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An Aviator’s Guide to Good Decision Making

An Aviator’s Guide to Good Decision Making
– Coming Out Alive, Lessons From Pilots Who Know What It’s Like


Making good decisions – both routinely and in emergency – has been proven time and again as a crucial element in achieving aviation safety.

Improving aviation safety performance is the goal of the AIRCARE series of DVDs and training booklets being produced by the Aviation Industry Association in partnership with the Civil Aviation Authority and Accident Compensation Corporation.

The second in the series – An Aviator’s Guide to Good Decision Making – is being launched on Thursday this week, 24 November at 5.30pm at Turnbull House, Wellington.

It includes the real life experiences of New Zealand general aviation pilots who have survived life-threatening situations in the air. Sue Dinkelacker, a rescue pilot who survived a major accident en route from Wellington to Masterton Hospital, will speak at the launch about her experience.

An Aviator’s Guide to Good Decision Making explains how the human brain, which evolved in a terrestrial environment, can only make one or two decisions at a time even in crisis mode - a fraction of the in-flight decision making ability of a housefly. Stress makes decision making even more difficult.

The DVD explains how to recognise and deal with these issues – for example by programming the brain ahead of each flight with as many decisions as possible to cover foreseeable situations. This should include automatic abort rules so that situations judged too risky on the ground don’t suddenly become acceptable in the air because of the highly “goal-orientated” instincts of many pilots.

The DVD encourages operators not to wait for new technology that improves safety to be mandated before using such advances as the enhanced ground proximity warning system (EGPWS) and the “Flysafe” black box, which tracks the location of aircraft even when outside radar coverage.

At the Thursday launch, Aviation Industry Association President John Funnell will discuss the value of the “Flysafe” technology, developed in New Zealand, which allows an operator or the rescue coordination centre to track the flight path of their aircraft and allows an aircraft to be located within one minute of its position thus avoiding huge search costs. This technology also allows pilots to access up-to-date weather and flight planning data.

Speakers at the launch of DVD#2 An Aviator’s Guide to Good Decision Making will be Mr Funnell, Ms Dinkelacker, DVD frontman Jim Hickey, ACC Minister Ruth Dyson, Transport Safety Minister Harry Duynhoven, and Civil Aviation Authority director John Jones.

The first AIRCARE DVD - Managing Risk in Aviation – was launched last year. Preparation for a third which focuses on the role of organisational culture in managing safety is currently under way. The AIRCARE programme was introduced by the Aviation Industry Association to improve risk management in general aviation and with the aim of reducing accidents by a rolling 25 percent over the next five years.

Before the AIRCARE initiative commenced, the general aviation sector in New Zealand averaged 14 fatal aviation accidents each year, killing an average of 26 crew and passengers and seriously injuring a further 27 and there was an upwards trend. Even on the ground, the sector experienced surprisingly high levels of personal injury – particularly back injuries and hearing impairment. There is strong evidence that the upwards trend has reversed with both the number and consequences of accidents reducing.


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