From before they leave the terminal to the time when they land at their target destination, aircraft pilots must make a lot of important decisions during each flight. When making these decisions, there will be many different things to take in consideration, all of which can change at a moment's notice. To best prepare pilots for the multitude of decisions they will need to make, a model for decision making was devised called the “5 Ps.” These five factors should be considered at many different points during a flight, including during pre-flight checks before takeoff, multiple times throughout the flight, during landing right before final approach, and just before entering ground traffic. Whether responding to regular changes in the environment or facing an emergency, these five factors should be considered:
Plan: All flights should include a significant amount of preflight planning to ensure safe and efficient travel. Among other things, this planning could involve evaluating the expected weather patterns, designated routes, and fuel requirements. When making any important flight decisions, pilots should consider the plan which was put in place beforehand, and update it if necessary. It is always important to check what the plan currently entails so that appropriate changes can be communicated when they arise.
Plane: Another essential factor to consider is the condition of the plane. It is especially important to evaluate the plane before and after a flight to determine if any maintenance is needed. Pilots should also check that all their necessary equipment is aboard the plane and working effectively. On modern aircraft, evaluating the proper condition of a plane also refers to inspecting its autopilot system and database currency.
Pilot: With regular trips to high altitudes and frequently changing flight schedules, the job of an airplane pilot can be exhausting. To ensure the safety of all on board, pilots should always check their own condition during preflight checks using the “IMSAFE” checklist. This checklist includes evaluating for the possible effects of Illness, Medication, Stress, Alcohol, Fatigue, and Emotion. Regardless of how they are feeling at the start of their shift, pilots should keep regular checks on their health and ability throughout the day. This process will ensure that both the pilot(s) and all passengers on board are safe during their flight.
Passengers: Whether flying with just a copilot or carrying dozens of passengers, it is important to consider the needs of all people on board while keeping away from unnecessary distractions. Pilots should be aware of passenger concerns, such as flight anxiety or urgency to get to their destination on time, but ultimately make decisions that are the safest for everyone within the vehicle. This factor can also include making important decisions and agreements preflight to avoid arguments between copilots. Having these discussions before a flight can help create a more focused and seamless journey overall.
Programming: The final step in the checklist focuses on the programming aboard a plane which can include both handheld and panel mounted equipment. Modern advancements have lessened the workload on pilots so that they may focus more directly on crucial parts of flight decisions. However, pilots also need to check that the programming kit is in working order before takeoff. These instruments are very helpful, but may also become a distraction mid-flight if proper maintenance or checks do not take place before takeoff. To ensure that such issues are avoided, pilots should use this part of the checklist to ensure that they are familiar with the functionality of their equipment and have a thorough understanding of how it works.
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