Single-Pilot Resource Management (SRM)

According to data presented at the 2005 International Helicopter Safety Symposium, the helicopter accident rate is 30 percent higher than the general aviation (GA) accident rate. Reducing this rate is an industry wide goal and the CFI plays an important role in reaching it by stressing single-pilot resource management (SRM) and risk management during flight training.

As discussed in the Aviation Instructor section and the Aeronautical Knowledge section, SRM is the art and science of managing all resources (both onboard the aircraft and from outside sources) available to a single pilot (prior and during flight) to ensure the successful outcome of the flight. SRM grew out of the airline industry’s crew resource management (CRM) training for flight crews that was launched in an effort to reduce human factors-related aircraft accidents. SRM is the effective use of all available resources: human, hardware, and information to ensure a safe flight. The CFI must keep in mind that SRM is not a single task; it is a set of skill competencies that must be evident in all tasks. Aviation resource management charges the flight instructor with the responsibility of teaching the student a safety mindset that enhances his or her decision-making skills.

SRM depends upon teaching the student higher order thinking skills (HOTS) as discussed in Human Behavior section. HOTS are taught from simple to complex and from concrete to abstract. To teach HOTS effectively involves strategies and methods that include:

  • Using problem-based learning (PBL) instruction,
  • Authentic problems,
  • Student-centered learning,
  • Active learning,
  • Cooperative learning, and
  • Customized instruction to meet the individual learner’s needs.

These strategies engage the student in some form of mental activity, have the student examine that mental activity and select the best solution, and challenge the student to explore other ways to accomplish the task or the problem.

Student understanding of risk management and judgment is enhanced when the instructor includes the student in all preflight practices and procedures, as the instructor shares the logic behind decisions whether to fly or not to fly. If the instructor uses the performance charts every time before flying to ensure sufficient power, control authority, and lift is available, then the student will probably acquire that habit. If the instructor always prompts the student to call for a weather, NOTAMS, and TFR briefing, then the student will learn proper preflight planning techniques. If the instructor determines what the student wants to be able to do with the helicopter, then the instructor can makes plans to ensure that the hazards inherent to those operations are covered completely and emphasized during training.

Risk Management

The FAA is committed to reducing the number of helicopter accidents and promoting risk management as an important component of flight training. The objective of risk management is to provide a proper balance between risk and opportunity. Two elements define risk management: hazard and risk. Hazard is a real or perceived condition, event, or circumstance that a pilot encounters. Risk is how the pilot views the potential impact of the hazard.

Risk management is the method used to control, eliminate, or reduce the hazard to an acceptable level. The individual pilot is unique to risk management. An acceptable level of risk to one pilot may not necessarily be the same to another pilot. Unfortunately in many cases, the pilot perceives that his or her level of risk acceptability is actually greater than their capability, thereby taking on risk that is dangerous.

For example, prior to entering a helicopter, the CFI must establish his or her own limitations. How far is the CFI willing to allow the student to drift during a hover? Once personal limitations are established, the CFI must fly within them. The CFI should always ensure that the helicopter is never allowed to depart the instructor’s comfort zone and maneuvering limitations. In reality, the instructor is observing the maneuvering of the helicopter and monitoring the control movements by sight or feel. The helicopter instructor has to be very familiar with that particular helicopter and it’s responses to control inputs and winds, especially at a hover with a wing with an airspeed of 400+ knots flying while at 3 feet landing gear height above the surface. A split second delay in correcting an errant control input can be disastrous.

Since the DPE evaluates the applicant’s ability to use good ADM procedures in order to evaluate risks throughout the practical test, it is important the CFI incorporates risk management into the flight lessons as soon as possible. The scenarios should be realistic and within the capabilities of the helicopter used for the practical test.

To teach risk management, CFIs must understand system safety flight training occurs in three phases. First, there are the traditional aircraft control maneuvers. In order to apply critical thinking skills, the student must first have a high degree of confidence in their ability to fly the aircraft. Basic airmanship skill is the priority during this phase of flight training. The CFI accepts the responsibility of risk management until the student is able to accept more tasking.

In the second phase, the CFI teaches the student how to identify hazards, manage risk, and use all available resources to make each flight as safe as possible. This can be accomplished through scenarios that emphasize the skill sets being taught. For example, the CFI could inform the student that they were going to do some photography in the mountains for a survey. The instructor could give the student two temperatures and one elevation for the areas. Then, the instructor would assist the student in reviewing the performance charts for the two temperatures and have the student determine the differences in helicopter performance with those temperatures and how to determine any maneuvering restrictions from those temperatures. “Does the lack of OGE hover restrict anything?” could be one question. Then hopefully, the CFI and student would fly up to some point for the student to have a safe and real-life experience of the difference in aircraft performance in higher temperatures and higher density altitudes.

In the third phase, as the student is completing the course of training, the instructor should begin exposing the student to practical scenarios of helicopter flight and enable the student to discern the hazards associated with each profile. Using the “simple to complex” method at all times, the student is introduced to scenarios demanding focus on several safety-of-flight issues. [Figure]

Helicopter instructor risk management
An example of a system safety process an instructor could use in flight training
The CFI must present the subject of risk management as it relates to helicopter operations for the level of instruction being presented. For example, a new helicopter student has different requirements from those of a prospective commercial Emergency Medical Services (EMS) pilot.