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Pilot's Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge
Aeronautical Decision-Making
Situational Awareness

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Pilot's Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge



Table of Contents

Chapter 1, Introduction To Flying
Chapter 2, Aircraft Structure
Chapter 3, Principles of Flight
Chapter 4, Aerodynamics of Flight
Chapter 5, Flight Controls
Chapter 6, Aircraft Systems
Chapter 7, Flight Instruments
Chapter 8, Flight Manuals and Other Documents
Chapter 9, Weight and Balance
Chapter 10, Aircraft Performance
Chapter 11, Weather Theory
Chapter 12, Aviation Weather Services
Chapter 13, Airport Operation
Chapter 14, Airspace
Chapter 15, Navigation
Chapter 16, Aeromedical Factors
Chapter 17, Aeronautical Decision Making




Controllers work to make flights as safe as possible.
Figure 17-15. Controllers work to make flights as safe as

The FSS are air traffic facilities that provide pilot briefing,
en route communications, VFR search and rescue services,
assist lost aircraft and aircraft in emergency situations, relay
ATC clearances, originate Notices to Airmen (NOTAM),
broadcast aviation weather and National Airspace System
(NAS) information, receive and process IFR flight plans,
and monitor navigational aids (NAVAIDs). In addition, at
selected locations, FSSs provide En Route Flight Advisory
Service (Flight Watch), issue airport advisories, and advise
Customs and Immigration of transborder flights. Selected
FSSs in Alaska also provide TWEB recordings and take
weather observations.

Another external resource available to pilots is the VHF
Direction Finder (VHF/DF). This is one of the common
systems that helps pilots without their being aware of its
operation. FAA facilities that provide VHF/DF service are
identified in the A/FD. DF equipment has long been used
to locate lost aircraft and to guide aircraft to areas of good
weather or to airports. DF instrument approaches may be
given to aircraft in a distress or urgency condition.

Experience has shown that most emergencies requiring DF
assistance involve pilots with little flight experience. With this
in mind, DF approach procedures provide maximum flight
stability in the approach by using small turns, and wings level
descents. The DF specialist will give the pilot headings
to .y and tell the pilot when to begin descent. If followed,
the headings will lead the aircraft to a predetermined point
such as the DF station or an airport. To become familiar with
the procedures and other benefits of DF, pilots are urged to
request practice DF guidance and approaches in VFR weather

Situational Awareness

Situational awareness is the accurate perception and
understanding of all the factors and conditions within
the five fundamental risk elements (flight, pilot, aircraft,
environment, and type of operation that comprise any given
aviation situation) that affect safety before, during, and after
the flight. Monitoring radio communications for traffic,
weather discussion, and ATC communication can enhance
situational awareness by helping the pilot develop a mental
picture of what is happening.

Maintaining situational awareness requires an understanding
of the relative significance of all flight related factors and their
future impact on the flight When a pilot understands what is
going on and has an overview of the total operation, he or she
is not fixated on one perceived significant factor. Not only
is it important for a pilot to know the aircraft's geographical
location, it is also important he or she understand what is
happening. For instance, while flying above Richmond,
Virginia, toward Dulles Airport or Leesburg, the pilot
should know why he or she is being vectored and be able to
anticipate spatial location. A pilot who is simply making turns
without understanding why has added an additional burden
to his or her management in the event of an emergency. To
maintain situational awareness, all of the skills involved in
ADM are used.

Obstacles to Maintaining Situational Awareness
Fatigue, stress, and work overload can cause a pilot to fixate
on a single perceived important item and reduce an overall
situational awareness of the flight A contributing factor
in many accidents is a distraction that diverts the pilot's
attention from monitoring the instruments or scanning outside
the aircraft. Many flight deck distractions begin as a minor
problem, such as a gauge that is not reading correctly, but
result in accidents as the pilot diverts attention to the perceived
problem and neglects to properly control the aircraft.

Workload Management
Effective workload management ensures essential operations
are accomplished by planning, prioritizing, and sequencing
tasks to avoid work overload. [Figure 17-16] As experience
is gained, a pilot learns to recognize future workload
requirements and can prepare for high workload periods
during times of low workload. Reviewing the appropriate
chart and setting radio frequencies well in advance of when
they are needed helps reduce workload as the flight nears the
airport. In addition, a pilot should listen to ATIS, Automated
Surface Observing System (ASOS), or Automated Weather
Observing System (AWOS), if available, and then monitor
the tower frequency or Common Traffic Advisory Frequency
(CTAF) to get a good idea of what traffic conditions to
expect. Checklists should be performed well in advance so
there is time to focus on traffic and ATC instructions. These
procedures are especially important prior to entering a high density
traffic area, such as Class B airspace.