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Flight Operations Threat Analysis

by Darren Smith, CFII/MEI
General Aviation Human Factors, June, 2009
Navigation:  Fundamentals of CRM | Resolving Conflict | Workload Management Checklist Usage | Briefings & Callouts | Training CRM | Threats to Safety | Intro to TEM Error Management | Integrating Threat & Error Management | TEM Countermeasures | What are you doing over there? | New Captain Series | FOTA

A great way to avoid threat and resist error is performing a briefing.  Briefings can bring an added element of safety to your flight by reviewing the threats for your flight, your takeoff, your approach, etc.  Pilots who perform quality briefings, even single pilot, exhibit active leadership, airmanship, and professionalism.  Much has been written in these pages about Threat & Error Management.  This article introduces a tool you can use on every flight.  The FOTA briefing.

The Flight Operations Threat Analysis (FOTA) briefing analyzes the threats facing the flight so that pilots can perform active avoidance of potential problems that can occur during a flight.  You learned from the Threat & Error Management model that if you avoid the threat, it usually doesn't occur.  Your avoidance activities will go a long way to minimizing a threat even if it does occur and results in easier threat management.  If your threat management is successful, then the error is resisted and prevented. 

An active Threat & Error Management mindset is required for today's complex operating environment.  The FOTA briefing model used for every flight will go a long way to bringing an "airline level of safety" to your flying.

The briefing items include:

Security:  any security related concerns, TFRs, etc.

Weather:  departure, enroute, and arrival weather conditions were reviewed during your flight planning.  The high points are covered here.  Any items from your Personal Minimums Checklist which are at your limits should be included also.

conditions such as runway/LZ slope, size, type, and condition were reviewed during your preflight planning. Concerns should be listed here along with any parameter near its limits.  For example wind conditions may be at or near your maximum demonstrated crosswind limitations for your aircraft.

Pilot:  your experience considering the parameters of your flight, including recency, and any items from your
Personal Minimums Checklist which are at your limits should be included also.

Aircraft:  any airworthiness issues, inoperative equipment should be listed.  Any performance considerations from your preflight planning should also be listed (i.e. takeoff and landing charts, etc). 

Flight Plan:  any concerns in your fuel plan, altitudes in use, enroute emergency plans, and time available for the flight should be considered and listed.

Other:  any other considerations that affect the safety of your flight should be listed.

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