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Aeronautical Decision-Making (ADM)

in Human Factors

Flying safely requires the effective integration of three separate sets of skills. Most obvious are the basic stick-and-rudder skills needed to control the airplane. Next, are skills related to proficient operation of aircraft systems, and last, but not least, are ADM skills.

ADM is a systematic approach to the mental process used by pilots to consistently determine the best course of action in response to a given set of circumstances. The importance of learning effective ADM skills cannot be overemphasized. While progress is continually being made in the advancement of pilot training methods, airplane equipment and systems, and services for pilots, accidents still occur. Despite all the changes in technology to improve flight safety, one factor remains the same—the human factor. While the FAA strives to eliminate errors through training and safety programs, one fact remains: humans make errors. It is estimated that approximately 80 percent of all aviation accidents are human factors related.

The ADM process addresses all aspects of decision making in the flight deck and identifi es the steps involved in good decision making. While the ADM process will not eliminate errors, it will help the pilot recognize errors, and in turn enable the pilot to manage the error to minimize its effects.

These steps are:

  1. Identifying personal attitudes hazardous to safe flight;
  2. Learning behavior modifi cation techniques;
  3. Learning how to recognize and cope with stress;
  4. Developing risk assessment skills;
  5. Using all resources; and
  6. Evaluating the effectiveness of one’s ADM skills.

Historically, the term “pilot error” has been used to describe the causes of these accidents. Pilot error means that an action or decision made by the pilot was the cause, or a contributing factor that led to the accident. This definition also includes the pilot’s failure to make a decision or take action. From a broader perspective, the phrase “human factors related” more aptly describes these accidents since it is usually not a single decision that leads to an accident, but a chain of events triggered by a number of factors.

The poor judgment chain, sometimes referred to as the “error chain,” is a term used to describe this 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.



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