March 2010 Issue

Playing Mental Defense Against Accidents

Accidents often result from a chain of poor decisions and to prevent them, we need to learn how to break a bad link in our thinking before itís too late. Hereís how.

Most pilots know a majority of mishaps can be traced back to a chain of events that, if broken, would have prevented the accident from happening. No doubt some could have been prevented if the pilot had been able to press pause, or activate an airframe parachute, when the flight started going south. While most of us donít have that option, we can pull a mental ripcord of sorts and stop a progression of poor decision-making from becoming catastrophic. While most pilots are familiar with the chain-of-events explanation as to how accidents happen, little time is spent trying to figure out how to break the chain, particularly when it involves a form of distorted decision-making. That is, of course, easier said than done. If it were an easy task, we wouldnít spend as much time reading about perfect-performing airplanes operating in ordinary circumstances plowing into terrain with tragic results. One place to start is to look at the chain of mental events leading up to an accident, rather than just the aerodynamic aspects of the flight. Doing so can provide some helpful insights toward identifying the bad link before it gets added to the chain.

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