Nov. 13, 2014

Ineffective pilot monitoring of flight paths has been cited as a factor in a number of aviation accidents, so the Active Pilot Monitoring Working Group, a joint FAA/industry effort, was established in 2012 to study monitoring strategies and create practical guidelines to improve the effectiveness of monitoring.

The group recently released its Practical Guide for Improving Flight Path Monitoring, which includes 20 recommendations to improve pilot monitoring. This report is focused on helping pilots develop and maintain effective monitoring skills in order to improve flight path monitoring and reduce the number of errors resulting in flight path deviations. The hope is this will lower the number of related incidents and accidents.

View the Practical Guide for Improving Flight Path Monitoring report.

The report points out that during a flight, pilots are required to monitor a number of functions, including aircraft systems, aircraft configuration, flight path and the actions of the other pilot. Failure to effectively monitor any of these items can lead to a catastrophic event.

Rich Boll and Nat Iyengar, both members of the NBAA Access Committee, served on the Active Pilot Monitoring Working Group. Iyengar urged all aircraft operators – regardless of whether they fly jets, turboprops, piston or single-pilot aircraft, and regardless of whether they operate under FAR Part 91, 91K, 121 or 135 – to review the report and implement the recommendations in their own operations.

“All aircraft operators face the same challenges when it comes to effective pilot monitoring,” said Iyengar. “In general, human beings are not the best monitors and need to be trained to monitor effectively. This report provides essential information that can increase safe monitoring practices if adopted and implemented by aircraft operators.”

Six recommendations in the guide focus on training concepts. Iyengar pointed to the industry’s terminology change from “pilot not flying” to “pilot monitoring,” and explained that no training or guidance has been provided to most pilots on the concept of efficient monitoring. Many pilots don’t have a thorough understanding of what “monitoring” means. Pilots typically are told what to monitor, but are given little guidance on how to monitor, he said.

The guide recommends reinforcing the responsibility of the monitoring pilot to challenge deviations. It also clearly defines monitoring tasks and explains how to incorporate monitoring training and checking into simulator sessions or other device-based training. The report emphasizes that “monitoring” is a primary responsibility of both pilots, not just the pilot designated as the “pilot monitoring.”

“Business aviation has increasingly focused on threat and error management (TEM),” said Iyengar. “Monitoring is a tool flight crews must use to identify and mitigate events that impact safety margins. Effective monitoring is an essential aspect of TEM.”

Pilots need to be proactive and have a higher level of active effective monitoring and flight management system/automation mode awareness and cross checking. They need to intuitively know how the automation will behave and monitor for the expected outcome.

This new report is a companion to the Operational Use of Flight Path Management Systems report that was released by the FAA in September 2013. That report stressed how modern flight-path management systems create new challenges that can lead to errors. View the Operational Use of Flight Path Management Systems report. (PDF)