Teaching Dynamic Risk Management

Managing risk in a changing environment is a critical skill to teach all pilots-in-training. Read our SAFEblog for techniques.

The risk equation of for a flight is not fixed before departure with a single analysis. It is continuously changing due to the duration and dynamics of each unique mission. Every flight seems to have a few “surprises” that are not part of the original plan even on the best days. This uncertainty keeps flying exciting and requires flexibility and resilience on the part of the pilot to successfully manage the changing risk profiles. It is essential we build these skills into our pilots-in-training for future safety.

An initial risk analysis like P-A-V-E should be an integral part of every flight – it is required in the current FAA ACS – but it’s often neglected on an average  GA flight. As educators, we know our students will model our behavior, so it’s incumbent upon us to embrace a higher level of professionalism and make this a prominent part of every training flight. These cognitive risk management skills have historically been under-emphasized and show up often as weak areas on flight tests. In addition to the preflight analysis, every pilot-in-training should work through a real “risk management model” in a dynamic flight environment (created by the CFI). This is not only for their flight test but as a working tool for their future safety.

Due to short lessons, limited geography, and a focus on “efficiency” ($$) “real” experience in flight training is obviously rare. We just can’t go enough places and build enough time to realistically “gain unique experiences.”. So CFIs must use their “creative license” and generate scenarios to present these challenges. Here are some  CFI-PRO™ techniques to improve your effectiveness (and your client’s future safety). Scenarios add variety and challenge (without cost) if used appropriately. (Your comments and additions are encouraged below!)

Visualize the P-A-V-E elements and specific common challenges like sliders on a mixing board. Each variable is constantly in motion anyway, but a creative CFI can intervene and change the balance at will. Be subtle and creative, using realistic experiences from your personal experience to challenge your students. As a CFI you can dial up the challenge by suddenly creating too low fuel (the cap must have been off) or a pop-up TSM along the route. Try taking away the NAV source and see how their pilotage is working. The secret to success as an educator here is creating realistic challenges appropriate to the level of your pilot. Scenarios need to be manageable to create teachable challenges. Your end result should be some struggle but ultimate success leading to learning, mastery and a boost to confidence.

Have your pilot-in-training share their “mental model” as they work through their challenges and solutions to each problem your present. In debrief point out the various mental models available to maintain situational awareness while applying and testing a solution to the current problem. Make sure you clients understand that ADM involves achieving the best solution given the hand we are dealt; “satisficing.” A “perfect outcome” is often not possible, this is an optimizing game. Decision-making under pressure is the heart of aviation safety, and certainly something they will see on their flight test from a competent DPE. Scenarios and ADM are the heart of the current ACS.

Every professional aviation educator should be working to create fully-qualified, capable aviators that exceed the FAA minimum standards.  Too often DPEs see questionable “test takers” some CFI sent just hoping they will successfully scape by. A “70% pass” might be an “outcome” but should never be a “goal” in flight training. When the FAA issues a new pilot certificate, it is not limited to the small geographical area your pilot trained in or just good flight days you previously specified. Your new pilot can fly the whole USA for the rest of their lives on any day they like. I did have one (airplane owner) pilot take off the day after his test and circumnavigate the USA!

Next week we will discuss using simulator scenarios for this same purpose of building skills and flexibility. What a tool to create some struggle! Fly safely (and often), have a great New Year.


Join SAFE to support our safety mission of generating aviation excellence in teaching and flying. Our amazing member benefits pay back your contribution (1/3 off your ForeFlight subscription)! Our FREE SAFE Toolkit App puts required pilot endorsements and experience requirements right on your smartphone and facilitates CFI+DPE teamwork. Our CFI insurance was developed by SAFE specifically for CFIs (and is the best value in the business).

 

Best Holiday Wishes!

From all of us at SAFE, our heartfelt wishes for a very warm and blessed holiday season for our readers, members, and supporters. Hopefully, you find yourself among family and friends, enjoying some time away from the usual demands of life. And every year’s end is also a time to reflect and reformulate our plans for life and activities. Please plan and pursue a safe year in your flying. Reflect after every flight on what went right and wrong (and what might have been “lucky”). Resolve to achieve greater skill and knowledge and avoid those edgy situations; that is what we are here for.  We all want to fly safer and be around for many more holidays!

SAFE has had several amazing years of growth for which we are very grateful. This has allowed the creation and expansion of our SAFE CFI-PRO™ program which had its highly successful roll out in October with 40 attendees taught by five FAA National Award Winners. Our next workshop is at Sporty’s Pilot Shop June 10/11th. SAFE will be at all the AOPA Regional Fly-Ins and I hope to meet you all there (please get in touch to join the team and volunteer?).

We have a New York City Meet-Up on January 13th at Pilot Proficiency International with Dan Weiss (a SWA check airman). I just visited Danny at his facility and it is beautiful. We will be sharing dinner and trying out the Redbird with some new SAFE Envelope Extension Scenarios. This is in collaboration with the NYC Master Instructor group and everyone is invited (RSVP David Dempsey). We will again be sponsoring the Syracuse Safety Stand Down on Feb. 29th (KSYR), a day-long series of safety seminars.

SAFE will also be at Sun ‘N Fun broadcasting live on FaceBook and YouTube with a variety of guests (sponsored by Gold Seal  Ground School)  We also will be hosting a “CFI-PRO Breakfast Roundtable” every morning from 8-9. Join us and be part of the SAFE team. Bring your ideas and grow our safety initiative. Fly often (and safely) Have a great holiday!


Join SAFE to support our safety mission of generating aviation excellence in teaching and flying. Our amazing member benefits pay back your contribution (1/3 off your ForeFlight subscription)! Our FREE SAFE Toolkit App puts required pilot endorsements and experience requirements right on your smartphone and facilitates CFI+DPE teamwork. Our CFI insurance was developed by SAFE specifically for CFIs (and is the best value in the business).

Beyond “Never Do This” In Safety!

Aviation safety as we currently practice it involves examining accidents for causal factors, “errors and omissions,” then deriving theories about what the pilots are doing wrong to improve our future flying. The primary method of generating safety is by identifying threats and trapping errors.

While there is value in this historic approach, learning “what not to do” is only one side of the safety coin. And playing “whack a mole” with errors might never exhaust the list of creative screw-ups. The statistics compiled in this fashion are depressing since, by definition, the pilot is the root cause of every accident that is not mechanical whack-a-mole-cartoon(roughly 80% of all wrecks). Engineers increasingly work to design planes without pilots since we are statistically the “weak link” in aviation safety. Meanwhile, important lessons on what “quietly goes right” are usually missed with this solely negative focus.  In some respects, this methodology is “like trying to learn about marriage by only studying divorce.”

A new approach to aviation safety is being pioneered at the NASA Engineering and Safety Center involving a more comprehensive examination of all aviation operations, not just the accidents. Led by Dr. Jon Holbrook, and termed “productive safety,” he examines all the ways pilots actively contribute to safety during complex and challenging operations. “For every well-scrutinized accident, there are literally millions of flights in which things go right, and those flights receive very little attention,” said Holbrook. The statistics look a lot better with this wider analysis since positive contributions of successful flights are added into the mix.

In Focusing [Just] On What Pilots Do Wrong, We May Be Missing Valuable Lessons From What They Quietly Do Right -FORBES

This “productive safety”  orientation toward “what we are doing right” has become a trend in industrial safety also. It is philosophically more consistent with the recent FAA switch to a collaborative compliance philosophy (and away from just strict enforcement). Even the last century’s “Six Sigma” obsession with eliminating error ( Six Sigma is 99.99966% error-free) has fallen from favor in modern industry. A more balanced approach to safety provides a bigger toolbox to assure safe operations in all human endeavors (and in industry spawns more innovation).

Veteran human factors psychologist Dr. Gary Klein has a performance paradigm he calls the “macro cognitive perspective” that nicely blends these two focuses of protective and productive safety when studying complex systems. Certainly in safety work, we have to study accidents carefully to identify and avoid errors and manage risks. But there is also an “up arrow” in high-stakes human performance that helps us optimize and improve pilot performance (glass half full viewpoint). This is often missed in organizations due to an overfocus on just errors, perfection, and predictability. An overriding caution from Dr. Holbrook’s work is the continuing evolution of safety in complex operations, “Many paths take you away from what you want to avoid, but not every path away from danger is a path toward safety.”

Here are some slides from this study and more information in an article in Forbes.  Fly safely out there…and often!


SAFE CFI-PRO™ workshop  is open to every aviation educator at every level (even if you are working on your CFI?)

Join SAFE to support our safety mission of generating aviation excellence in teaching and flying. Our amazing member benefits pay back your contribution (1/3 off your ForeFlight subscription)! Our FREE SAFE Toolkit App puts required pilot endorsements and experience requirements right on your smartphone and facilitates CFI+DPE teamwork. Our CFI insurance was developed by SAFE specifically for CFIs (and is the best value in the business).