Every time a pilot takes off, he or she assumes a certain amount of risk. The amount of risk depends on different aspects of the flight including the duration, weather, length, time of day, and experience. There are different processes a pilot can go through to mitigate the risks of flight. One of the best known models of evaluating risk is the PAVE Checklist. PAVE stands for Pilot-in-Command, Aircraft, enVironment, and External pressures. A pilot can utilize these factors to determine the risk of the flight and the appropriate actions to mitigate the risks presented while completing the checklist.
Pilot-in-Command: The first risk factor of the PAVE checklist is the pilot-in-command. The pilot should ask himself/herself if they are ready for the flight. They should reflect upon their skill, currency, and mental and physical condition. The pilot should consider the IMSAFE checklist (Illness, Medication, Stress, Alcohol, Fatigue, Eating) when evaluating their risk.
An example of a risk associated with the pilot-in-command is lacking instrument currency in marginal VFR. Without being current, the pilot is at a higher risk of making a mistake while under marginal VFR or IFR conditions. If a pilot is instrument rated, but is not current, they should consider getting instrument current before the flight to reduce the risk involved with the chances of flying into IFR conditions.
Aircraft: The condition and limitations of your aircraft are vital to know for the flight. Can your aircraft make the distance you need to travel? Can it hold the passengers or cargo you will be taking? Is the aircraft current with all of the inspections? Different questions should be asked about the aircraft before taking a trip. By asking the following questions you are reducing the risk that your aircraft may have faults that could turn hazardous during your trip. If you find a limitation, you can alter your flight or take the necessary precautions to mitigate the risk involved with the shortfall.
- · Is the aircraft capable of completing the flight’s goals?
- · Is the pilot familiar with the aircraft’s capabilities, limitations, and cockpit layout?
- · Is the aircraft properly equipped for the planned flight? Does it have the required instruments, lights, navigation, and communications equipment?
- · Can the airports of intended use capable of handling the aircraft? Are the runways long enough and well managed?
- · Can the airplane carry the cargo for the intended distance given the weather conditions?
- · Can the aircraft operated at the altitudes required for the flight?
- · Is there enough fuel for the aircraft to make the trip?
enVironment: The environment in which a pilot flies through is one of the biggest risk factors. The environment includes the weather, terrain, airports, airspace, and time of day. The combination of the environmental factors is the main contributing cause of Controlled Flight Into Terrain (CFIT).
- · Weather is one of the major environmental considerations when it comes to risk in flight. There are many different aspects of weather that must be considered when planning a flight. Is there IMC along the way? Will there be any icing conditions? Are there any convective SIGMETs reported or any AIRMETS? When flight planning, the pilot should consider how these weather conditions will effect his/her flight. Is it outside of their limitations? If the weather is outside the pilot’s limitations, he/she might want to delay the flight and wait for better weather, or could alter their route to go around the weather. Making correct calculations is also an important part of weather. The temperature can effect the density altitude, which in-turn can alter the aircraft’s performance.
- · Terrain is another component of analyzing the flight environment. A pilot should try to avoid rigorous terrain and obstacles while in low visibility conditions. A pilot can reduce the risk affiliated with terrain by studying the charts and figuring out the maximum elevation figures to prevent terrain or obstacle collisions. A pilot can also check the notices to airmen (NOTAMS) to find obstacles that are not marked on the maps.
- · Airport: When considering the risk at the airport, the pilot must determine the airports traffic and the control of the airport. If the airport has complicated or long taxi routes, the pilot can reduce the risk by briefing possible taxi routes from where they are to the runway or from the runway to their parking spot. They should identify high-risk intersections and runway crossings. The pilot should also check the NOTAMS for runway and taxiway closures or restrictions.
- · Airspace: The pilot should consider the airspace that they will be traveling through when planning a flight. If the pilot is traveling over baron land, the pilot should consider putting emergency equipment in the aircraft in the event of a forced landing. If the pilot is flying VFR, and is uncomfortable flying through busy airspace, he/she should consider flying around the airspace.
External pressures: External pressures are influences that create a sense of pressure to complete a flight. They can include anything from someone requesting or demanding you complete a flight, somebody waiting for you, the desire to demonstrate your capabilities, the desire to impress someone, and the desire to complete a mission. To mitigate these risks, a pilot must complete a risk to reward analysis. They must determine if the rewards and consequences for assuming the risk. Is this flight worth the pilot’s life and the passengers’ lives? Can this flight be delayed and have a better chance of successful outcomes?