Risk management, a formalized way of dealing with hazards, is the logical process of weighing the potential costs of risks against the possible benefits of allowing those risks to stand uncontrolled. In order to better understand risk management, the terms “hazard” and “risk” needs to be understood.
Hazard identification is a process used to identify all possible situations where people may be exposed to injury, illness, or disease. Typical hazards are weather, mountains, obstacles, and operational and equipment failure.
Risk is the chance of a hazard actually causing damage and/or injury. Risk is measured in terms of consequences and likelihood. Risk management is the overall process of risk identification, risk analysis, control of risks, and risk evaluation. Risk control is part of risk management that involves the implementation of policies, standards, procedures, and physical changes to eliminate or minimize adverse risks. For example, the pilot understands the risk of a tow line break during launch. An acceptable risk that he or she can mitigate by understanding the risk and having a plan of actions to follow after a tow line breaks.
Safety Management System (SMS)
The Safety Management System (SMS) is a formal, top-down business approach to managing safety risk, which includes a systemic approach to managing safety, including the necessary organizational structures, accountabilities, policies and procedures. SMS is becoming a worldwide standard throughout the aviation industry integrating risk management, occupational safety, health, security, environment, and other concepts for the management of a complete safety program. SMS is a comprehensive program designed for a formal organization. The individual pilot can learn from the process and apply the concept for his or her own personal safety considerations, such as:
- Risk management decision-making.
- Management capabilities before a system failure
- Risk controls through safety assurance
- Knowledge sharing between regulations and the pilot
- Promoting a safety framework by having a sound safety culture or attitude
Aeronautical Decision-Making (ADM)
Aeronautical decision-making (ADM) is a mental process used by pilots (systematically) to determine a course of action in response to a given set of circumstances.
- Circumstance: My oxygen system has a slow leak. Soaring conditions are prefect and I do not need oxygen for today.
- Circumstance: High winds are forecast later today, but I should return before the wind changes.
- Circumstance: My batteries are low, but I am only planning a short flight.
Learning effective ADM skills cannot be overemphasized. As advancement in training methods, airplane equipment and systems, and services continue for pilots, incidents and accidents still occur. Despite all the changes in technology to improve flight safety, the human factor is the same. The human factor is still involved in a high percent of all aviation accidents.
Circumstances as mundane as a “slow oxygen leak,” a “high wind forecast,” or “low batteries” are parts of a decision chain leading to an incident or accident. The term “pilot error” has been used to describe the causes of these accidents meaning that an action or decision made by the pilot was the cause or a contributing factor that led to the accident. In the previous circumstances, the chain is broken if the pilot—has the “slow oxygen leak” repaired—respects the “high wind forecast” and delays the flight—charges the “low batteries” before the next flight. The pilot error definition also includes the pilot’s failure to make a decision or take action. Human factor-related accidents are accidents that did not involve a single decision but a chain of decision and factors leading to the accident. A “poor judgment chain,” referred to as the error chain, describe the concept of contributing factors in a human factors-related accident. Breaking one link in the chain normally is all that is necessary to change the outcome of the sequence of events.
Advisory Circular (AC) 60-22, “Aeronautical Decision Making,” provides introductory material, background information, and reference material on ADM. The material in this AC provides a systematic approach to risk assessment and stress management in aviation, illustrates how personal attitudes can influence decision-making, and how those attitudes can be modified to enhance safety in the cockpit. This AC also provides instructors with methods for teaching ADM techniques and skills in conjunction with conventional flight instruction.