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DECIDE vs. RADAR: Methods and Procedures in SPO

in Aviation Blog, Flying Tips

By: Michael Teninty M.A.S.  You can visit Michael’s blog at The Standard Pilot Log.

Methods and procedures in SPO.  There are countless ways in which to operate an aircraft in SPO.  A pilot can readily find information on Single Pilot Resource Management (SRM) (FAA, 2009; Kearns, 2011), and guidance for Single Pilot Instrument Flight Rules (SPIFR) operations (Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association Air Safety Foundation [AOPA ASF], n.d.).  Both of these sources address the guidelines and philosophies for SPO, but the focus of this [post] is a little narrower in scope, and will address general SPO with respect to management of a single situation.

For any given aircraft, the general guidance for its procedures comes from a Pilot’s Operating Handbook (POH), or company operations manual, or something of that nature.  These documents contain lists of procedures for the various phases of flight like preflight, prestart, start, taxi, takeoff, climb, cruise, approach, landing, after landing, and shutdown.  These procedures may be guided by a checklist, which, in and of itself is a memory aid.  Any or all of the phases of flight may exist under a normal, abnormal, or emergency condition.  There are generally checklists for those abnormal and emergency contingencies.  It is impossible to conceive of every abnormal situation or emergency, and in those situations, the pilot must arrive at the optimal solution with regard to safety, and they may have to do it without the use of a procedure or checklist.

One way to make good decisions when faced with the unexpected is to operate from a general mental model for handling abnormal or emergency situations (FAA, 1991; Li & Harris, 2005).  Such a general model might be defined by the use of a memory mnemonic (Ison, 2006).  For this [post], six mnemonic devices were examined to determine their elements, identify their commonalities, and propose a comprehensive mnemonic memory aid that could be applied in any general ADM scenario.

The mnemonics chosen for comparison were from Li & Harris’s (2005) study on the effectiveness of five mnemonics as rated by instructor pilots in the Republic of China Air Force, and the FAA’s (1991) advisory circular on ADM.  The mnemonics are: DECIDE (FAA, 1991), DESIDE (Murray, 1997), FOR-DEC (Hormann, 1995), PASS (Maher, 1989), SHOR (Wohl, 1981), and SOAR (Oldaker, 1995).  The analysis and comparison consisted of listing the mnemonics, their elements, and identifying any commonalities among those elements.  The commonalities identified were categorized under decision phases on a timeline.  Those phases are onset, situation, analysis (of the situation), options, choice, action/execution, and follow up.  Table [1] illustrates each mnemonic alphabetically from top to bottom, with time progression from left to right, organized under decision phase.

All of the mnemonics provide a comprehensive solution, but not all of them contain memory cues for each decision phase.  Three of the mnemonics have elements under onset and situation.  Four have elements under analysis, options, choice, and follow up.  Five have elements under action.  In proposing a new comprehensive mnemonic, it is assumed that the pilot of an aircraft will notice a change in the flight environment.  Perhaps that is why only 50% contain elements under onset.  Also, the current situation would be fully considered under analysis, so that decision phase may be redundant.  The decision phases left with over 50% agreement in each element are analysis, options, choice, action, and follow up.  Based on the identified decision phases, the following mnemonic is proposed as a comprehensive memory aid to use as a general guide for abnormal/emergency scenarios: RADAR.

Table 1

Table 1 [Click to Enlarge]

The mnemonic was generated by listing synonyms for each of the decision phases and looking for a recognizable word among the first letters of the synonyms.  The RADAR mnemonic stands for Review, Appraise, Decide, Act, and Review (RADAR).  In this case, the first review element would encompass the decision phases of onset, situation, and analysis.  The pilot would review the status of the flight after some type of change.  The appraise element would cover the options phase, where the pilot would appraise their options for reacting to a change.  The decide element would answer the choice phase, during which the pilot would decide on a course of action.  The act element aptly covers the action phase, where the pilot makes an input to their flight environment.  The final review element addresses the follow up phase, and the process begins again.

Not only is the mnemonic easy to remember, it consists of five steps, and is well within the normal capacity of a person’s working memory (Miller, 1994).  The literature review data supports the hypothesis that a comprehensive method/procedure can be developed and it can serve as a framework for developing SA and improving ADM in SPO.

Ok, that’s it for my thoughts on SPO for the time being…



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