Chapter 9. Risk Management

Three-P Model for Pilots

Risk management is a decision-making process designed to perceive hazards systematically, assess the degree of risk associated with a hazard, and determine the best course of action (see Appendix F). For example, the Perceive, Process, Perform (3P) model for aeronautical decision-making (ADM) offers a simple, practical, and structured way for pilots to manage risk. [Figure 9-5]

To use the 3P model, the pilot:

  • Perceives the given set of circumstances for a flight.
  • Processes by evaluating the impact of those circumstances on flight safety.
  • Performs by implementing the best course of action.

In the first step, the goal is to develop situational awareness by perceiving hazards, which are present events, objects, or circumstances that could contribute to an undesired future event. In this step, the pilot systematically identifies and lists hazards associated with all aspects of the flight: pilot, aircraft, environment, and external pressures. It is important to consider how individual hazards might combine. Consider, for example, the hazard that arises when a new instrument pilot with no experience in actual instrument conditions wants to make a cross-country flight to an airport with low ceilings in order to attend an important business meeting.

In the second step, the goal is to process this information to determine whether the identified hazards constitute risk, which is defined as the future impact of a hazard that is not controlled or eliminated. The degree of risk posed by a given hazard can be measured in terms of exposure (number of people or resources affected), severity (extent of possible loss), and probability (the likelihood that a hazard will cause a loss). If the hazard is low ceilings, for example, the level of risk depends on a number of other factors, such as pilot training and experience, aircraft equipment, and fuel capacity.

In the third step, the goal is to perform by taking action to eliminate hazards or mitigate risk, and then continuously evaluate the outcome of this action. With the example of low ceilings at destination, for instance, the pilot can perform good ADM by selecting a suitable alternate, knowing where to find good weather, and carrying sufficient fuel to reach it. This course of action would mitigate the risk. The pilot also has the option to eliminate it entirely by waiting for better weather.

Once the pilot has completed the 3P decision process and selected a course of action, the process begins again because the set of circumstances brought about by the course of action requires analysis. The decision-making process is a continuous loop of perceiving, processing, and performing.

It is never too early to start teaching students about risk management. Using the 3P model gives CFIs a tool to teach them a structured, efficient, and systematic way to identify hazards, assess risk, and implement effective risk controls. Practicing risk management needs to be as automatic in general aviation (GA) flying as basic aircraft control. Consider making the 3P discussion a standard feature of the preflight discussion. As is true for other flying skills, risk management habits are best developed through repetition and consistent adherence to specific procedures.

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