Get the Mental Picture, that we introduced the concept of getting some GUTS.
There are many variables that can conspire together to influence the successful outcome of any flight and hinder sound decision making. For example;
- the compressed time-frame when travelling at speed,
- the changeable nature of the weather,
- the challenges of a pilot’s own currency, and
- a homing pigeon-like instinct to return home.
These can and do undermine the decision-making process. Their combined pressure can grow with each passing minute and every drop of fuel consumed, all the while taxing the human mind.
In these situations, pilots need to be wary of complacency because it can negatively influence the decision-making process of even the most capable aviators. A common action that often leads to an accident is the determination to continue with a bad landing approach, rather than going around and setting up again.
At any stage of flight, you need to:
Gather, Understand, Think Ahead and then Self-Review.
As pilots, we gather information by scanning the environment, we understand information by comparing the information with our mental models, and we use those models to make decisions, take action and then importantly, review.
The foundation of good decision-making lies in your ability to recognise and comprehend all the relevant information around you by looking and listening.
In order to do this you need capacity.
Capacity is a measure of how much total awareness a pilot has and their ability to absorb information while flying. The amount of total awareness you have is directly proportional to the knowledge you have acquired. This knowledge can be attained only through your work ethic, effort in learning, professionalism and your own motivation.
Once you have gathered all the information, you need to make sense of it.
- Is the information you’re receiving what you expect it to be? If not, why not? Don’t just try and make the information fit your mental model.
- Have there been any changes in the weather that you need to take notice of?
- Are you flying the right procedure at the correct altitude?
- Do you understand the airspace limitations?
- Work out if or when traffic is going to be a problem.
Stay ahead of the aircraft and fly proactively. It’s important to keep reviewing your information and comparing it with what you should be seeing. If your gut instinct tells you something isn’t right, it probably isn’t.
Have there been any changes in threats? Keep on the lookout for new ones. Remember, you don’t have to rely on sighting another aircraft to avoid it. Changing direction, altitude or communicating your intentions will help you to avoid conflicting traffic.
Don't forget to think back too. It is important to reflect and review your flight to make sure you learn from your mistakes and improve your flying skills. Thinking back on flights helps you to evaluate your performance and improve each time you fly.