August 2007 Issue

SA, Lost And Found

Distractions and unfamiliar territory can easily lead to losing situational awareness. What are the clues, and what can you do to get it back?

Situational awareness, or "SA," is sometimes used to explain why someone suffered an accident. "He had bad situational awareness" is supposed to describe a scenario in which a pilot does the unthinkable, and it results in tragedy. As with most Monday-morning quarterbacking, there’s an element of "I would never do that" in applying the "bad situational awareness" label, a comforting thought for the next time we launch into the blue or descend into the murk. But knowing that the other pilot had "bad" SA does not ensure that somehow we will have "good" SA in similar circumstances. After all, it is often highly experienced pilots, or even crews, who find themselves the subject of "bad SA" accident reports.

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