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
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.
TYPES OF DECISIONS
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
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
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.