Personal SA Story Peers Review 1

Provide a classmate review on their discussion topic :

n this module, you have learned the meaning of Situational Awareness and common threats to maintaining good SA. Additionally, you should now understand how to recognize diminished SA and actions to take to improve it. In this Discussion, evaluate a situation in which you experienced diminished or loss of SA. It does not have to aviation-related, though that would be preferred. Describe the event using a typical aviation debriefing method of “What, Why, and How” – what happened, why did it happen, and how could or should it have been avoided or remedied?

What happened – Be specific and include details of when and where the event occurred (flying, work, home, driving, out on the town, etc.), as well as who else was involved.

Why it happened – What caused the loss of SA? Were there any indicators (red flags) that it was occurring? Were those indicators recognized, and if not, why not?

How could the situation have been avoided? – Evaluate what you could have done differently to avoid the situation or what you will do in the future, i.e., formulate a suggested “fix” for such situations.


Classmate post that you need to post comment/ review on :

I was conducting a night flight from Reno Nevada to Bend Oregon in a Beechcraft Baron.  I had just received my multi-engine rating and was working with a fellow CFI to build hours required for my multi-engine instructor certificate.  Earlier in the day we flew to Reno from Bend during daylight hours and went over a cloud layer north of the city.  We commented on how the cloud layer was high enough for icing, were centralized over a mountain ridge, not very thick and had safe amount of space under them to transition back north later if they were still present as the clouds were forecast to leave the area. 

Prior to departing that evening, we looked at the weather to include RADAR, the cloud layer was still present but airports along the mountains showed 2000 ft ceiling, plenty of room to fly under.  Our plan was to follow the highway that went over the mountain to the northeast and when clear of the mountain the rest of the flight was forecast clear skies.  We could also land at an airport along the route if it didn’t look good or ask for an IFR clearance.  As we followed the highway up the mountain, both of us weren’t comfortable with our original plan and decided to ask for an IFR clearance to Bend.  The controller came back with the easiest IFR clearance I’ve heard “cleared direct Bend at 12,000 feet”.  We were happy with that, planned our climb up through the clouds, I set up the GPS and turned to the course as I climbed.  As soon as I began the climbing turn I realized I hadn’t fully grasped the current instrument picture and with some lights below and now with strobes flashing in the clouds as we transitioned up I was a bit disoriented.  I had to then focus all my efforts on making my brain understand what the instruments were telling me and pushing out other information.  At that period of time I had lost all sense of situational awareness outside of those instruments.  During a good part of that climb, what seemed like an eternity, I was task saturated by just one thing, gaining situational awareness.  After I gained a good picture of the instruments, I was able to add the navigation information into my tasks.  I turned onto our heading and continued to climb.  Once my “vision” was opening to take on more tasks I remembered that these clouds may have ice so I asked my fellow CFI how it looked outside, of course it was night and we couldn’t see the wings but there was a light switch that would shine lights on the leading edge of he wings.  My fellow CFI said “turn on the wing lights and I will look”.  Beechcraft did not design their cockpit to be very ergonomically friendly.  The switch for those lights were well under the instrument panel and required attention to be taken away from the instruments.  I was still a bit overloaded with hand flying the aircraft, maintaining my course, worrying about icing and thinking about where the tops of these clouds were so I could get out of possible icing.  I laughed at his request and said “Im a bit busy here could you do it” which he did.  He quickly turned them on and off and said, no icing.  Somewhat relieved but realizing we were still climbing higher and temps were right in the icing zone my mind was thinking of options if we needed to escape icing while flying the plane.  After a few minutes climb we escaped the clouds and in no time had clear skies all around as we left the mountain area.

Once pressure of icing was relieved, I realized my task saturation was reduced.  We both discussed the situation and what we could have done better and what we did well.  The first item we could have done better was the use of the autopilot.  The aircraft had a great autopilot that both of us were proficient in using but since we flew mostly in aircraft that didn’t have an auto-pilot we didn’t think of it until almost departing the clouds.  This would have moved us to more of a monitoring role and allowed us to focus on the possible icing situation and develop contingency plans for escaping icing.  We also stated that we could have done a better job with crew resource management, splitting tasks more efficiently since I took on many of the tasks.  We could have delayed our climb into the clouds to ensure I had a thorough grasp of the instrument situation.  Once I had the clearance it was a natural reaction to execute the clearance immediately but there wasn’t a requirement to execute immediately.  The primary action I did well was realizing that I was hitting task saturation due to my initial disorientation and then focus on the highest priority as a pilot, aviate, I flew the plane.  Once that was in order, I was able to then move to the next priority, navigate.  Goyer (2017) has a task saturation checklist which includes the following;

  1. Keep the airplane under control (autopilot, primary instruments, co-pilot).
  2. Keep the plane on course and altitude, if possible.
  3. Establish emotional equilibrium. (Breathe)
  4. Identify the nature of the problem. (What did you hyper-focus on?)
  5. Identify the severity of the problem. (Can you ignore it altogether, or is it an immediate or near-term risk?)
  6. Identify an easy, sufficient remedy, if possible. (Example: No comm? Use the other radio, change comm channels, double-check frequencies and volume control.)
  7. If unable to reestablish composure, ask for help immediately.
  8. If loss of control is a threat, make maintaining control of the airplane your only concern.
  9. Worry about FAA consequences later.

This event was great education for me and understanding how task saturation evolves into a loss of situational awareness within myself.  I was happy with my ability to work through the task saturation and able to share my experience with my students.  As an instrument flight instructor, I see task saturation leading into a loss in situational awareness daily as students work through flying the plane, manage navigation systems and communicating with controllers in a very busy airspace in San Diego.  This is before adding such pressures such as actual instrument conditions, icing, or equipment failures.  When training students I try to incorporate these scenarios so the students can accept more tasks and reduce the chances of task saturation which leads to diminished situational awareness.

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