Why Pilots Must Prove Risk Management the story behind the airman certification standards
It is possible to imagine our deep sense of despair when sometimes we’d go back to a town on our ground-school circuit and a person would say,”Did you hear about Bill?” “No,” we’d say,”what happened to Bill?” They’d then explain the aircraft crash which had killed Bill. We started to realize what which were murdering these learning pilots were things the FAA wasn’t asking on the understanding tests.
The difficulty was, that the FAA wanted a bell-shaped distribution of test scores on the evaluation outcomes. It had been difficult for them to get a bell-shaped curve because our highly motivated pupils would come back into our courses and discuss with us what they were asked on their knowledge evaluations. We would instantly change our classes to do a much better job of covering whatever they’d missed. Consequently, our next students wouldn’t miss many questions–bothersome the evaluation givers. For applicants to overlook out questions, the FAA had to create the questions trickier and more difficult–and less and less relevant to the risk-management issues pilots confront in real life.
Martha and I started to realize we were spending our weekends covering catchy questions and trivia which was irrelevant to real flight, although the things really causing fatalities weren’t being requested and, thus, not being educated.
Within their attempts to make certain that an adequate number of test questions would be missed, the FA A testing people moved to make the test questions confidential in the aviationtraining neighborhood –the people who were actually teaching pilots. They watched us as adversaries. I brought this up adversarial relationship with Nick Sabatini, then the FAA’s associate administrator for aviation security, in a”Meet the FAA” session at EAA AirVenture at Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Sabatini was concerned, and he cautioned the airmantesting people meet with the aviation community yearly. The end result was an adversarial meeting once a year.
Eventually, in 2011, an aviation rule-making committee on the subject has been shaped. An ARC consists of both FAA and aviation community members and meets periodically to give suggestions and advice to the FAA.
The air initially between both groups had been hostile. And talk we did. The ARC lasted two years and made recommendations to the FAA about the way to reform testing. Then it evolved into a working class which has lasted another seven decades. The result has been nothing short of a wonder. Most importantly, the hostility slowly went off. As we communicated, we began to develop mutual respect and understanding. The FAA began to refer to members of this”aviation community” as opposed to the”industry.” Members of that community began to appreciate the competence and goodwill of the FAA. We slowly made considerable progress on fixing significant problems. We became conscious that while there were existing standards for the skills that could be required of an applicant, there were not any criteria for the understanding that could be asked of an applicant–about either the comprehension test or the practical test. As the talks continued, we agreed it was a fantastic idea to get standards for the understanding so applicants would know to be studying purposeful and applicable concepts.
But we began talking about the thought that although candidates would need to demonstrate knowledge and skills, applicants weren’t required to demonstrate the capability to recognize and mitigate risks. Yet it was not lack of abilities that was the largest cause of deaths; it was that pilots had not developed the habit of risk management. Remembering my friends who’d come to despair, I became a winner for the thought that applicants should be required to demonstrate the capability to recognize and mitigate risks. Through the airman certification standards, hazard management became part of pilot check rides.
The biggest regret I have is that the FAA never did take the recommendation of the ARC that the exam questions be returned into the public domaindepriving the evaluation authors of valuable input from the aviation community and robbing applicants,their instructors and examiners of the specific details about any knowledgetest questions they overlook (plus developing a company for any company who’s covertly purchasing the queries from test-takers and promoting them to applicants).
But all in all, I must say these nine years have been the most inspiring example of developing respect and collaboration I have ever seen. The continuing input to the working group from the community members is a feedback process that serves to make sure the ACS will grow as required to improve our risk management with time. Rather than merely having practical test standards, we finally have complete criteria for the certification of pilots. And pilots that are studying the practice of identifying the dangers in a flight and creating the habit of mitigating them. I am hopeful that this may save tens of thousands of lives.