Situational Awareness Training

Wednesday, January 29th, 2020

Is Proven to Minimize Pilot Error During Approach and Landing

Pilot error is a cause of many aircraft accidents. Statistics from the Flight Safety Foundation Approach-and-Landing Accident Reduction (ALAR) Task Force show that over half of the accidents worldwide from 1984 to 1997 were potentially avoidable if pilots had used better situational awareness during approach and landing.

Situational awareness (SA) defines the concept of understanding everything involved with flying, maintaining and controlling an aircraft. The FAA’s Risk Management Handbook (FAA-H-8083-2) defines SA as “the accurate perception and understanding of all the factors and conditions within the four fundamental risk elements (pilot, aircraft, environment, and type of operation) that affect safety before, during and after the flight.”

It’s a concept that addresses having a complete understanding of the context of the operational environment during any specific flight – both the current state and the potential future state. That means that good SA requires the ability to anticipate how current conditions — with the aircraft, the crew, the weather, the airspace and the terrain — affect the current status, trajectory, and safety of the plane and its passengers.

Situational Awareness Examples

All pilots need to have a clear understanding of the inter-relationship of all of the elements mentioned above. This also includes the communications between the flight crew, air traffic control and other aircraft and the added elements of a visual look-out; navigation; and other aircraft safety nets.

Think of SA as a continuous understanding of everything currently affecting the flight, integrated with previous experience, while anticipating future events related to the flight.

Some common examples of poor situational awareness include:

  • The pilot being unaware of airspace restrictions
  • Loss of separation from other aircraft
  • Failing to read back a clearance to the ATC and performing an action prior to the ATC confirmation, leaving the ATCO unaware of the change
  • Attempting to land via visual reference at an unfamiliar runway instead of using instrument procedure, resulting in a CFIT

Situational awareness is critically important, especially during approach and landing. Consequences of inadequate situational awareness can include runway incursion, loss of control, wake turbulence, unexpected icing conditions, or unexpectedly strong headwinds to name just a few.


Training is critical to the development of strong situational awareness, and a continual reinforcement system helps prevent pilot error.

TrainingBoom offers comprehensive training for situational awareness, and because pilots and flight crews are human beings and SA requires an anticipation of future events, they include procedures such as the following, in addition to teaching specific rules:

  • Using the “What if” question to reduce mistakes. Asking yourself “What if this occurs, or what can go wrong” can help pilots reduce mistakes. However, the pilot needs to be conditioned to continually ask this question during approach and landing.
  • Some operators use the “two-challenge rule”. The rule allows one crew member to automatically assume the duties of one who fails to respond to two consecutive challenges. For example, if the pilot flying (PF) exhibits an unsafe attitude or loss of SA, the pilot not flying (PNF) can ask if he is aware of the problem. If the PF doesn’t properly respond, the PNF can issue a second challenge and assume control of the aircraft if the PNF fails to accurately respond.

Having a commitment to practicing continuous situational awareness is proven to mitigate the potential problems to approach and landing.

Contact us if you’d like to learn more about our SA and Human Factor programs.

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