More Information‎ > ‎Newsletters‎ > ‎

Pilot Decision Making


Lindell Wilson, WVFC CFI

Decision Making - Maximize Pilot Capabilities

Aviation accidents can happen during any phase of aircraft operation. But statistics from accident studies highlight the types of operations where accidents are most likely to occur. Not surprisingly, takeoffs and landings are high on the list. Air Canada Safety Board accident statistics show that 22% are related to takeoff,17% during cruise, and 61% during landing.

Several months ago, I wrote about pilots exceeding their “capabilities” with regards to skills and cognitive reasoning and the resulting effect on aviation accidents. A pilot’s capacity to deal with various normal phases of flight (ex. takeoff and landing) and reserve capacity to deal with real-time (sometimes unexpected) situations is one of the foundations for safe flight operations. Air Canada published a nice diagram illustrating a pilot’s normal operational capacity and the decreased safety margin particularly during landing.

So, how can we increase our safety margin during takeoff and landing? Here are several ideas…)

1)     Avoid distractions during critical phases of flight. Distractions may include heads down work, adjusting radios/avionics, passenger interruptions, etc.

2)     Use checklists… preflight, take off, cruise, and landing checklists. If interrupted, start the checklist again.

3)     If unusual situations occur (ex. emergency, aircraft problem, or unusual ATC instructions), focus on “Aviate”, Navigate, Communicate (ANC).

4)     Focus outside the cockpit to maintain situational awareness.

5)     Get plenty of rest, exercise, reduce stress, and eat healthy.

6)     Practice, Practice, Practice (takeoffs and landings)