Poor responses to stress can drive negative behaviors that put our crews in danger.

As a professional helicopter pilot or mechanic/engineer, you need more than knowledge, experience, and physical ability to be effective—your attitude matters as well.

Particularly in our line of work, the ability to make sound, clear-headed decisions can be a matter of life and death. Despite our best efforts to respond positively to stress and other activities going on around us, less-than-desirable responses can subconsciously creep into our minds and drive negative behaviors that put our crews in danger.

To address this risk factor, the October Spotlight on Safety focuses on the five specific “hazardous attitudes,” along with their respective remedies, the FAA outlines in the Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge (see Chapter 2, “Aeronautical Decision-Making”):

  • Invulnerability (It won’t happen to me): You’re running behind schedule and rush through the preflight, assuming it’s unlikely something bad could happen on the flight. Antidote: It could happen to me.
  • Macho (I can do it!): Maintenance demands a last-minute switch to a helicopter with unfamiliar equipment. As a new pilot at the company, you’re determined to prove you can handle it. Antidote: Taking chances is foolish.
  • Resignation (What’s the use?): A more experienced maintenance tech presses you to take a shortcut in a maintenance procedure. You assume: “He has the experience; I guess he knows better than I do.” Antidote: I’m not helpless; I can make a difference.
  • Anti-authority (Don’t tell me): You overtorque on takeoff but continue on the mission because your experience tells you the limit is overly cautious and the aircraft can handle it. Antidote: Follow the rules; they’re usually right.
  • Impulsivity (Do it quickly): You continue toward your destination despite knowing the aircraft fuel level is below your personal minimums. Antidote: Not so fast; think first.

Poor attitudes are a normal part of human nature, but as post-aviation accident findings attest, they compromise our behaviors and decision-making processes. It’s vital we identify, recognize, and systematically evaluate changes to our mental and emotional states and correct any that could be considered hazardous. Thankfully, by using solutions such as memorizing the antidotes listed above, this process is simple. Here are some additional methods we can use to counter hazardous attitudes within ourselves and our operations:

  • Provide your company with hazardous-attitudes and/or aeronautical decision-making awareness training using the Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge and FAA Advisory Circular (AC) 60-22 as references.
  • Include hazardous attitudes as a risk factor in your preflight risk assessments.
  • Enable a learning culture by sharing with your teams stories of instances when your own hazardous attitudes have contributed to unsafe situations or poor-quality decisions.

We do important, high-risk work—let’s collectively make an effort to prevent hazardous attitudes from degrading our performance.

Authors

  • Jessica Meiris

    Jessica Meiris is a professional mountain guide turned helicopter pilot dedicated to furthering the safety of the industry. Currently based in her home state of Colorado as a self-employed commercial pilot and flight instructor, her end goal is to combine her climbing knowledge with aviation skills and fly for mountain short-haul rescue programs.

  • Brian Potter

    Brian Potter serves as the training center compliance manager and an H145 instructor pilot at Airbus Helicopters North America in Grand Prairie, Texas. In this role, he manages both US and international regulatory certificates associated with a training program that includes both in-aircraft and simulator-based training. Prior to this position, he served 21 years in the US Coast Guard, which included flying the MH-65 Dolphin helicopter on search-and-rescue, law enforcement, and other missions.

Jessica Meiris

Jessica Meiris

Jessica Meiris is a professional mountain guide turned helicopter pilot dedicated to furthering the safety of the industry. Currently based in her home state of Colorado as a self-employed commercial pilot and flight instructor, her end goal is to combine her climbing knowledge with aviation skills and fly for mountain short-haul rescue programs.