Threat Briefing

Threat Briefing

A threat briefing is a process where Flight Crew attempt to identify threats which may be present during a flight. The process is part of Threat and Error Management (TEM) and is designed to allow for suitable strategies put in place by the crew in order to minimise the effect of the threats on aircraft operation. Threats can be defined as events or errors that occur outside the influence of the flight crew, increase the operational complexity of a flight and required crew attention and management if safety margins are to be maintained (Merritt & Klinect, 2006).


Several different kinds of Threat Briefing exist but one commonly used by airlines is that of TWO-P.

T- Terrain

The crew should consider the terrain around the area in which the aircraft will be operating. In certain situations for example, flat plains at sea level there may be no relevant terrain issues. At other times e.g. operating into a confined mountain basin, the crew need to brief the risk involved in such an operation and discuss options for mitigating any issues.

W- Weather

The crew should examine the weather and the impact this may have on aircraft performance. Examples might include a hot humid summer day with low pressure where aircraft performance might be marginal and payload restrictions might need to be enforced. Another example is windshear and a safety buffer allowance that the crew may wish to add to the aircrafts approach speed.

O- Operational

Any other threats which might impact on the aircraft (except the crew which will be discussed shortly) can be identified here. Numerous threats can exist depending on the situation. Examples might include an approach into a busy unattended aerodrome, an operation into an aerodrome you are not familiar with, a complicated and unusual Air Traffic Control diversionary climb procedure. The list could almost be endless.

P- Pilot Condition

The final element in this particular kind of threat briefing is for each pilot to assign himself a number from 1 to 5 that communicates to the other crew there self assessment of there ability to carry out there required functions on a given flight. 1 constitutes a score where the pilot believes there performance will be inadequate (and therefore they should not be flying!) through to a score of 5 which would communicate you are not suffering from any fatigue, you are familiar with the operation and consider yourself as fit to fly as is possible.

Keep an open mind

This type of briefing is designed in such a way that there are no right or wrong answers. Every crew member perceives threats differently and all should be encouraged to voice what they believe to be a threat to the operation. Having identified threats, strategies’ can then be developed as a crew which reduce the impact the threat may have. If you simply indentify threats but do nothing to mitigate them, very little has been achieved. Threat and Error management requires the threats to be addressed if we are to enhance and achieve safe aircraft operation

Merritt, A., & Klinect, J. (2006). Defensive Flying for Pilots: An introduction to Threat and Error Management. The University of Texas Human Factors Research Project, The LOSA Collaborative

Want to know more?

Threat and Error Management: A link to the article referenced above.
Threat, Error and CRM in Flight Operations: Another relevant and interesting article from the University Of Texas at Austin.

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