Training Programs to Improve Aeronautical Decision-Making

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Aeronautical Decision Making
The airlines developed some of the first training programs that focused on improving aeronautical decision making (ADM). ADM is a systematic approach to the mental process used by airline pilots to consistently determine the best course of action in response to a given set of circumstances. Human-factors-related accidents motivated the airline industry to implement crew resource management (CRM) training for flight crews. The focus of CRM programs is the effective use of all available resources: human resources, hardware, and information. Human resources consist of all groups routinely working with the cockpit crew (or pilot) who are involved in decisions that are required to operate a flight safely. These groups include, but are not limited to: dispatchers, cabin crewmembers, maintenance personnel, and air traffic controllers. The importance of learning effective ADM skills cannot be overemphasized in the airline industry. While progress is continually being made in the advancement of pilot training methods, airline equipment and systems, accidents still occur. Despite all the changes in technology to improve flight safety, one factor still remains the same – the human factor. It is estimated that approximately 75 percent of all aviation accidents are human factors related. Historically, the term pilot error has been used to describe the causes of these accidents. Pilot error means that an action or decision made by the pilot was the cause, or a contributing factor that led to the accident. This definition also includes the pilot’s failure to make a decision or take action. From a broader perspective, the phrase “human factors related” more suitably describes these accidents since it is usually not a single decision that leads to an accident, but a chain of events triggered by a number of various factors. The poor judgment chain, sometimes referred to as the error chain, is a term used to describe this concept of contributing factors in human factors-related-accidents. Breaking one link in the chain normally is all that is necessary to change the outcome in a sequence of events. By discussing events that lead to an accident, it can be understood how a series of judgment errors can contribute to the final outcome of a flight. An understanding of the decision-making process provides a pilot with a foundation for developing ADM skills. Some situations, such as engine-failures, require a pilot to respond immediately using established procedures with little time for detailed analysis. Traditionally, pilots have been well trained to react to emergencies, but are not as well prepared to make decisions requiring a more reflective response. Typically during a flight, there is time to examine any changes that occur, gather information, and assess risk before reaching a decision. The steps leading to this conclusion constitute the decision making process are defining the problem, choosing a course of action, and implementing the decision and evaluating the outcome. The first step in the decision making process is problem definition. Defining the problem begins with recognizing that a change has occurred or that an expected change did not take place. The exact nature and severity of the problem are determined by the pilot’s senses and experience in flying. For example, a low oil pressure reading could indicate that the engine is about to fail and an emergency landing should be planned or it could mean that the oil pressure sensor is giving a faulty reading. According to the situation, each action by the pilot is taken differently. An important note is that once the pilot has identified the problem, other sources must be used to verify that the conclusion is correct. Once the problem has been identified, the pilot must evaluate the need to react to it and determine that actions that must be used to remedy the problem. The expected outcome of each possible action should be considered and the risks...
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