This article explains the basic idea of single-pilot resource management (SRM) and a subject treated as a subsidiary concept, aeronautical decision making (ADM). In 2020, both are considered essential to effective safety enhancements (SEs) in general aviation. Some aviation professionals colloquially refer to SRM as single-pilot CRM because of its historical connection to crew resource management used by airline flight crews.
A number of national aviation authorities and industry safety groups, such as the General Aviation Joint Steering Committee (GAJSC) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the United States, have launched initiatives to develop and implement SEs for a few of the highest-priority GA concerns, principally for loss of control–in flight. Those relevant to SRM are summarised below in the References section.
Single pilot Cessna 208B Grand Caravan (N186GC) [Source: Wikicommons, Author: Noah Wulf, 2017]
Single-pilot resource management (SRM) — The art and science of managing all the resources — both on-board the aircraft and from outside sources — available to a single pilot prior to and during flight, to ensure the successful outcome of the flight. (U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge, 2016)
Aeronautical decision making (ADM) — A systematic approach to the mental process used by aircraft pilots to consistently determine the best course of action in response to a given set of circumstances. (FAA, Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge, 2016)
General aviation (GA) — All civil aviation operations other than scheduled air services and non-scheduled air transport operations for remuneration or hire. (International Civil Aviation Organisation)
Loss of control–in flight (LOC-I) — Accidents in which the flight crew was unable to maintain control of the aircraft in flight, resulting in an unrecoverable deviation from the intended flight path. (International Air Transport Association)
Single-Pilot Resource Management and ADM
The 2016 edition of the FAA’s Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge says that the current strong emphasis on single-pilot resource management (SRM) — already part of initial pilot training in many countries — benefits general aviation safety.
“While CRM focuses on pilots operating in crew environments, many of the concepts apply to single-pilot operations. Many CRM principles have been successfully applied to single-pilot aircraft and led to the development of SRM. … SRM includes the concepts of ADM, risk management, task management, automation management, controlled flight into terrain (CFIT) awareness, and situational awareness. SRM training helps the pilot maintain situational awareness by managing the automation and associated aircraft control and navigation tasks. This enables the pilot to accurately assess and manage risk and make accurate and timely decisions. … The use of available resources such as autopilot and air traffic control (ATC) replicates the principles of CRM.”
As noted, corporate worker transportation to/from offshore oil/gas platform operations and remote mining sites has benefited from SRM. Another often-cited example is helicopter emergency medical services (HEMS).
Advocates of SRM–ADM adoption have targeted a number of the extremely diverse areas of general aviation for their attention, which include:
- Pilot training (involving single-pilot operations, for example, during practice of maneuvers and procedures for flight tests);
- Business aviation (involving single-pilot operation of piston engine–powered and turboprop-powered aeroplanes, and some types of turbojet aeroplanes, including owner-operated very light jets);
- Recreational pursuits, including single-pilot balloon, glider and model aircraft flying;
- Agricultural operations, including single-pilot aerial application (crop spraying);
- Mail, newspaper, blood and similar deliveries of time-sensitive materials;
- Non-commercial transportation of severely ill passengers, human organs for transplant, medical equipment and medicines;
- News media monitoring/reporting of motor vehicle traffic conditions and other news events from the sky;
- Civil search and rescue missions by single-pilot volunteers, observers and technicians;
- Aerial surveillance of illegal activities, such as smuggling, by law enforcement officer-pilots;
- Aerial surveys of land and natural resources by owner-operators of aeroplanes, helicopters and remotely piloted aircraft systems;
- Pipeline and power cable patrol by single pilots;
- Corporate or non-government organisations’ flights by single pilots for pollution control monitoring, climate change observation and wildfire control; and,
- Flying displays/demonstrations.
Single Pilots in Future Airline Operations?
In roughly the same time frame that SRM–ADM training has been advocated to improve risk mitigation for single-pilot GA flights, proposals to scale down airline crewing requirements for large commercial transport jets have multiplied and faced intense objections from airline pilot organisations and other stakeholders.
A 2019 report from the Air Line Pilots Association, International (ALPA) — ALPA White Paper: The Dangers of Single-Pilot Operations — said, “The current body of evidence and experience, including more than a decade of study by the [U.S.] National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the [U.S.] Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), shows that the safety risks and challenges associated with [air carrier] single-pilot operations far outweigh its potential benefits.” Much of the ALPA risk assessment is associated with the increased workload for a single pilot, the elimination of “a critical layer of monitoring and operating redundancy in the cockpit” and the “inability of a single pilot to handle many emergency situations.”
- Basic Aviation Risk Standard: Offshore Helicopter Operations – Safety Performance Requirements – Implementation Guidelines, Version 3, Flight Safety Foundation, December 2016.
- “Safety Enhancements: Loss of Control,” General Aviation Joint Steering Committee, accessed April 22, 2020. This initiative focuses on using the resources of “aircraft type clubs” to review their common practices regarding missed approach, go-around, and other approach and landing procedures/checklists “to determine if or where [GA] pilots are becoming task-saturated/fixated.” This includes identifying “disconnects” between published flight manuals/procedures and common practices in actual flying, which create higher workloads during specific maneuvers and procedures of high-priority safety concern in GA.
- “Safety Enhancement (SE) 3: Aeronautical Decision Making (ADM) (Complete),” General Aviation Joint Steering Committee Safety Enhancement Portfolio, February 28, 2018. This initiative says, “To reduce the risk of LOC accidents, the GA community should develop and implement a flight safety program focusing on ADM … in preflight planning, professional decision making, flight risk assessment tools (FRAT), stabilized approaches, missed approaches and go-arounds. … The FAA and industry will develop new and improved interactive, scenario-based training encouraging sound ADM … on personal computers and [websites].”
- “SE 4: Over-Reliance on Automation,” General Aviation Joint Steering Committee Safety Enhancement Portfolio, February 28, 2018. This initiative aims “to reduce the risk of LOC accidents by improving certain aspects of flight training related to over-reliance on automated flight systems.” This includes familiarization with official references to to autopilot malfunctions and failures, and promoting proper training of manual flying in the event of automated systems malfunction or failure during recurrent training, flight review, or [aeroplane type] transition training.”
- “SE 5: Transition Training” and “SE 6: Transition Training,” General Aviation Joint Steering Committee Safety Enhancement Portfolio, February 28, 2018. This initiative focuses on “development of website-based tools that will aid in all aspects of transition to unfamiliar aircraft across GA, including ADM. … This will help identify the risk of inadequate training when operating unfamiliar equipment [including experimental aircraft].”
- “SE 8: Flight Training After Period of Flight Inactivity,” General Aviation Joint Steering Committee Safety Enhancement Portfolio, February 28, 2018. Safety experts recognise that some GA pilots face specific risks because they do not operate aircraft on a frequent/continual basis. GAJSC aims “to reduce the risk of LOC accidents by improving certain aspects of flight training related to the return to flying after [extended] periods of flight inactivity.”
- “SE 9: Part 135 Safety Culture,” General Aviation Joint Steering Committee Safety Enhancement Portfolio, February 28, 2018. This SE says that GA stakeholders should advocate that Part 135 operators conduct mixed operational missions [i.e., segments during the same mission require compliance with commercial safety requirements while other segments require compliance with non-commercial safety requirements as circumstances change] under safety criteria similar to those governing commercial flights. “This will reduce LOC accidents by increasing safety margins and promoting professionalism,” the SE says. Other recommended practices that professionalise single-pilot flying are creating and implementing standard operating procedures for Part 91 positioning legs, routinely using flight risk assessment tools, and fostering positive safety cultures under GA safety management systems (SMS) similar to those required for airlines and on-demand operators.
- “SE 10: Stabilized Approach and Landing.” General Aviation Joint Steering Committee Safety Enhancement Portfolio, February 28, 2018. This initiative explains how single-pilot operations can mitigate risk of many types of GA accidents by closely adhering to official guidance on personal criteria for stabilised approaches, including safe go-around maneuvers. Accidents involving single-pilot flights can be prevented by emphasising the effects of wind on traffic pattern operations during flight reviews and transition training. Particular emphasis should be placed on the turn from base to final.
- “Rewriting the Rules: New requirements in the U.S. and the U.K. are intended to boost helicopter safety.” by Linda Werfelman, Flight Safety Foundation (FSF) AeroSafety World, April 2014.
- “Here Come the Very Light Jets: Unique training programs are being developed to meet the challenges of safely assimilating the forecast influx of VLJs, many of which will be flown by relatively inexperienced owner-pilots.” by FSF Editorial Staff, Flight Safety Digest, July 2005.
- “Crew Resource Management Applies to Single-Pilot Flight Operations” by Joel S. Harris of FlightSafety International, FSF Helicopter Safety, September–October 1995.\
- Helicopter Flying Handbook (FAA-H-8083-21B), FAA, 2019.