Sep 27, 2022

Experienced Aviator Checking Flight ControlsAirmanship is an integral part of the human factors related to aviation safety. But what exactly is it, and how should it be applied to flying and flight training? The key to discussing airmanship lies firmly in the decision-making process, making the right decisions at the right time is a crucial element in the ongoing management of aviation safety. Read on to learn more about the complex topic of airmanship, the consequences of poor airmanship and a few helpful tips on managing your levels of airmanship.

What Is Airmanship?

Airmanship is all about making good decisions or exercising judgement in an informed way that results in having expert control of an aircraft and a situation while continuously balancing safety against flight objectives. This multidimensional concept relies heavily on a high degree of situational awareness, extensive industry knowledge, uncompromising discipline, and systematically developed skill and proficiency.

Airmanship is not something that, once learned, is complete. Instead, it is more of an ongoing process that requires continuous maintenance via self-awareness, assessment and improvement while nurturing the desire for optimal performance at all times.

Major Consequences Of Poor Airmanship

Aeroplane Over CloudsWhy is quality airmanship so important? Perhaps the best way to explain is to highlight the following consequences of poor airmanship.

  • Accidents. Poor airmanship is the most significant determining factor/cause in air accidents and incidents attributed to human factors.
  • Operational Weaknesses. Inefficiencies resulting from poor airmanship lead to increased safety risks, poor performance and wasted time and money.

4 Core Principles Of Airmanship

There are 4 core principles needed which aid in defining airmanship and its place within the aviation industry, these are:

1. Situational Awareness

Situational awareness is all about enabling accurate judgment and good decision-making. Put simply, this includes gathering information about the situation, interpreting this information and using it to plan ahead and take the appropriate action.

The key to good situational awareness is that it is a continuous loop process, where a pilot continuously searches and updates the information they receive, re-evaluating and reassessing the possible effects and outcomes and how this affects the overall outcome. See here for more information on the importance of situational awareness in aviation.

4 Steps To Situational Awareness Success

  1. Perception. Gather as much information as possible using the primary senses (vision, hearing, balance, smell and touch).
  2. Comprehension. Interpret and understand which information is relevant to the situation
  3. Projection. Plan ahead, creating a mental picture of what is happening, what should be happening and what might happen.
  4. Anticipation. Constantly searching for new information that is relevant and updating the planned outcome.

Managing Situational Awareness

Some quick tips to keep in mind when managing situational awareness are:

  • Your senses can sometimes be misleading; for example, optical illusions.
  • Access to reliable information may not be possible; for example, unfamiliar circumstances.
  • Technology is not always correct; there are times when it may malfunction or fail.
  • Incorrect expectations and making assumptions can lead to mistakes.
  • Distractions and/or over-familiarity can lead to the pilot overlooking important aspects.

2. Knowledge

Airmanship requires a solid knowledge base. Knowledge of the aircraft and its capabilities, knowledge of your own capabilities and limits, knowledge of the physical environment, the regulatory environment and the organisational environment, knowledge of the risks involved, and knowledge of the other people you interact with, including your team, aviation staff (such as Air Traffic Control) and customers.

Knowledge is the key to the unexpected. When something happens that was not part of the plan, knowledge gives the ability to manage the new situation safely. It usually takes a lot of time and experience to gain this knowledge.

5 Steps To Nailing Your Knowledge

Pilots must have a confident understanding of the following when seeking to master their airmanship knowledge base:

  1. Know Your Aircraft. Understand the aircraft systems, procedures, limitations and emergency protocols.
  2. Know The Risks. Identify and assess the risks associated with the required tasks.
  3. Know Yourself. Know your own limitations, both physical and flying ability.
  4. Know Your Team. Be aware of the capabilities and input of other people involved.
  5. Know Your Environment. This means organisational, political, regulatory and commercial plus your physical environment, weather, and terrain.

Pilot Using Tablet In Aeroplane3. Skills And Proficiency

Just quickly, let’s distinguish between skills and proficiency. Skills can be defined as things you have learnt during training, and proficiency is more about how well you can do these things in real-world situations. Often proficiency will depend on how well you were taught the skill, how many times you have practised it, and how recently you have used the skill.

The basic concept behind the skill/proficiency combo is the better you were taught and the more you practised, the greater amount of time that can pass when not using the skill before proficiency drops to unacceptable levels.

Skill Categories

Skills can be grouped into broad categories, it is necessary to have both skill and proficiency in all aspects of airmanship.

  • Routine Skills. Once learned, routine skills are easy to repeat with a good level of proficiency. These could be things like take-offs and landings, emergency procedures and pre-flight checks.
  • Procedural Skills. Generally, these involve unusual circumstances that deviate from the norm. These types of skills depend on having well-prepared procedures in place. Examples of procedural skills might be hydraulic failure or cabin door malfunction.
  • Exceptional Skills. For extreme situations beyond the excepted “normal” parameters that are not usually encountered, exceptional skills must be called upon. Procedural solutions are unlikely to be available in these situations therefore, an exceptional range of skills is required.

5 Steps To Developing And Mastering Your Skills

Mastering your skills is an essential aspect of airmanship, here are 5 tips for becoming an expert:

  1. Practice Practice Practice. Practice in various scenarios and situations under high stress, such as time pressures and high workloads, practice in all kinds of weather, with assistance and without, practice communicating with a variety of people – practice everything!
  2. Take Recurrent Training Seriously. Repetitive training is deliberate, the more you are exposed to a situation, the better your skill development and proficiency.
  3. Create Meaningful Experiences. Expand your experience, skills and knowledge with meaningful situations such as flying different routes, different aircraft etc.
  4. Learn To Recognise. Practice recognising when you have lost Situational Awareness.
  5. Self-Assess. Know how to constantly assess yourself and others and how this affects the decision-making process.

4. Discipline

Rules are structured on multiple levels, which include regulatory, organisational, operational, and common sense – regardless of their origin, they all require strict compliance within the aviation industry – lives may depend on it!

Discipline as a core principle of airmanship is having the knowledge and understanding, combined with the intention and ability to conduct flight operations safely while adhering to the rules and procedures – both in training and general operations. The successful implementation of discipline relies heavily on an individual’s personal commitment to comply with rules and procedures and how well it is maintained during training and control.

5 Tips For Exercising Direct Discipline

Assess your level of discipline with this handy list of tips for discipline experts:

  1. Stick To The Rules. Always adhere to SOPs, rules and regulations. The rules do not need to be broken to accomplish the job effectively.
  2. No Shortcuts. Avoid thinking shortcuts might be a better option and keep control of the aircraft at all times.
  3. Resist Temptation. Don’t try to impress others or make flying more exciting by taking chances.
  4. Prioritise. Always prioritise immediate safety issues and plan ahead.
  5. Keep Calm. Control personal attitudes and biases and stick to the facts.

Interested in learning more about airmanship and its importance within the aviation industry? Southern Wings are a professional flight training school offering pilot training at all levels, including airline pilot training. Get in touch to discuss getting your pilot’s licence or extended pilot training.



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