Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Practical Risk Management

Some days ago, I watched this video about practical risk management, which is a subject that goes hand-in-hand with Aeronautical Decision Making.

I've been developing a system that allows me to make a "go/no-go" decision in an efficient manner with conventional and modern tools. It involves personal (human) factors, flight planning, flight preparation, the tools used, and a careful analysis and awareness throughout the flight. I will write every phase of a flight in detail to analize the practice of risk management in that particular phase of the flight with the TEAM accronym (Transfer, Eliminate, Accept, and Mitigate).
As always, the way I do all of this depends mostly on the environment and kind of operation. It could be a flight in VMC or IMC, in the day or night, a local or cross-country (training) flight, single-pilot or multi-crew, etc.

Suppose we'll fly from Montgomery Field, San Diego (MYF), to Corona (AJO) in a Piper Archer II to drop a friend off. A good flight planning starts hours before the flight. The best is to do it the night before. It's the time when we're more calmed, at home, and can think about the PAVE checklist in more detail.
We first think "Am I fit for the flight?" We can verify this with the IMSAFE checklist (Illness, medication, stress, alcohol, fatigue and eating/emotions). If one of these items are in question, there's no question; meaning no flying.
For the next letter of PAVE, A for Airplane, we determine if the airplane we chose for the flight is the right one. We know that the Archer has two radios, a DME and an IFR-approved Garmin 430 GPS. We remember the database is out of date, so it will be used for situational awareness. We check the weather to know how the temperature at the departure and destination will be. That way we know how the airplane will perform and how much payload we can put in the Archer.
We check the weight and balance for the Archer that we're going to fly. It is very important to have the basic empty weight and moment for the airplane we're going to fly with. If we don't have it, we can do it before the flight.

As for V, for EnVironment, we do the flight plan by filling out a navlog for both legs of the day with the basic information. The navlogs will be completed just before the flight when we get the standard weather briefing. We review the forecasted weather for the day of the flight, we review the terrain and airports along our route with the VFR sectional chart. The forecast is indicating a strong chance of IMC, so it's best to mentally prepare ourselves for an IFR flight in IMC.

What about E, for External Pressures? Your friend needs to be at Corona in the afternoon and you have a dinner with your girlfriend's/boyfriend's parents at 7 o'clock, so you must be back by 5:30pm. In case the flight cannot be completed as planned, you ask and recommend your friend to have another option to get to Corona. That way you mitigated the external pressures factor.

On this stage, we already managed some risks by doing a careful and thorough flight plan with alternates, carefully reviewing the route and departure/approach procedures, checked the performance of the airplane based on a quick forecast of the weather for the next day, we checked the weight and balance, and we managed an external pressure.

On the day of the flight we go through the PAVE checklist again, starting with the P, for Pilot, at home. We check our physiological condition with the IMSAFE checklist.

When getting to the airport, about one hour before our estimated time of departure, we check the rest: A for Aircraft, V for EnVironment, and E for External Pressures. All of these are part of the flight preparation.

The airworthiness of the airplane must be verified by checking the airplane binder to verify compliance with inspections and ADs, and by performing a good pre-flight inspection of the airplane. After checking the fuel, oil and all the nuts and bolts, we re-check the weight and balance of the airplane.

Now we can proceed with the standard weather briefing to complete the navigation log with wind corrections, the synopsis, weather reports and forecasts, AIRMETs, NOTAMs, etc.

As for External Pressures, they remain the same.

We now have a "go" to fly, so we head to the airplane. After doing a final inspection and making sure the chocks are removed, we get into the Archer, strap ourselves in and proceed with the cockpit organization.

As for the flight itself, we can review the PAVE items in every phase of the flight by performing a departure briefing after copying the ATIS and the clearance, and perform a takeoff briefing on taxi or on the run-up area. I wrote a post about briefings some time ago, but I improved the briefings checklist some weeks ago to make the briefing more efficient in a logical order.

It is important to note that the PAVE checklist is a way of making sure everything is "go" and you can proceed with the next phase of the flight. Just like in spaceflight. For example: In the cruise briefing you go through all the items and if the passenger feels sick or something's wrong with the airplane, it means a "no-go" to proceed with the flight and you must land as soon as practicable.

If you're wondering why I wrote a lot about flight planning and preparation is because risk management starts from the ground. It's the best place to have everything ready and go through the PAVE checklist supported with TEAM in case there's a slight risk factor in one of the PAVE items.
The ADM chapter of the Pilot's Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge is the best source that I know of to read and learn more about ADM, CRM, SRM, risk management with PAVE, TEAM, the 5Ps...

It gets more in depth than what I just wrote and it's the most important subject for every flight operation.

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