We would like to Thank all the staff, students and aerodrome users who came to our safety seminar focusing on situational awareness and ‘Staying alive in the circuit’. As a Part 142 school, we have dedicated safety staff and a strong focus on further developing our staff and students knowledge and safety skills. If you, or someone you are with, notice a hazard or are not sure on something – please speak up.

For those who were unable to attend we have put together a summary of the key points from the presentation.


What is situational awareness?

Situational awareness is an attention base phenomenon that requires pilots to assess the reality of their situation, anticipate what is going to happen and make safe decision based on this information and their training and experience.


Components of Situational Awareness

Situational awareness has 3 key elements – perception, comprehension and projection.

Perception – This is the practice of identifying what is happening in your surroundings both outside and inside the aircraft. Remember to ask yourself – where is the aircraft, what space is it occupying and how is this related to other aircraft.

Comprehension – It is one thing to know where everything is but it is not valuable information unless you understand what it means and how to use it in your decision-making process. You need to be able to perceive what is happening and understand what it means for you and your aircraft.

Projection – This is an important element of situational awareness – anticipating what is going to happen next. One key thing to remember here is that there is not always going to be one answer. Identifying all the possible outcomes is the first step toward creating a safe outcome.

You need to perceive what is going to happen, understand all the options and outcome and then decide on a course of action based on the information you have. One thing to note is that this is a circle process – once you finish it you go back to the start and begin again.


Threats to Situational Awareness

There are several human and environmental factors that affect a pilot’s situational awareness. When experiencing more the one of these influences please be cautious and work to recover your awareness.

  • Distractions – these can be both inside and outside the aircraft.
  • Workload – Having to do multiple tasks as well as focusing on being aware of your surroundings.
  • Improper procedure – worrying about what other people are doing in a circuit can take attention away from other tasks you need to focus on. While you need to know what is happening around you, be careful not to just focus on the one thing in amazement.
  • Poor communication – A breakdown in communication between aircraft within a circuit can have hazardous effects.
  • Time pressure – this can mean delayed flights, tight schedules and quick turnaround times. Focusing on the speed at which you are completing your flight can be a major distraction.
  • Emotional and mental fatigue – while flying might not be physically draining, it takes a toll on your mind and ability to concentrate.
  • Weather – High winds, rain and clouds can make it difficult as it is another thing that requires your attention.
  • Unfamiliar aircraft or aerodrome – learning a new aircraft or airspace can take your focus away from being vigilant. Just remember to fly the aircraft and keep an eye on the bigger picture.

Degrading Situational Awareness

There are a few different ways to identify if your situational awareness is slipping.

  • Ambiguity and confusion – if you are not sure what is happening and confused by radio calls etc it is most likely that your awareness has slipped.
  • Fixation – if you are becoming fixated on one thing your awareness of everything else quickly fades away. If you are worried about what your instruments are doing, you may forget about flying the plane and you may start to lose altitude.
  • Preoccupation – Conversation, views or uncomfortable seating position are all things that drag your attention down.
  • Illusions – Illusions are not something you are going to come across on a daily basis but they are important things to remember.