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Complacent About Complacency In The Cockpit

Complacent About Complacency In The Cockpit

  • August
  • 02
  • 2018
  • Chris Tranbarger

Having recently read an industry publication discussing complacency in cockpit operations, I took some time to discuss the subject with a few of my counterparts and reflect on how to recognize it and combat it.

Thinking I know what complacency means to me, I nonetheless gave consideration to what the real definition might be. A quick glance at the dictionary reveals that it is defined as "a feeling of quiet pleasure or security, often while unaware of some potential danger, defect, or the like; self-satisfaction or smug satisfaction with an existing situation, condition, etc." That opened my eyes a bit!

As I considered further the issue of complacency in the cockpit, what struck me is the path that leads to this mindset is actually the consistency and success with which flight operations occur. The occasion of an abnormal event in the cockpit is so rare that over time we become conditioned to that "quiet feeling of security." Nothing happens so we expect nothing to happen. The question posed next was how to be aware of one developing a complacent attitude and also how to prevent it.

My initial reaction to these questions was to review some accident/incident reports with a specific focus on indicators of crew demeanor. In several of the reports, I noted that the crew failed to follow standard operating procedures. Could this be an indicator? Is complacency the correct description for knowingly and intentionally disregarding SOPs or checklists?

The next question though, and probably the more important one, is how to combat or prevent complacency? What measurable action(s) could one employ to keep this attitude out of the cockpit?

First and foremost, defeating a complacent attitude requires a desire and self-discipline to follow and utilize established operational procedures. Don't skip steps. Ever. Use the checklist, brief the procedure, even if it is familiar.

Second, develop and maintain a desire for continuous improvement. Read and follow industry trends, review your aircraft systems descriptions and memory items periodically. Engage in healthy discussion with your peers about situations you’ve encountered. Ask them about events from which they've learned. Strive to be a better pilot and crewmember on your next flight than you were on your last one.

Finally, train and educate yourself. You participate in training events on a scheduled basis. Make it count. Your training has a specific purpose beyond satisfying an FAA requirement. Commit yourself to learning something new or exploring new concepts during your training events. Keep your mind and attitude sharp, focused and prepared.

By simply elevating your attention up one level, you will be amazed at the ease of learning and the confidence that goes along with knowledge. When you are assigned recurrent training, take the time to go through Advanced Aircrew Academy's eLearning modules instead of just scrolling through the pages and videos. The material, rules, and best practices are always changing, so challenge yourself to learning something new.

Advanced Aircrew Academy offers ~60 module topics that will take the complacency out of your ground training. You can find the answer to your questions on our website or just give us a call!


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