As pilots we understand that our decisions are crucial and the safety of every flight depends on them, but now other fields that require decision-making are looking to aviation as the model of how it should be done.
As a flight instructor, I have made several thousand touch and goes – but I don’t do them anymore. The only real reason to do a touch and go is economy not learning or proficiency. It is true that you can get more landing practice in during an hour if you never stop, but I have concluded that the benefits don’t out weight the risks.
If you have a system onboard the airplane that can turn a dark night into a sunny day and turn a cloud layer into clear skies, would there really be a difference between VFR and IFR?
When I am sitting back in the coach section of an airliner (row 28F) on a dark and stormy night, I don’t much care that the airplane’s captain can execute a perfect Lazy Eight maneuver. What I care about is his or her ability to make good decisions in tight situations and get me on the ground safe and sound (at my intended destination). So if the goal is to complete the ‘mission’ of the flight, why do we place so much emphasis on ‘maneuvers’ that may or may not have direct application to the flight?
There have been some unexpected airline pilot retirements lately - unexpected because the captain had not reached age 60. This early retirement was not because of pay cuts or poor working conditions, it was because he or she was asked to move to a ‘glass cockpit” airplane and the upward technology transition was just too much. Is it hard to teach an old dog new tricks?
In September the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) pulled the prescription pain killer Vioxx off the shelves and last week its chief rival Celebrex was pulled from a clinical trial. It was learned that these two drugs may have dangerous side effects that were previously unknown. The FDA has now come under fire for allowing drugs on the market without completely testing their side effects. Will the FAA have the same problem with new glass cockpit technology in the near future?
Watching pilots at work can be very informative, but sometimes you see things you didn’t want to see. The past several articles have chronicled pilot observations that I have made over the years in both airplanes and flight simulators. With careful observation and notes, patterns started to appear. I eventually grouped the patterns and named the categories. The broad categories were 1) The Information Managers, 2) the Non Assertive Decision Makers, 3) the Snowballers, and 4) The Lost in Space – see previous iPilot articles. But I also identified two sub-groups and one of these I call the Good Decision Makers/Poor Fliers groups.
In my past several articles, I have been telling you about pilot observations I have made and categories of pilot performance. After identifying four broad pilot categories, I started to realize that there are some traits that are present across categories. I saw some sub-groups that were not tied to any of the broad categories and could show up in any category. The broad categories were...
Some pilots have good habits. Others don't. After watching pilots for many years, I tried to understand what was going on in their heads and what lead to some of their flawed decisions. It started becoming evident that pilot traits fall into definite categories and later I named these categories with descriptive names that defined pilots as groups. A single pilot will often display traits from different groups and I don't intend to attempt to "label" a pilot, but instead provide tools pilot self-assessment.
I have performed simulator studies with large groups of pilots and found that among them there are sub-categories ... different "types" of pilot. The name of this category should speak for itself. The pilots of this group are characterized by being oblivious to the safety concerns that are all around them. They are simply driving the machine with no comprehension of their surroundings. They have little or no situation awareness. Points of decision in a scenario can arrive and they are unaware of their existence. It is not that these pilots make poor decisions, the problem is they do not even know that a decision is called for. They make no correlation between actions that are going on around them and the consequences of those actions. They get into real trouble and never even know they are in danger.