Human performance is mitigated by physical stresses such as
fatigue, fitness, sleep, food, age and illness. Psychological
stressors such as personal family problems, work load, situational
awareness. External dynamic stresses due to weather, turbulence,
aircraft performance and time factors. Stress is the result of
events that cause preoccupation reducing external awareness and
making activities subject to distraction. Stress causes the taking
of risks that would otherwise be unacceptable.
Stress in moderate amounts is both necessary and desirable
when flying. It prevents boredom and inhibits fatigue. The other
extreme of stress leads to panic and impaired capability. Accidents
happen when flying requirements exceed capability. Time in the
air will decrease capability and lower the stress/panic threshold.
69% of accidents occur in the landing phase of flight operations.
This is when time in the air is greatest and the stress/panic
Whenever excessive tension exists, the ability to make considered
judgments deteriorates. The concepts of what is best or safest
become an emotional decision based more on fears or concerns rather
than realities. Under tension the ability to make correct decisions
deteriorates and compounds both the tension and the reliability
of the selected solution. The pilot MUST recognize areas of tension
and undertake an instructional program to raise a proficiency
level to where competence reduces tension. Failure to resolve
any tension-producing problem will eventually lead to an unforeseen
situation where a decision will produce an accident. The instructional
program must expose the student to those tension producing situations
before the student goes solo. Stress exposure is a form of stress
The most common tension producer is through use of the
radio. At a given point in airspace the student knows that he
should be prepared to say a given sequence of communication facts.
Where to start talking, what to say, in what sequence, and the
fear of the unknown ATC create tension. After being lost or disoriented
the most dramatic tension producer is x-wind landings, next I
would place unfamiliar airports, especially if they are small,
followed closely by radio procedure uncertainty. Night flight
over unfamiliar terrain certainly raises cockpit temperature.
Turbulence produces tension in the best of us as does proximity
to the ground. All of these tension producers can be reduced or
eliminated by gradual programmed exposure. Stress reduction, according
to one expert, can be achieved by only landing at airports and
peeing every chance you get.
Last Modified March 1, ©2015 TAGE.COM