Aeronautical Decision Making

Aeronautical Decision Making


The airline industry, wanting to reduce accidents, developed the first training programs based on improving Aeronautical Decision Making (ADM). Crew resource management (CRM) training for flight crews is focused on the use of all available resources: human resources, hardware, and information supporting ADM to facilitate crew cooperation and improve decision-making. The goal is good ADM and the use of CRM as a way of making good decisions.”

The importance of ADM was highlighted during the 1980s in a series of eight separate reports on ADM by the Federal Aviation Administration. Through research, development, and testing in 1987 brought about the writing of six manuals on the decision-making needs of pilots. These manuals provided multifaceted materials designed to reduce the number of decision related accidents. The effectiveness of these materials was validated in independent studies where student pilots received ADM training in conjunction with the standard flying curriculum. When tested, the pilots who had received ADM training made fewer inflight errors than those who had not received ADM training. The differences were statistically significant and ranged from about 10 to 50 percent fewer judgment errors.

Search the web today and you will find thousands of pages with some reference to Aeronautical Decision Making (ADM). Among those pages there are dozens of PowerPoint Presentations and videos available which examine ADM from different perspectives. Although the emphasis given different aspects of Aeronautical Decision Making varies among all these sources of information there is general agreement that making good decisions is important and that poor decisions can often lead to accidents.  So, if you want to be a competent, safe pilot you really should learn all you can about ADM.

To help us use ADM the FAA has given us many acronyms such as PAVE, IMSAFE, CARE, DECIDE, ME, Five P, and 3P.  They have introduced such terms as Task Management, Risk Management, Risk Mitigation, Personal Minimums, Check List Usage, Check List Management, Situational Awareness, and Hazardous Attitudes.  Wow, enough to give me a headache, but all important in explaining how the decision process works and acronyms that we can use to help make good decisions in the cockpit.

Can we as flight instructors teach good decision making?  Yes, I believe we can. In the 1980’s the airline industry begin teaching ADM resulting in a reduction of airline accidents. The airline industry has become the safest means of travel today, but the general aviation pilot is a long way from meeting those kind of safety standards.

The airline pilot has a means to practice and hone their skills in a realistic but safe environment such as a flight simulator. The airline pilot receives periodic scenario based proficiency checks, with CRM evaluation/training.  After the general aviation pilot receives his certificate, he may think that he has received all the training he will ever need. Unfortunately, that isn’t always true. Training to be a private pilot mainly involves learning how to get the airplane in the air, keep it there while going somewhere, and then get it back on the ground — all without killing yourself.  The only training they receive is the flight review every two years as required by 14 CFR 61.56. Unfortunately, that only represents the minimum training requirement.  As a result, general aviation accident statistic is about that of motorcycles.

The relationship between decision making skills and piloting skills can be complex with the need to practice them
. In the Ohio Valley area, there is only one flight school that is providing realistic scenario based ADM training in a safe environment for the general aviation pilot, Great Plains Enterprises located at Wilmington Ohio. Here are several videos that can help with the understanding of how we make good decisions (click on the underlined words to view video). I would suggest starting with The Psychology of Aeronautic Decision Making.  It will give you a comprehensive overview of how decision making works, and all the psychological factors that influence your decisions, whether in the cockpit or anywhere else.

Written by David Hoover,
Owner of Great Plains Enterprises, LLC,
Retired B767 Captain from ABX Air Inc., with over 20000 hours of flight time.
Airline Transport Pilot Certificate, Flight Instructor Certificates, Ground Instructor, PVT Helicopter, Remote Pilot, and Volunteer FAASTeam Rep.
Typed in B-767, B-757, DC-9, CV-600, and CV-640


1 Comment

  1. Scott

    All the acronyms in the world can’t replace Common Sense! As a rookie just recently completing my check ride I have a lot to learn about aviation and definitely have piloting skills to perfect, but one thing I hope that I bring to the aviation community is common sense! Unfortunately common sense is near impossible to teach! Either you have common sense or you don’t! I was lucky to have had a very detailed instructor that used every acronym in the FAA playbook over and over again creating an environment that encourages Good ADM even in casual conversation. It is the culture of Common Sense and surrounding yourself with individuals that make Good Sound Aeronautical Decisions that will help every veteran pilot and rookie aviator better tomorrow than they were today if they just take time to listen and learn how to make decisions! Surround yourself with Eagles and the sky is your only limit! Surround yourself with Dodo birds and well…..


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *