Whether your’e soloing in a Cessna 172 or soaring the skies in a Phenom 300, there are some valuable pointers that single pilot operations need to be consistently self-briefed on. The basis of Crew Resource Management grew out of the 1977 Tenerife airport disaster where two Boeing 747 aircraft collided on the runway, killing 583 people. A few weeks later, NASA held a workshop on the topic, endorsing this innovative training. A younger concept that has been quietly adapted is Single Pilot Resource Management (SRM). SRM is defined as the art and science of managing all the resources — both on-board the aircraft and from outside sources — available to a single pilot prior to and during flight, to ensure the successful outcome of the flight. (U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge, 2016).
As more Technologically Advanced Aircraft or TAA’s for short, roll off the line, the great debate and consistent divide among pilots is “If it has two engines, it needs two pilots”. While this is the safest and most common practice, there still lies certifications for certain aircraft to be operated with only one pilot aboard. Streamlined Avionics, advancements in autopilots, and in-depth training has allowed operators to cut costs in the crewing arena and with the ever-growing pilot shortage, this is very attractive to certain operations.
While initial and recurrent trainings on these particular TAA’S “brushes over” SRM, Accident reports are showing that more training is vital to safer single pilot operations.
I currently fly the Citation 500 series with a Single Pilot Waiver. I have also flown a plethora of King Airs and smaller aircraft alone in the cockpit for the past 16 years.
With that being said, a monthly overview of operations, and personal daily briefings are part of my own self-managed system. However I do find, during heavy workloads and over-packed flight schedules, can result in “going through the motions”.
Below we will review a few simplified key pointers on Single Pilot Resource Management. Take it, make it your own, and implement safer practices when flying alone.
The Basic Resources you have in the Cockpit
One of the most underutilized resources may be the person in the right seat, even if the passenger has no flying experience.
A passenger can assist with:
Providing information in an irregular situation, especially if familiar with flying. A strange smell or sound may alert a passenger to a potential problem.
Confirming after the pilot that the landing gear is down.
Learning to look at the altimeter for a given altitude in a descent.
Listening to logic or lack of logic.
Pilot Operating Handbook (POH)
Charts and GPS
Air Traffic Control (ATC)
Navigation Facilities (VOR, NDB, ILS)
Other pilot’s on CTAF
Utilizing TAA’s during SRM
How Can a TAA Help Improve Your SRM?
While the technology in TAAs perhaps makes SRM techniques more necessary, it also makes them easier to achieve for well-trained pilots. Advanced aircraft technology now allows pilots to expand ‘their team’ inside the cockpit in unique ways. There is much more than the radio and an air traffic controller available to help pilots maintain their situational awareness and manage risks.
Electronic checklists give pilots more heads-up time and confidence that they have performed all the necessary procedures
Autopilots—which often can perform approaches and even have VNAV capabilities—help pilots reduce their workload and stay ahead of the airplane
Moving map displays help pilots increase their situational awareness and can prevent controlled flight into terrain (CFIT) and airspace violations
WAAS-enabled GPS also can help pilots increase their situational awareness, particularly for ILS approaches
These features only scratch the surface of the technology available in modern aircraft. XM satellite weather radars, multiple radios, synthetic vision, and more help pilots considerably during single-pilot operations. Let’s take a closer look at a few of the most critical features.
How Can You Enhance Your SRM Training in TAAs?
A great way to start learning more is by watching professional flight crew videos on YouTube. Notice the way pilots interact with each other, their EFBs, ground crew, and ATC. While you do not have all those resources at your disposal when you fly by yourself, there is a lot to gain from learning how to choose the proper resource and tune in to what matters most at the right time. Here are a few ideas to help you think and perform in TAAs like a professionally-trained airline pilot.
Read the autopilot manual and practice autopilot operations on the ground in a simulator or aircraft.
Create a system for pre-flight weather checks and NOTAMs. Do these apply to your flight and your operation?
Continuously look for opportunities to expand ‘your team.’ Beyond ATC, think about who can help expand your knowledge and keep you safe. Your mechanic is a great resource for learning more about your aircraft.
Read accident and incident reports to gain more experience.
Use real-life experiences that you have encountered or read about to implement scenario-based training into your proficiency plan.
The Five P’s
SRM sounds good on paper, but it requires a way for pilots to understand and use it in their daily flights. One practical application is called the Five Ps:
The 5 Ps are based on the idea that the pilots have essentially five variables that impact their environment and can cause the pilot to make a single critical decision or several less critical decisions that when added together can create a critical outcome. This concept stems from the belief that current decision-making models tended to be reactionary in nature. A change has to occur and be detected to drive a risk management decision by the pilot.
The plan can also be called the mission or the task. It contains the basic elements of cross-country planning: weather, route, fuel, current publications, etc. The plan should be reviewed and updated several times during the course of the flight.
The plane consists of the usual array of mechanical and cosmetic issues that every aircraft pilot, owner, or operator can identify.
Use the IMSAFE Checklist.
Sometimes passengers also have their own priorities that influence the PIC. The desire of the passengers to make airline connections or important business meetings easily enters into a pilot’s decision-making loop. Done in a healthy and open way, this can be a positive factor.
The advanced avionics aircraft adds an entirely new dimension to the way GA aircraft are flown. The electronic instrument displays, GPS, and autopilot reduce pilot workload and increase pilot situational awareness.
While programming and operation of these devices are fairly simple and straightforward unlike the analog instruments they replace, they tend to capture the pilot’s attention and hold it for long periods of time. It’s vital to keep both concepts of system monitoring and true aviating in rotation.
To sum it up, both Crew and Single Pilot Resource Management should be consistently reviews and at the forefront of your flying toolbox. Stay safe, and keep your head on a swivel!
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