General aviation (GA) can include a number of activities including: recreation, pilot training, crop spraying, civil search/rescue and flying displays. GA pilots often fly alone, as opposed to part of a team. GA is considered a high-risk activity and has been linked to a high accident rate: in the UK between 2012 and 2016 there was an average of 292 accidents and 19 fatalities per year (CAA, 2016). Despite this there is a lack of research exploring GA pilot non-technical skills, with the bulk of the research in this area focused on military and commercial aviation. APHF aims to address this lack of research by carrying out a series of research studies designed to evaluate GA pilot non-technical skills.
We conducted a study designed to evaluate risk perception and pilot decision-making. The study was based on the vignette method and featured 12 fictional scenarios that required the pilot participants to make a go/ no-go decision based on whether it was safe to take-off within the scenario or not. The results indicated that pilot risk perception and decision-making varied across the four scenario categories (personal limitations, missing equipment, faulty equipment, adverse weather). Generally pilots were cautious about taking off if the scenario indicated pilot illness or faulty equipment. Pilots were least cautious about taking off when items were missing (checklist / sunglasses) or the scenario described pilot stress.
If you would like to discuss this research further please contact Dr Amy Irwin.