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Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)

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SOPs are self-evidently a core safety mechanism which is comprehensively considered in this entry. However, from a specifically Flight Operations perspectiveItalic text, I believe that some important points have not been made here. In the order of the entry rather than any assessment by me of their relative importance, they are: (1) Description There is a implication that SOPs, once arrived at, are 'final' whereas they are rightly dynamic and must sometimes be modified in the light of experience. It also says that "SOPs must be followed precisely" whereas flight crew rightly have the 'option' that an SOP, of which there are huge amounts these days, may be ignored on a specific occasion if a real justification can be made that such action was necessary to ensure the safety of the flight in a way that application of the relevant SOP would not have done. (2) Types of SOP Flight Operations SOPs are not limited to customised aircraft manufacturer SOPs. They also include procedures for all sorts of circumstances not covered by manufacturer material even though this material will undoubtedly be a very valuable basic source. (3) Effects It says in the entry that "CRM..(is)not effective without adherence to SOPs". In my view this is the wrong way round. In fact SOPs are rarely applied to good effect without effective CRM. This is most obviously the case at the point of potential breach since it is here that flight deck teamwork - CRM - has the opportunity to resolve matters if it is really working. It also says that SOPs cover all likely outcomes. Unfortunately in the real world, not all the outcomes we experience as pilots are 'likely' so SOPs do not and cannot cover all aspects of how we fly planes. It is also true that there should be no attempt to make them cover all conceivable situations because whatever % is covered, it will never be 100% so pilots will still need to be able to 'invent solutions' occasionally by retaining the ability to think things out for themselves on those occasions where no SOP fits. An alternative way of looking at this is to observe that, whilst SOPs should be expected to cover both the routinely-encountered and all predictable abnormal/emergency situations, there will always be an area between these two which could only ever be filled with SOPs which were neither for emergency response or applicable to routine operations and regularly applied. Trying to 'fill that gap' would mean ending up with too many SOPs for pilots to retain awareness off as well as leading them to react to the unexpected on the presumption that `there must be an SOP for it'! (4) Scenarios The example of an unstable approach is a good one but a sensible set of SOPs will also ensure that approach maximum speeds for various ranges from touchdown are set so that, if they are followed, an unstable approach - and the required go around - will not result. Also, the example of ATCO late re-clearance is not necessarily the consequence of an earlier ATCO failure to follow an SOP, it might instead be the result if a tactical resolution of potential conflict which arisen in another way. (5) Contributory Factors One key contributory factor not listed which affects SOPs is when, usually through experience of use, it is found that a procedure needs to be revised. This is the same point about Flight Operations SOPs being 'dynamic' rather than at all times perfect that I started out with!--Chris.stewart 17:00, 29 January 2008 (CET)

Editorial Comment

Thank you for your thoughtful comments. The article will be reviewed in the light of them and revised as necessary.--Ian.Wigmore 12:19, 13 February 2008 (CET)