Common Errors comitted by pilots

Common Errors committed by pilots

Here are some of the most common errors that pilots committed. These errors are from line observations and check failure events within the airlines. Let us learn from them!

1. Failed to do the cross check action or the cross check action was not done correctly, only verbalising ‘checked’, but not performing each check precisely

Here is an example. ‘During the cockpit preparation, the First Officer (FO) used the landing weight (LW) as the take off weight (TOW) for calculating the Centre of Gravity (C of G) and speeds. The LW was almost 100 tonnes less the actual TOW weight. The Pilot In Command (PIC) didn’t notice. During the takeoff, the aircraft moved close to the runway edge before it lifted from ground. Luckily, only the tail section was seriously damaged ’.

++2. Over focus on handling other things such that the flight crew lost situation awareness and caused Air Traffic Control (ATC) violation

Here is an example. ‘Approaching in to an international airport, ATC cleared the aircraft to descend to an assigned altitude. The aircraft was descending with autopilot engaged. For some reasons, the aircraft failed to capture the selected altitude and kept descending. The PIC noticed that and tried to use other mode of the autopilot system to correct the situation, but it didn’t work. Of course the aircraft deviated from the cleared altitude. ATC violation was made’.

3. Not pay attention to the briefings

This is when pilots don’t take briefings seriously, and are only doing it as it is a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) set by the airline company. During the briefings, some pilots just read it and allow it to be recorded by the Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR), such that in case of an incident, to prove he/she followed the SOP. Often the other pilots would be thinking or doing something else instead of listening to the briefings.

4. Pilot Not Flying (PNF) read back not clear

5. Misinterpret ATC calls

This is an error that can be easily managed with awareness. Too often crews will try and resolve amongst themselves the actual message received from ATC. Any discrepancy should be identified immediately as an error to be managed in accordance with 6th generation CRM. That is:

  • Identify the error
  • Trap the error
  • Mitigate the error

So, the crew should agree there might be an error once they query the message (identify), agree that they may have misunderstood the message (trap), and finally query ATC on the message (mitigate). Simple stuff in principle but it can be difficult for crews to manage this situation for a variety of aviation psychology reasons.

6. Miss ATC calls

7. Poor cockpit management

Such as doing paper work before leveling off after takeoff, manipulating the Flight Management Computer (FMC)…etc. in the high work load areas.

8. Failed to take over the control promptly when abnormal situations occur

When systems such as the autopilot or engine cease to function normally, the flight crew did not react in time.

9. Insufficient system knowledge or insufficient understanding of a policy

10. Poor airmanship

Here is an example. ‘An aircraft was dispatched with the fuel control system in manual mode as per Minimum Equipment List (MEL). The fuel transferring back and forth between the tail tank and the center tank was done manually by a pilot. One engine flamed out due starved of fuel. Non of the flight crew members in the cockpit monitored the fuel situation in tanks as per the procedure’.

11. Lack of threat analysis or situation awareness of the flight crew

12. Lack of Operational Control with its Airline Operations Centre (AOC)

13. Inadequate Knowledge of Chart Reading

These are some of the most common errors committed by pilots. In addition, here are the 'GOLDEN RULES' suggested by the AIRBUS company,

i) Aviate, navigate, communicate—in that order
ii) One head up at all time
iii) Cross check the accuracy of the Flight Management System (FMS)
iv) Know your Flight Mode Annunciator (FMA) at all time
v) When things don’t go as expected—TAKE OVER
vi) Use the proper level of automation for task
vii) Practice task sharing and back up each other

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Authors / Editors

ZiZhanG NGZiZhanG NG

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