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How do you teach Situational Awareness?

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How do you teach Situational Awareness?

Old 12th Jul 2008, 18:21
  #1 (permalink)  
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How do you teach Situational Awareness?

What techniques do you use to train situational awareness?
Which areas do you include? (Geography, systems, environment, goals, etc.)
When do you begin including it in training?
Are some students better at it than others?
Are there certain elements you feel are more important than others?
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Old 12th Jul 2008, 18:42
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The best idea I have seen till today, is the scenario based training. It starts at the beginning of pilot training. Look at the FITS training of the FAA. Situational awarness will come naturaly to the pilot with that approach.
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Old 12th Jul 2008, 19:22
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What is your definition of 'Situational Awareness'? I've not had anyone mention it to me during PPL(H) training so far and I don't recall seeing any specific text about it in the ground school books.

Is it something specific to aviation, or is it the same 'situational awareness' that any car driver or footballer has to develop?

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Old 12th Jul 2008, 19:50
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Situational awareness was brought into my PPL(H) lessons pretty much from the word "go" so McBad, unless you have only a very few hours, I am surprised the concept has not been mentioned so far. Yes, it is similar to that required as a car driver or more so as a motorcyclist! But it encompasses much more than driving as, for a start, it's in three dimensions. I'm sorry but I think your analogy with footballers is not appropriate here!

But ... how to teach it? Couldn't begin to say! But early on in the course!!


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Old 12th Jul 2008, 23:34
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Situation awareness is not just in three dimensions, the concept is not bound by positional orientation but also encompasses a broader spectrum of events that are ever changing and require an assessment of priority both at that moment in time and extrapolated continuously in terms of aircraft performance, environment and crew parameters.

The degree of an individuals performance in this arena often determines their abilities to progress and the degree of professionalism they are able to achieve. Unfortunately, a persons ability in this respect is pretty much not determined by how hard you study. Ability and skill in this matter improves with practise and time. Some are lucky to be born with more highly developed abilities that enable rapid utilisation of the necessary skills than others. Some are not and although they will progress with time, advancement will be so slow that the higher levels of proficiency will effectively place them in the basket labelled 'no career potential' simply because of time and cost.

Many accidents occur because of 'pilot error' which is a fancy way of saying 'poor degree of situational awareness' which is also another way of saying crap captaincy.

Best Wishes
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Old 12th Jul 2008, 23:49
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I was thinking along the lines of Endsley's "internalized mental model of the current state of the flight environment" consisting of geographic, spatial/temporal, system, environment and tactical elements definition of SA. I got curious about this a couple of months ago - I got lost in the woods and the course of action I took to find my way back was not what my friends (competition orienteer-ers) expected. When I thought about it, the process I used to solve the problem was something I learned early in my flight training, but asking around my training was the exception not the rule. So it got me curious - what is the normal method to teach SA and how effective is it? Are some methods more effective than others?
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Old 13th Jul 2008, 00:17
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Mmmmm ....

Good question .... my thoughts are that you either have it or you don't!

Some will have more than others ... some will be able to increase their level of "savvy" with time ... those that have not got it will most likely never have it ....

I don't think you can teach it.

Those that don't have it should stay on the ground ...and preferably remain walkers (& public transport users) not vehicle drivers!

(Hows that for a point of view? )

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Old 13th Jul 2008, 00:35
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Here is where to start..Have your students listen to the radio and tell you where other traffic is.
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Old 13th Jul 2008, 00:46
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While most of you have accurately described what SA is, the missing piece is what you do with that SA. The core skill for the pilot is positive decision making to avoid or extract themselves from a negative outcome. Positive decision making is the output from good SA. The difference between good and bad SA is whether you simply recieve the information, or whether you process and act pro-actively on that information. New pilots tend to fall back on a (falsely) percieved level of ability to avoid a negative outcome whereas experienced pilots take longer to make (good) decisions based on processing the available SA details.
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Old 13th Jul 2008, 00:56
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Used to be called "Airmanship", started from day one!
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Old 13th Jul 2008, 01:40
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Avoid non controlled airspace, now that's Situational Awareness........................

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Old 13th Jul 2008, 03:00
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Madam Jolly,

That long winded theory might also be described as "Not using yer belly button for a peep hole!"

I found a nice red fire extinguisher applied smartly to the noggin of the one in need of learning to be most effective as it had a unique way of emphasizing the point being made by the instructor.

Effective Situational Awareness in helicopters falls slightly short of absolute paranoia as there are mulitiple ways you can be done in. Fostering a mindset that keeps that notion fresh but subliminal is the key.

The problem is SA and Judgement are intertwined and Judgement cannot be taught by example or repetition. Decision making skills foster processing of information by priority and then structuring the followup actions.

Realizing priorities change as information is processed allows one to focus and ignore less important issues.

Basically.....teach folks to "Think!"

Too many organizations focus upon standardization and procedure (think checklists) to the exclusion of "thinking". They confuse that for "situational awareness".

Review a Simulator video of a training flight sometime.....note the correlation of red lights and "dipped shoulder" syndrome. The red light comes on....and a shoulder dips as someone reaches for the Emergency Checklist. I would suggest that is a dangerous mindset to get into. I would suggest reaching for the checklist is the very last thing that needs to be done at that point. Yet, we see that behaviour over and over.

How do you teach people to think is the question I want to see answered. I fear some folks just ain't gonna hack it in that endeavour.
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Old 13th Jul 2008, 04:03
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Apart from mandating the use of clearoff, I generally try to get the students doing a kind of mental gymnastics.

Taking cues from a certain event in flight. i.e. a radio exchange between another aircraft and a controller. Ask them where that aircraft was, when we will be likley to be closest to it.
While they are answering that ask them what our fuel load will be when we get there.
Then ask them what they will do if an oil light comes on and we are on a reciprocal track and 1000 ft above the other aircraft.
Then ask what mechanism triggers the oil light. etc etc etc.

It's basically making them really busy and taking them to different aspects of the entire picture. I feel it's important to keep a cohesive thread to develop an understanding of how these aspects relate to each other in the overall management of the flight.

Main thing I look out for is that they prioritise flying the helicopter. You can alter the priorities of the sequence by throwing in a hydraulic failure of something along those lines.

What takes them ten minutes to answer in the early days, comes in the blink of an eye later on.

An instructor's role is to turn out safe pilots who operate in a courteous and professional manner. You only have a hundred or so hours with them. I feel true judgement from good situational awareness can only come with common sense and experience.

Good question, Jolly Girl.
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Old 13th Jul 2008, 09:10
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My early instructor used to get into the helicopter and get the flight time done ASAP without really teaching me a lot except how to fly the ship. It may have been too early for teaching SA.

My second instructor constantly asked me questions about where the wind is from, where I would go in an emergency, what we heard on the radio, where we are at right now, where the traffic is, if I keep scanning the gages, if it's a wise decision to fly the way I am flying over some obstacle etc etc. All these questions helped me to get the constant being aware programmed into my brain. If something was said on the radio, I paid attention. If we flew over wires, I checked them out and flew over the poles. If traffic was near us I thought about what they are doing and where they are going. If we approached an airport, I familiarized myself with the layout etc. If we were taxiing, I thought about my path first and looked out if there would be anybody in our way, etc etc... having him asking me all these questions thought me "situational awareness". If we were to leave an airport he also asked me how I would get out of there, and what would be my next step right now, before he made a decision on what we were really about to do and explained me why. He used that kind of smalltalk to teach me situational awareness also during times when I didn't expect it. He was a relatively new CFI, but IMHO he did a great job teaching me, compared to some older guys.

In the beginning I felt annoyed by these questions, as I was still struggling to handle the helicopter. But over time, handling the ship became second nature and I had more resources to be aware of what is going on around us, with the ship and the weather and other traffic etc.

So if you ask me, bug your students with questions related to situational awareness during the flight. Not constantly, but whenever there is a bit of time or decisions need to be made. This reminds the student early on to not only fly the ship and rely on the instructor for the rest. And it also gives you the chance to pass on some "rules of thumb" or "piloting wisdom" to your students.
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Old 13th Jul 2008, 10:31
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"Effective Situational Awareness in helicopters falls slightly short of absolute paranoia as there are multiple ways you can be done in. Fostering a mindset that keeps that notion fresh but subliminal is the key."
So that's why I am still alive.
Early in training I was so overloaded it was as much as I could do to listen let alone talk.
Scan for other aircraft,( is it a bird) scan instruments, check map ( we are Where), listen to radio ( was it us or xxx they called), listen to aircraft (was that a new rattle squeak or bonk), fly the thing!! & then you want me to Listen & Talk to you as well.
Most of it came in time but I think situation awareness can be taught to a level but after that there is a further level that is not teachable & with some people not even explainable. I agree with Spinwing to a point.
There are people who drive fast cars competently but have no situation awareness these are the ones that scare me, no forward thinking, no what if.
Flown with one or two as well, I may not be as competent a flyer, but I have done the what if, & they have left no room for unforeseen problems, I always try to go over each flight and see where I could have improved, self assessment as long as you are truthful helps to increase awareness,
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Old 13th Jul 2008, 11:15
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I think Runway101 has answered Jollygirl's question accurately. Also the bigger the heli the more SA you will need to have had developed by then...
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Old 13th Jul 2008, 11:25
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Slightly off topic - how do you know you've lost SA? What replaces it??
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Old 13th Jul 2008, 11:51
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Old 13th Jul 2008, 12:15
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More thoughts on the subject:
I worked on a research project where pilots were run through a scenario where the weather at destination deteriorated from CAVU to WOX0F over the 50 miles it took the participants to get there. Updated weather information was presented in the form of visual cues (exterior weather display) and audio cues (aircraft diverts, updated AIRMETS and AWOS/ASOS). Some pilots were quite passive and flew merrily on their way while others were active information seekers who made decisions based on the current weather and traffic status. The behaviors seemed to be linked to training – those who had trained in a rule and authority based (you will behave according to an established flight manual) environment behaved in one way while those who had trained in less formal and structured (and more playful) environments behaved in another. My thought is one group was more sensitive to the physical environment while the other was more sensitive to the social (regulatory) environment, two different elements of SA.
So how are these priorities established?
And how much can you train and how quickly?
There was a section of the Steve Hislop thread where folks were discussing how to train for inadvertent IFR. Some advocated a 180, others to descend and land, while a third group advocated teaching avoidance. It got me thinking how do you train for this type of event? My one inadvertent IFR experience was just after I had departed from an airport on the California shore - I descended back to VFR and all was well. But my decision in this case was much different than it would have been had I been flying over the Sierras, exploring canyons of the desert southwest, or navigating the perma-MVFR we flew in Korea. Which got me thinking, can you train a single strategy for this scenario, or is it better to train awareness and flexibility?

“Slightly off topic - how do you know you've lost SA? What replaces it??”
Good question Shawn, and not off topic. One hazard of losing SA is that you may not be aware that you’ve lost it.
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Old 13th Jul 2008, 12:31
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If all pilots had just one tenth the SA of one of the best play maker half backs of all time, Alfie Langer, then there never would be any pilot error prangs.

There have been many others in the League and Rugby code, perhaps the soccer mob as well, but i doubt there'd ever be any with SA in the AFL code. They just plumb don't watch they're going at any time.

You've either got it or you haven't, if you have you're halfway to being a mustering driver, if not, go drive a bus somewhere.
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