A Review of How Pilot can Improve their Own Decision Making During their Career
Decision making is the thought procedure of choosing a logical choice from the existing options. Effective decision involves taking into consideration all the positives and negatives of all the courses of action and look at all the available options. The ability to focus on the consequence of each alternative and gauge the best preferable option at the situation will lead to an efficient decision making (American Psychological Association, 2010).
Forms of Decision Making
Various forms of decisions are undertaken by the pilots in their aviation duties. These decisions have negative or positive consequences depending on the situation behind their consideration and the accuracy of executing them (Walmsley, 2016).
Intuitive decisions involve receiving of inputs and ideas without a proper knowledge of their origin. Intuitive inspiration takes place when you focus in a task in a state of execution. Intuition can be improved through training and may lead to channelling.
Intuitive decision is beyond use of common as it entails application of additional sensors to perceive external information (Noyes, 2012).
An aviation case where intuitive decision is executed is the landing decision in a foggy night in which two or several white lights cloaked as a runway are gesturing to the pilot to land with just a second to decide the fate of the entire passengers and crew on board (Albright, 2015).
Some of the strengths of this form of decision making is that it allows the pilot to make a quick efficient decision in a complex and strange situation with high stakes and does not allow time to execute the standard strategic requirements. It also avails access to the deeper wisdom and intelligence within the pilot.
The outcome of the decisions is most likely aligned to the pilot’s core values and sense of purpose
Intuitive decision avail the energy that the pilot would otherwise have lost was he to solve the problem consciously. The form of decision also enable access to inventive results (Jones, 2014)
On the other hand, this form of decision has certain limitations which might lead to errors in the decision outcome some of them are faulty information, short term sensitive biasness, inadequate consideration of the available options, prejudgments as well as lack of sincerity.
The concept applied in rule-based form of decision making is to use the available knowledge and skills in the head of few experts to assist the others to make effective decisions. The knowledge is then applied by the general population to various situations to come up with a faster effective decision.
An application in the aviation environment is the use of prewritten procedures and rules to emphasize the maintenance procedure of an aircraft.
The advantages of applying this form of decision making is modularity each set of rules represent a unit of knowledge. Uniformity; all the knowledge is applied in a similar way hence allows formulation of a base for evaluating their effectiveness.
The format of the rules is natural so knowledge is expressed in a dominion.
Despite the strengths, the system also experience limitations that restrict its use some of them include: infinite chaining, there is need to craft the rule -based system in a way that minimises infinite loops.
There is a possibility of contradiction, modification of the base of the knowledge is sometimes complicate. In the addition of new rules to cater for unique situations may end up with a contracting information form the one previously applied. Also, a change in a rule cause it no longer effective must be evaluated to ensure effect of the rule on all the other remaining is considered.
The rules require a pattern matching for this case the cost of computing it is quite high causing inefficiencies. Another problem is that the rule-based approach is hard to examine to find out the future expectations.
Some situations are so complex that for them to be covered effectively by the rule based system we may need to put in place thousands of rules to cater for all the scenarios
Choice form of decision making entails evaluating the benefits of multiple alternatives available and choosing one or more options. The choice can either be made based on imaginary alternatives or real options followed by an equivalent action.
Good decision making entails analysing the available options and making a good choice. But in situations where the alternatives are vague or do not exist the pilot may need to craft a new option via the creative approach and experiment if it will fit within the existing boundaries.
A Weather-Related Aviation Accident in the Tasman Region
On November 28th, 1979, a New Zealand Flight 901 (tE-901) which was scheduled to the New Zealand Antarctic ferrying passengers who were going sightseeing flew into the Erebus mountain on the Ross Island and crushed killing the entire crew and passengers on board a total of 257 people. This what come to be defines as the Mount Erebus disaster.
At the end of the initial investigations pilot error was suggested to have been the cause of the accident but due to demand from the public an enquiry commission was put in place to conduct further research into the cause (Fox, 2009). The commission which was chaired by Justice Peter Mahon QC concluded that the cause of the accident was a correction on the co-ordinate of the plane path a night preceding the plane crush. These changes were not revealed to the crew so that the crew were made to believe they were flying down the McMurdo Sound instead of the actual Mount Erebus path. Justice Mahon further accused the New Zealand Air of presenting arranged litany of lies something which led to alteration of the airlines management.
Decision Making Issues Arising from the Accident
A decision making in the aeronautical sector comprises of all the pertinent decisions pilots undertake when conducting a flight. It involves both the pre-flight choices as well as those executed during the flight. Aeronautic decisions are very vital due to the heavy safety consequences of bad decisions (Amalberti, 2002)
In the Mount Erebus disaster, the captain Jim Collins and his Co-pilot Greg Cassin had never flown in the Antarctica region before their crushing flight. The region composed of a ragged terrain and so the decision to accept the task to fly over it with no prior experience of the airway was not in the best interest of the passengers. Their flight risks the life of over 49 crew members and 200 plus passengers. In the briefing conducted in 9th November 1979 19 days prior to the airplane departure the two were given a flight plan which had been approved by the New Zealand Department of Transport Civil Aviation Division (Air New Zealand., 2010). The plan was of a track directly from Cape Hallett to the McMurdo which entailed a flight over the peak of Mount Erebus. When the air New Zealand produced a printout from their ground computer system it briefly corresponded to a more south flight path down the middle of McMurdo Sound leaving the Mountain 43km to the East. The proceeding flights have entered this flight plan coordinates into their INS flight navigation system and used the route even though it was not approved. In this case, we see a failure in decision making where the pilots are accepting to use an unproved route because of ignorance.
When Captain Leslie Simpson discovered this deviation in the two flight plans he advised the air New Zealand navigation department. Again, this navigation section is seen making a very drastic and poor decision when they decided to adjust the McMurdo waypoint coordinates stored in the ground computer to correspond with the McMurdo TACAN beacon even though this plan was not in light with the approved route.
This change was made in the morning of the flight without considering notifying the flight 901 crew again this was another decision that contributed to the flight disaster. The crew were issued with a different printout from the one which they had been issued with at the previous briefing (Rejcek, 2009). To this the crew ended up entering wrong conflicting information to the aircraft INS and the map mark-up prepared by Captain Collins was not in line with this print out issued. With this information, we see the flight being automatically directed to the Erebus Mountain when the flight crew were being made to believe they will fly over the McMurdo Sound (Mahon, 1984).
Additionally, there was a decision to alter the computer program to display the word McMurdo instead of showing the coordinates of the final way point. A situation which Justice Mahon concluded to be a deliberate action to hide the illegal change of plans from the US air traffic control to prevent them from objecting to the new rules.
During the flight the plane paused 3000 feet as it approaches McMurdo undertaking this decision the pilot failed to adhere to the rules which required the minimum safe altitude of the plane to be 16000 feet. Again, this was an ignorant decision. Further the aircraft had no radar equipment location which gave the crew a difficulty in their bid to communicate via the VHF
The crew entered the coordinates in to the plane’s computer system but failed to check the destination waypoint against the topographical map as a result they failed to realise the fatal changes in time. Again, the pilot did not access the charts for the Antarctic and so failed to plan appropriately for the flight route (New Zealand Ministry for Culture and Heritage., 2014). When the navigation eventually provided the charts for the flight they were availed just minutes before departure and the pilot assumed he was out of time and decided not to look at them because of this decision he failed to realise that the scale of the map did not allow detailed information to be derived from it. The navigation section of the Air New Zealand removed all the support data that would have allowed monitoring of the aircraft from the ground another fatal decision that contributed to the flight crush (Wilson, 2007).
Training Solutions Regarding the Accident
Based on the flight crush evidence above new pilots should be trained to trust the safety of the plain to themselves and mot the other crew members from the fall of flight 901 its evident that the pilot ignored several security issues from confirming the flight chart to accepting a wrong flight plan print out. All this shows the failure in the part of the pilot simply because he imagined that the other navigation team were working with the interest of the plane’s safety which does not seem to be the case.
As anew upcoming pilot more study should be undertaken on the application of the intuitive decisions. The pilots are accepting to fly over the Erebus Mountain because of ignorant with even no slightest doubt regarding the altered coordinates
. When they are issued with unclear chart just minutes before the take-off they again cooperate with the navigation team without looking at it leave alone questioning the cause of the lateness. Further, the pilots need to be trained on how the coordinates operate as well as the VHF communication system. It was because of ignorant the entire crew accepted to board a plane whose VHF communication system and ground monitoring system had been interfered with without any question. This is an indication that the pilots lack adequate knowledge to enable them to check the system.
Summary and conclusions
The safety of airplanes is a vital issue, the fact that is all depends on human decisions makes the situation even more delicate. Most of the flight disasters even though often dedicated to weather conditions or even hardware and software failure are just rooted to the human errors. Just as seen in the case study of the Erebus disaster there is always a string of human errors behind every fatal plane crush.
To minimise these issues there is need for the existing pilots and the new upcoming ones to be trained adequately on the decision-making techniques in combination to the general functionality of the planes. If these are undertaken and enough measures put in place to guide the Aeronautical sector against malicious behaviours we might as well see a reduction in the number of plane crushes early than expected.
Air New Zealand. (2010). Ballot drawn for Remembrance flight to Antarctica. Air New Zealand.
Albright, J. (2015, October 24). Business and commercial aviation. Retrieved from How Pilots Intuitively Make Critical Decisions: An invaluable process that helps keep pilots safe: https://aviationweek.com/business-aviation/how-pilots-intuitively-make-critical-decisions
Amalberti, R. (2002). Revisiting Safety and Human Factors Paradigms to Meet the Safety Challenges of Ultra-Complex and Safe Systems. . Amsterdam: B. Willpert and B. Falhbruch (Eds.), System Safety: Challenges and Pitfalls of Interventions .
American Psychological Association. (2010). Publication manual of the american psychological association. Washington, D.C: American Psychological Association.
Fox, M. (2009). Air New Zealand apology 30 years after Erebus tragedy.
Jones, D. (2014, September). Dummies.com. Retrieved from Decision Making For Dummies: https://www.dummies.com/store/product/Decision-Making-For-Dummies.productCd-1118847539,navId-322517,descCd-ebook.html
Mahon, P. (1984). Verdict on Erebus. . Collins.
New Zealand Ministry for Culture and Heritage. (2014). "Erebus disaster Page 1 – Introduction". New Zealand History. New Zealand: New Zealand Ministry for Culture and Heritage.
Noyes, J. M. (2012). Decision making in complex environments. Abingdon, GB: Ashgate.
Rejcek, P. (2009). Erebus Medals. The Antarctic Sun.
Walmsley, S. &. (2016). Cognitive biases in visual pilots' weather-related decision making: Weather related decision making in general aviation. Applied Cognitive psychology, 530-545.
Wilson, J. (2007). The voyage out - Fire on the Cospatrick. The Encyclopedia of New Zealand.