Mitigating Risk-For Pilots


During each flight a pilot has to make various decisions that regard flight safety under conditions that may be regarded as hazardous such as; bad weather and so forth. To be able to fly safely, a pilot has to be able to assess the degree of risk that may be involved in each flight and determine the best strategies to apply so as to reduce the risk.

An example of risk and how a pilot can deal with it, so as to reduce the risks involved is; If a pilot needs to fly from say point A to B a flight of about 50miles in MVFR conditions (Marginal Visual Flight Rules), the pilot has various steps he/she can take in order to reduce risks such as1;

  • Take a certified IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) pilot along.
  • Cancel the flight.
  • Wait for the weather to improve to VFR(Visual Flight Rules) conditions.
  • Delay the flight.

Ways in which a pilot can mitigate risk

They are two ways in which a single pilot can mitigate risk namely using; IMSAFE and the PAVE checklist.

1. IMSAFE Checklist to determine their mental as well as physical readiness to fly.

2. The PAVE Checklist, which is used in perceiving the hazards involved is incorporated in the pre-flight planning. This checklist works on the principle of dividing risks associated with flight into four categories1;
External pressures.


Trough the implementation of the IMSAFE list the pilot is able to answer any questions he/she may need assurance on, in regards to their physical and emotional condition. The pilot should always be in a position to make decisions when it regards their level of fatigue, health, mental state and any other variables that they know may affect them performing effectively in a safe manner.


The pilot should seek to determine any conditions that the aircraft may pose on the safety of the trip for example1;

  • Is there enough fuel for the trip, with sufficient reserve fuel.
  • Is the aircraft properly equipped for the flight? Instruments? Navigation and Communication equipment?
  • Is it the right aircraft for the kind of flight your planning? These are just a few of the questions the pilot ensures he has answers to. However in addition to such questions the pilot also looks at documentation of the aircraft such as it’s airworthiness, registration and so forth.


The environment contains many elements that are not pilot or airplane related. These elements include air traffic control , terrain, surrounding obstacles, weather, navigational aids (NAVAIDS) and takeoff and landing areas2.When flying one very unpredictable element in regards to the environment is weather, which can change at any point during the flight. The pilot has to prepare for an instance where weather could deteriorate while in flight and know how to deal with sucha a situation.

External pressures

These are factors that influence the flight externally (external pressures), which create a sense of time related-pressure for the pilot in completing the flight. These pressures include but are not limited to; trip planning, diversion or cancellation plans(if the need does arise due to bad weather, an emergency in flight and so forth). The pilot ensures that he has already evaluated the three risk areas addressed above before determining to plan the flight.The key to dealing with external pressures is for the pilot to be ready for any delays or flight plan changes.


This PAVE list is normally incorporated in the pre-flight check list. Using the list before each flight enables the pilot to determine risks that may affect the safety of the flight. Once the risk has been identified the pilot perceives whether the risk can safely and successfully be managed, if the risks are too high the pilot then has to make the decision of cancelling the flight altogether. However if the pilot decides once he has perceived the risks that he still want to carry on with the flight, then strategies to reduce the risks have to be implemented. One way a pilot can control risk is by setting personal minimums for each risk category(personal minimums are limits that are unique to each pilot’s level of proficiency and level of experience). Each pilot knows their own personal minimums and what they can and can't do under limits that will in no way affect the safety of the flight. The pilot's personal minimum also has to be between the legal limits in regards to regulations. Before a pilot flies he should also ensure he/she is not hindered physically of mentally, this can be achieved through passing all requirements of the IMSAFE checklist before every flight.


1.FAA.(2009). Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge. New York, NY : Skyhorse Publishing.

2.Pilot Checklist – PAVE. (2009). Retrieved 13 October, 2010, from

Contributors to this page

Melanie AttanMelanie Attan

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