Throughout pilot training, safety and good Aeronautical Decision Making (ADM) should be emphasized. This chapter presents some of the basic concepts of ADM to provide an understanding of the process.


Many aeronautical decisions are made easily like flying on a beautiful day when the weather is perfect. However, some decisions can be more difficult like whether to terminate the flight when the visibility drops or the wind starts to increase. When this happens, the decision made on whether to continue the flight or land becomes critical to ensuring that the flight is completed safely. All too often many flights end in tragedy because of a bad decision that placed the aircraft in a situation that exceeded the capabilities of the pilot, aircraft, or both. This does not have to happen if a pilot recognizes the importance of timely decision making and takes some of the steps outlined below to ensure that he or she makes the best decisions possible under the circumstances.

Most pilots usually think good judgment is only acquired through years of experience. The average pilot, who flies for pleasure, probably flies a small percentage of the hours that a professional pilot flies over the course of a flying career. A pilot cannot rely simply upon experience as a teacher of good judgment. It is important to learn how to deal with decision making in general and to learn strategies that will lead to effective judgment in a wide variety of situations.


It is important to recognize that there are two general types of decisions. Decisions that are tied to time constraints and those that are not. In a time constraint decision, a solution is required almost immediately. An example might be if the pilot light went out near the ground. For the most part, a pilot is trained to recognize events like this that require immediate action.

Usually, when time is not a constraint, time is available to gather information and consider alternative courses of action. For example, when planning a flight, a pilot has access to an extensive array of information, such as weather and knowledge of the terrain. A pilot should examine the sources until he or she is confident that all the information needed to make the flight has been examined.

A study conducted by NASA revealed that 80 percent of the errors that led to an incident occurred during the preflight phase, while the actual incidents occurred later during the flight.

It seems obvious that a large number of accidents and incidents could be avoided, if a pilot were to perform better preflight planning. Flight planning is similar to an open-book test in school all the information needed is available, if a pilot knows where to look. Decision aids are tools that can be used to ensure all relevant information is considered. The appropriate flight planning, followed by the operation of the aircraft within a pilot's capabilities, ensures a safe flight. Good examples of decision making tools are the various checklists that are provided by the manufacturers of aircraft. They are inexpensive, effective, and enhance safety. Checklists provide an effective means of solving the most human of frailties forgetting. If a pilot follows a checklist, those temporary memory lapses need not have an impact on the flight. The sequence of operations and the critical information required is all recorded for a pilot to use.

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