Thu. Jun 13th, 2024

Decision Making

Cognitive Turbulence in the Cockpit

Effective decision making is essential for safe and efficient flight operations. Yet pressurized environments, stress, fatigue and a desire for positive outcomes can all impair pilot judgment.

Within this section, members discuss:

  • Heuristics and Biases – Members recount examples of cognitive biases and mental shortcuts that influenced decisions in the cockpit, for better or worse. Anchoring, framing and availability heuristics are among those discussed.
  • Normalization of Deviance – Some pilots describe how gradual acceptance of substandard practices can lead to serious consequences over time. The section aims to highlight how even minor deviations from standards should be avoided.
  • Situational Awareness – Good decision making requires an accurate perception of where you are relative to goals and the environment. Members outline techniques for maintaining and enhancing situational awareness in the cockpit.
  • Uncertainty Management – Pilots share techniques for coping with incomplete information and ambiguity, including checklists, vigilance and bracketing options. The importance of admitting “I don’t know” is highlighted.

By candidly recounting decision errors and near-misses, this section ultimately strives to improve cockpit judgment through awareness of cognitive limitations.

While engineers continue to design smarter planes, the ability of pilots to make good decisions remains as critical as ever. Only with an understanding of our thought processes – and fallibility under pressure – can we develop countermeasures that minimize poor choices and maximize sound reasoning in flight.

Through sharing stories of cognitive turbulence in the cockpit, this section ultimately aims to cultivate an “intelligent skepticism” that allows future pilots to recognize – and navigate around – the mental mechanisms that can cloud clear decision making at altitude.

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