Prioritisation involves focusing and completing the most urgent and important tasks on hand but at the same time, to avoid neglecting other important but less urgent tasks as well as to divert excessive workload to co-workers/colleagues through the means of task sharing.
Human Factors Benefits
1) Direct adequate concentration to the most urgent and important tasks (such as focusing on landing the aircraft instead of engaging in non-essential conversation during this important phase of the flight)
2) Reduce psychological stress in work/ time management by sharing workload with colleagues if one cannot cope
Efforts to promote task prioritisation (Flight Crew Context)
1) Avoid unnecessary activities during critical flight phases, such as during taxi, climb and descent (see Sterile Cockpit Rule)
2) Keep a close eye on the autopilot (if in use) to assure that the altitude set is correct as cleared by Air Traffic Control (ATC) and oblige time/altitude restrictions
3) Plan tasks such as listening to Automatic Terminal Information Service (ATIS), company calls or updating passengers about the flight progress over the Public Address (PA) system when the flight crews are not expected to communicate with ATC frequently.
4) Flight crews should confirm the ATC radio frequency while engaging in other activities or when his co-pilot is absent in the flight deck (for rest or lavatory break), it is important for the other flight crew member to execute the following task priorities:
- Be responsible for any ATC radio communication and aircraft flight control
- Assure that the ATC radio sound volume is audible
- Direct additional focus and concentration to confirming/receiving/replying due to the inability to crosscheck without another pilot
- To explain to the other pilot as soon as he/she has completed his/her tasks/ returns to the cockpit about the any fresh information (ATC instructions changes etc).
EUROCONTROL. (2010). Prioritisation for pilots. Retrieved 12 September 2010, from http://www.skybrary.aero/index.php/Prioritisation_for_Pilots.
Flight Safety Foundation. (2009). Altitude Deviations. Retrieved 12 September 2010, from http://www.skybrary.aero/bookshelf/books/855.pdf.