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Aviation Decision Making

Human Factors in Aviation

Human factors is a combination of aviation medicine, psychology, engineering and ergonomics. It encompasses all of these factors trying to understand the man vs machine interface in the aircraft.

It has its roots in aviation accident investigations resolving these where no clear technical cause could be found when aircraft became more and more reliable over the years but somehow kept falling out of the sky.

Today, this field focuses on accident prevention, pilot/crew performance in the aircraft, ergonomics in cockpit layout and design and it relates to the single pilot aircraft as to multi-pilot crew on long haul commercial operations.

These human factors have their influence on the decision making process by the pilot and the safe outcome of the flight, which should never be in doubt no matter what the circumstances are.

This section will deal with pilot performance, his/her fitness to fly and the effects of high altitude, using (prescription) drugs, and smoking on the human body.

Pilot Performance

Pilot performance is all about a couple of factors: airmanship, personality, crew management. They relate to the pilot as a person, his or her ability to make good judgments and decisions and to be able to communicate effectively with others. Remaining cool and rational at all times and instill confidence in the crew and passengers.


It is the ability to show common sense, have the highest standards and good aviation skills. Meaning to fly the aircraft well, think clearly and make good and sound decisions so that the safe outcome of a flight is never in doubt. Clear communication skills and getting along with other pilots, maybe new to the operation, is very important as is to keep his/her cool in more difficult situations and being very professional as a pilot as to become a good example to others in the profession.


Pilot Performance

Defining the persons character properties. It is in part genetic and part learned through experience, education and the way we were brought up by our parents. For a part this can be modified, relearned if you wish. As we get older we (should) become more mature in our ways of thinking and our behavior in human relations and our job. This will not be for everyone though, sadly.

When aircraft were made of wood and men of steel, pilots were thought to be made of the right stuff when they where the stable extrovert type, capable of doing everything on their own, self reliant and they would not be caught making a stupid mistake. They just did not screw up. It was thought that this was the right kind of personality.

No macho's

But in this day and age with glass cockpits, fly by wire aircraft and a multi-pilot crew airline or commuter flying, the macho type of pilot has no place in this environment anymore. It is absolutely the wrong stuff. Accidents have happened just because of this attitude and lack of communication with other crew members.

Crew management

A pilot in command needs to get on with other people, crew or cabin people for example. He or she is ultimately responsible for the aircraft, its safe operation and all souls onboard. The crew (the PIC is also a crew member) should cooperate as a well oiled machine, essential for safe flight and they should regularly follow line operations flight and crew resource management training to keep current.

The characteristics of a good pilot in command are amongst others, to be a good and competent pilot with firm technical knowledge about the aircraft and good flying skills, a good leader able to inspire others and getting the best out of his crew and consult them in the decision making process, always thinking ahead of the situation and making sound decisions.


Pilots should try to attain perfection in their flying, this applies to private and commercial pilots alike. Just aim to do it right every time always. Try to perfect your flying skills all the time and learn from your mistakes and not hide them.

A nearly perfect pilot (is there such a thing as a perfect pilot?) is consistent, flexible, safe, accurate and dependable. He or she is also confident (not too much though) in their decisions. This pilot never stops learning from his own experience and from others too and tries to fly to the highest standards, improving along the way and be and sets examples for others and will always helps others in their career.

The opposite

Some characteristics of a not so perfect or sloppy pilot are: being a show-off, careless, overconfident (a know-it-all or been there, done that type of person), rough handling of the aircraft, impulsive, takes risks, flies without regard to rules and regulations thereby risking equipment and lives.

Aviation has no place for such an individual. If any pilot wishes to show off, then do this by showing technical knowledge of the aircraft, being reliable, dependable, effective and with knowledge of procedures, weather and making good sound decisions.
Just be and act professional!

Written by EAI.

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