pilot judgement and decision-making

A lot has been said on the forums over the last couple of weeks about pilot judgement relative to the two recent Cirrus crashes and insurance rates. My personal belief is that judgement can not be taught, it has to be learned from past experience. However, in cleaning up a pile of aviation-related articles (my desk looks a bit like Fibber McGee’s closet [:D]), I came across an old FAA Advisory Circular that everyone should get a copy of and read - or read again. The title is:

FAA Advisor Circular AC 60-22 “Aeronautical Decision Making”. My copy is dated 12/13/91.

When, due to lack of experience, judgement can not be used, decision-making skills based on OTHERS past experiences, can replace it. This circular helps explain and teach how to make flying decisions based on semi-objective criteria. Use it to develop a personal minimums check-list based on the FAA’s personal minimums checklist (FAA-P-8740-56) and a sense of when you might be getting in over your head, and we just might end up a little safer up there…

my $0.02 worth.


You are correct. This is the latest version of this advisory circular. A very good read. See http://www.airweb.faa.gov/Regulatory_and_Guidance_Library/rgAdvisoryCircular.nsf/1ab39b4ed563b08985256a35006d56af/ccdd54376bfdf5fd862569d100733983/$FILE/Chap%201-3.pdf>AC and [Chapter 4-appendix

And many other advisory circulars can be viewed ](http://www.airweb.faa.gov/Regulatory_and_Guidance_Library/rgAdvisoryCircular.nsf/1ab39b4ed563b08985256a35006d56af/ccdd54376bfdf5fd862569d100733983/$FILE/Chap%204-appendix.pdf)here.



Bill and Scott, No doubt. Those are interesting and valuable reads. The problem is that the argument is circular. Those who are interested enough to take the time to read and study these things are those who are interested in expanding their knowledge base and who critically think about the issues involving safety of flight. The problem is with pilots who think they’re smarter than mother nature, or the aircraft designers, or the weather briefer, or the limitations section of the POH etc. Unfortunately, teaching judgment presupposes that the student has a propensity to want to learn it. Some don’t. As many said a few weeks ago it’s a matter of attitude. The ones who need to read this stuff don’t and those that don’t, do.


There are three distinct classes of pilots. The first class are those that have studied and currently practice many of the elements of this AC. The second class are those that don’t practice the elements in the AC even though they have a pretty good understanding of the AC (those folks you describe). The third class are those pilots that are unfamiliar with the AC and are just plain ignorant to these concepts. In other words, they don’t know any better. This may include new pilots or pilots that were never taught the content from this AC or even those pilots that have gone astray over the years and need a refresher. So, the argument is not circular for everyone.

We’re not likely to reach those in the second class. They don’t need ACs and they most likely they are not a member on this site. Even so, it will likely fall on deaf ears. IMHO, we are wasting our time to attempt to reach this class of pilots. The nature of the way they think and act suggest that they can’t be reached. It often takes a cataclysmic event to bring them around. While we like to think that we all fall in this first class, all of us have a small amount of the second class of pilot in us. I know I do.

This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to help or formulate a plan to educate those in the third class who haven’t made a decision to lean toward the dark side. This is an opportunity for those that have not read this advisory circular to make an honest attempt to do so. And for those that have it tucked away to once again revisit the issues.

Scott, Please don’t misunderstand me. I am 100% in favor of reaching as many pilots as possible and attempting to inculcate judgment and decision making skills as much as possible.
My admittedly cynical view however is that those who are ignorant of things like advisory circulars are ignorant precisely because of their personalities. There are simply a large number of pilots who don’t know any better because they think they already know everything. Unfortunately my take on human nature is that those who read ACs are already pretty familiar with what they say and recommend (and usually behave like they do), while a substantial majority of pilots who don’t keep up and constantly reevaluate their skills and decisions don’t because they don’t feel they need to. I’m all for trying to reach as many pilots as possible. It’s just after lots of years of watching people kill themselves using the same time tested methods, it seems more and more difficult. In spite of that I agree that it doesn’t hurt to keep trying.
By the way, I really do wish and hope that I am proven wrong.


Flight (for that matter life in general) consists of a series of sliced swiss cheese. Acting on each decision point is like placing another slice on the stack. In due course, if a significant number of “holes” (the “error” – weather intentional or unintentional) line up – you die. The game is to try to keep the holes from lining up as we stack the slices.