Pilot judgment

Pilot judgment

The definition of judgment is “the mental ability to perceive and distinguish alternatives.” It is important that a pilot has good judgement, as it can reduce the risks accompanied with each flight.
There are two types of pilot judgment (the mental process they use in making decisions):

Rational judgment: pilots have the capacity to notice and establish the relevance of all the available information that may be a concern or problematic in a flight. To identity these problems, requires a substitute course of action and to calculate the risk connected with each alternative.

Motivational judgment: the motivation to choose and accomplish a course of action that is suitable, within the available time frame. The choice could be to act or not to act, and “suitable” is a choice conforming to general rules.
Good judgment comes from experience and it is important for pilots to have a record of making good decisions based upon good judgment.
Good judgement comes with the perceived ability that a person can have good understanding, be aware of the situation and be able to understand the difference, and come to a solution that may be right or wrong. This always depends on the individual’s personal behaviour patterns.

Pilots have better judgement and have the ability to make instant decisions. This can maximise the safety potential and the continuation of the flight.

Good pilot judgment requires the ability and motivation to:
• Discover and launch the significance of all available information relating to problems of the flight
• Identify problems
• Specify alternative courses of action
• Assess the risk associated with each alternative
• Choose and effect appropriate course of action within the available time (Jensen, 1995)

Good judgement can be learned

Pilot judgment is different to making a good decision. Making a good decision is the result of having good judgment, and vice versa, and it is part of the process of making good decisions. However to gain good judgement from experience, is less likely than from decision making.

Good Judgment can be added to and on the pilot’s additional need for precise and complete self-knowledge. However it depends on teaching the student to think more carefully and thoroughly about personal attitudes and behaviours. The judgment training programme teaches techniques; for breaking the chain by teaching the pilot to, identify the grouping of events that result in an accident and to deal with the situation correctly in time to avoid the accident from occurring.
Pilot judgement is defined in the Federal Aviation Administration manuals as mental process by which pilots recognize, analyze and evaluate information regarding themselves, the aircraft and the external environment. Therefore it can train pilots using their real-life stories or experiences from other pilots, such as sharing their experiences and talking about early fuel stops and weather delays.

Influences that affect judgment

Pilots can have good judgement skills by having good perception and being able to distinguish between outcomes. This influence may lead to a positive outcome. However, therefore some influences can affect the judgment process negatively
Disruptive or submissive personality traits or social influence, can lead to a consistent lack of judgement skills within the pilot. However, good pilot judgement can be learned through experience (both positive and negative).

For example:
Cognitive: it is better for pilots to have a stronger base of knowledge on every mechanical system and the aerodynamic characteristics of the aircraft. Therefore they can mentally prepare to solve a problem.
Moral: some pilots will consider ethical values as a grey area, also, breaking laws, and ignoring regulations or stand operation procedures when they operating. They do not believe these actions as constituting breaking the law, when pilots often slip past flight regulations or dismiss standard operating procedures, this negative pattern ultimately shapes their judgement processes.
Emotional: emotion influences pilot judgement such as stress, anxiety, fear, or boredom. This can create sensory overload, causing confusion and a failure to process information. Feeling a sense of boredom can produce similar negative outcomes by averting a pilot’s attention away from an interrelated judgment process.
Physiological: having a poor physiological condition such as fatigue, or illness, and the consumption of alcohol, medication and illegal drugs, can negatively affect a pilot’s judgment. For example pilots will feel the inability to process information and remain perceptive of potential problems.
Social: pilots will feel pressure when they make judgement calls, for example pilots may be unsure of their own perception and judgment of the situation, or doubtful of other more experienced pilot's decision making processes, even though that person is correctly dealing with the situation.
Personality and attitude: when pilots have a negative attitude or pattern this may interfere with the flight, such as how a person reacts to a situation. This can bring about a negative judgement.


Krause, S. (2003). Aircraft safety: accident investigations, analyses, and applications. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Wallace, L. (2010). Flight School : Judgment. Retrieved from [http://www.flyingmag.com/training/learn-fly/flight-school-judgment] on 10 august 2012
Sky Brary. (2010). Pilot judgment and expertise (OGHFA BN). Retrieved from [http://www.skybrary.aero/index.php/Pilot_judgment_and_expertise_%28OGHFA_BN%29] on 10 august 2012
Allstar networl. (2008). Flight performance- level 3 human factor-section 6. Retrieved from [http://www.allstar.fiu.edu/aero/HumFac06.htm] on 10 august, 2012

Contributors to this page

Authors / Editors

Kiyan Yeung

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