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Pilot's Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge
Aeronautical Decision-Making
Hazard and Risk

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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




With the PAVE checklist, pilots have a simple way to
remember each category to examine for risk prior to each
flight. Once a pilot identifies the risks of a flight, he or she
needs to decide whether the risk or combination of risks can
be managed safely and successfully. If not, make the decision
to cancel the flight If the pilot decides to continue with the
flight, he or she should develop strategies to mitigate the
risks. One way a pilot can control the risks is to set personal
minimums for items in each risk category. These are limits
unique to that individual pilot's current level of experience
and proficiency.

For example, the aircraft may have a maximum crosswind
component of 15 knots listed in the aircraft flight manual
(AFM), and the pilot has experience with 10 knots of direct
crosswind. It could be unsafe to exceed a 10 knots crosswind
component without additional training. Therefore, the 10 kts
crosswind experience level is that pilot's personal limitation
until additional training with a certificated flight instructor
(CFI) provides the pilot with additional experience for flying
in crosswinds that exceed 10 knots.

One of the most important concepts that safe pilots
understand is the difference between what is "legal" in terms
of the regulations, and what is "smart" or "safe" in terms of
pilot experience and proficiency.

P = Pilot in Command (PIC)
The pilot is one of the risk factors in a flight The pilot
must ask, "Am I ready for this trip?" in terms of experience,
recency, currency, physical and emotional condition. The
IMSAFE checklist provides the answers.

A = Aircraft
What limitations will the aircraft impose upon the trip? Ask
the following questions:
• Is this the right aircraft for the flight?
• Am I familiar with and current in this aircraft? Aircraft
performance figures and the AFM are based on a brand
new aircraft flown by a professional test pilot. Keep
that in mind while assessing personal and aircraft
• Is this aircraft equipped for the flight? Instruments?
Lights? Navigation and communication equipment
• Can this aircraft use the runways available for the trip
with an adequate margin of safety under the conditions
to be flown?
• Can this aircraft carry the planned load?
• Can this aircraft operate at the altitudes needed for the

• Does this aircraft have sufficient fuel capacity, with
reserves, for trip legs planned?
• Does the fuel quantity delivered match the fuel
quantity ordered?

V = Environment
Weather is an major environmental consideration. Earlier
it was suggested pilots set their own personal minimums,
especially when it comes to weather. As pilots evaluate
the weather for a particular flight, they should consider the
• What are the current ceiling and visibility? In
mountainous terrain, consider having higher minimums
for ceiling and visibility, particularly if the terrain is
• Consider the possibility that the weather may be
different than forecast. Have alternative plans and
be ready and willing to divert, should an unexpected
change occur.
• Consider the winds at the airports being used and the
strength of the crosswind component.
• If flying in mountainous terrain, consider whether there
are strong winds aloft. Strong winds in mountainous
terrain can cause severe turbulence and downdrafts
and be very hazardous for aircraft even when there is
no other significant weather.
• Are there any thunderstorms present or forecast?
• If there are clouds, is there any icing, current or
forecast? What is the temperature/dew point spread
and the current temperature at altitude? Can descent
be made safely all along the route?
• If icing conditions are encountered, is the pilot
experienced at operating the aircraft's deicing or
anti-icing equipment? Is this equipment in good
condition and functional? For what icing conditions
is the aircraft rated, if any?
Evaluation of terrain is another important component of
analyzing the flight environment.
• To avoid terrain and obstacles, especially at night or
in low visibility, determine safe altitudes in advance
by using the altitudes shown on VFR and IFR charts
during preflight planning.
• Use maximum elevation figures (MEFs) and other
easily obtainable data to minimize chances of an
inflight collision with terrain or obstacles.