It is important to point out the fact that being familiar with the decision-making process does not ensure the good judgment to be a safe pilot. The ability to make effective decisions as pilot in command depends on a number of factors. Some circumstances, such as the time available to make a decision may be beyond a pilot's control. However, one can learn to recognize those factors that can be managed, and learn skills to improve decision-making ability and judgment.
The pilot in command of an airplane is directly responsible for, and is the final authority as to, the operation of that airplane. To effectively exercise that responsibility and make effective decisions regarding the outcome of a flight, a pilot should be aware of personal limitations. Performance during a flight is affected by many factors, such as health, recency of experience, knowledge, skill level, and attitude.
Exercising good judgment begins prior to taking the controls of an airplane. Often, pilots thoroughly check their airplane to determine airworthiness, yet do not evaluate their own fitness for flight. Just as a checklist is used when preflighting an airplane, a personal checklist based on such factors as experience, currency, and comfort level can help determine if a pilot is prepared for a particular flight. Specifying when refresher training should be accomplished and designating weather minimums that may be higher than those listed in Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) part 91 are elements that may be included on a personal checklist.
In addition to a review of personal limitations, use the I'M SAFE Checklist to further evaluate fitness for flight.
RECOGNIZING HAZARDOUS ATTITUDES
Being fit to fly depends on more than just a pilot's physical condition and recency of experience. For example, attitude will affect the quality of decisions. Attitude can be defined as a personal motivational predisposition to respond to persons, situations, or events in a given manner. Studies have identified five hazardous attitudes that can interfere with the ability to make sound decisions and exercise authority properly.
Hazardous attitudes can lead to poor decision making and actions that involve unnecessary risk. The pilot must examine decisions carefully to ensure that the choices have not been influenced by hazardous attitudes and be familiar with positive alternatives to counteract the hazardous attitudes. These substitute attitudes are referred to as antidotes. During a flight operation, it is important to be able to recognize a hazardous attitude, correctly label the thought, and then recall its antidote.
Everyone is stressed to some degree almost all the time. A certain amount of stress is good since it keeps a person alert and prevents complacency. However, effects of stress are cumulative and, if not coped with adequately, they eventually add up to an intolerable burden. Performance generally increases with the onset of stress, peaks, and then begins to fall off rapidly as stress levels exceed a person's ability to cope.
The ability to make effective decisions during flight can be impaired by stress. Factors, referred to as stressors, can increase a pilot's risk of error in the cockpit.
There are several techniques to help manage the accumulation of life stresses and prevent stress overload. For example, including relaxation time in a busy schedule and maintaining a program of physical fitness can help reduce stress levels. Learning to manage time more effectively can help avoid heavy pressures imposed by getting behind schedule and not meeting deadlines.
Take a self-assessment to determine capabilities and limitations and then set realistic goals. In addition, avoiding stressful situations and encounters can help to cope with stress.