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ALC-474: NAFI PDP - Distraction Management & Cockpit Techniques
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Aeronautical Proficiency Training, LLC
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MANAGING DISTRACTIONS                                                                                                            

A distraction is anything that reduces our focus on successfully completing the task at hand.

A typical distraction example is when there is someone asking questions/talking to you during your preflight inspection.

The Pilot n Command is responsible for handling all distractions.      - 14 CFR Part 91.3A “The Pilot in Command of an aircraft is directly responsible for, and is the final authority as to, the operation of that aircraft”

No matter how you try to avoid having distractions, you can’t - they will always occur.

Another pilot can help manage distractions by running checklists in emergency/irregular operations, flying the airplane while you manage distractions, communicating with ATC.

Creating realistic scenarios incorporating typical distractions is the best way for a CFI to teach their students to handle distractions.

Regarding distractions, the PIC is on his/her own in flight.

Distractions can be fatal if not properly managed.

FAA information containing distraction management guidance: Risk Management Handbook

Very early in their training is the best time to introduce your student to distractions, so they learn to manage distractions effectively.

Private Pilot Airman Certification Standard is where Private Pilot check ride guidance on Distraction Management located.

Flight instructors and ground school instructors are equally responsible for teaching Distraction Management.

Practicing all features of new equipment in VMC PRIOR to flight in IMC is the best idea for managing the distraction of new equipment on an IFR flight.

The following are some examples of distraction training scenarios: 

        A. Engaging in irrelevant discussions during preflight

        B. Introducing mechanical problems inflight

        C. Interrupting your student while in the middle of checklists

Probably the “most important” task that a CFI can teach a student is to fly the aircraft at all times.

Using the autopilot to help manage distractions is an effective strategy.

Teaching your student CRM skills will help to reduce distractions.

To reduce the chances of an altitude “bust”, stop other activities when within 500 or 1000 feet prior to “Level off.”

 The most important reason for teaching Distraction Management is to reduce the potentially hazardous consequences associated with “distracted flight.”

The majority of distractions involve all these: 

         A. Communications

         B. “Heads Down” work (programming GPS, etc.)

         C. Responding to “abnormal” situations

You the CFI can become a distraction for your student.

We can minimize the distractions due to “abnormal” situations by constant practice for those abnormal situations.

Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) can help minimize distractions by giving us “base line” procedures to fall back on when we get distracted.

Some management techniques that are effective during the preflight inspection are to:

        A. Preflight in a closed hangar

        B. Politely ignore everyone during the preflight

        C. Keep your passengers in the comfortable FBO while you preflight.

When you student is interrupted for a long time while doing a check list, teach them to start that particular check list over again.

You may teach your student to use you as a resource while managing distractions as it teaches them Crew Resource Management (CRM).

Some unsafe situations resulting from distractions are:

       A. Forgetting the gear/flaps

       B. Altitude “busts”

       C. Taxiway/Runway Incursion/Excursion

The “sterile cockpit” principle helps reduce distractions by:

       A. Minimizes unnecessary conversation in critical phases of flight

       B. Allows the pilot to concentrate on the “task at hand”

       C. Reduces the pilots workload

A student remembering that you said to "Fly the Airplane First" should help them during a distraction.

TIS/TCAS/ATC is effective in minimizing traffic watch distractions.