Single-Pilot Resource Management

in Aeronautical Decision Making

Many of the concepts utilized in CRM have been successfully applied to single-pilot operations which led to the development of SRM. Defined as the art and science of managing all the resources (both on board the aircraft and from outside resources) available to a single pilot (prior to and during flight), SRM ensures the successful outcome of the flight. As mentioned earlier, this includes risk management, situational awareness, and CFIT awareness.

SRM training helps the pilot maintain situational awareness by managing automation, associated control, and navigation tasks. This enables the pilot to accurately assess hazards, manage resulting risk potential, and make good decisions.


To make informed decisions during flight operations, a pilot must be aware of the resources found both inside and outside the cockpit. Since useful tools and sources of information may not always be readily apparent, learning to recognize these resources is an essential part of SRM training. Resources must not only be identified, but a pilot must also develop the skills to evaluate whether he or she has the time to use a particular resource and the impact its use has upon the safety of flight.

If a pilot is flying alone into a confined area with no wind sock or access to a current wind report, should that pilot pick an approach path based on the direction of wind information received from an earlier weather brief? Making an approach into a confined area with a tailwind is a bad decision and can be avoided. Prior to landing, the pilot should use outside resources such a smoke, trees, and water on a pond to help him or her accurately determine which direction the winds are coming from. Pilots should never leave flying up to chance and hope for the best. Many accidents could and should be avoided by simply using the resources, internal and external that are available.

Internal resources are found in the cockpit during flight. Since some of the most valuable internal resources are ingenuity, knowledge, and skill, a pilot can expand cockpit resources immensely by improving these capabilities. This can be accomplished by frequently reviewing flight information publications, such as 14 CFR and the AIM, as well as by pursuing additional training.

No other internal resource is more important than the pilot’s ability to control the situation, thereby controlling the aircraft. Helicopter pilots quickly learn that it is not possible to hover, single pilot, and pick up the checklist, a chart, or publication without endangering themselves, the aircraft, or those nearby.

Checklists are essential cockpit resources used to verify the aircraft instruments and systems are checked, set, and operating properly. They also ensure proper procedures are performed if there is a system malfunction or inflight emergency. Pilots at all levels of experience refer to checklists. The more advanced the aircraft is, the more crucial checklists are.

Therefore, have a plan on how to use the checklist (and other necessary publications) before you begin the flight. Always control the helicopter first. When hovering in an airport environment, the pilot can always land the aircraft to access the checklist or a publication, or have a passenger assist with holding items. There is nothing more unsettling than being in flight and not having a well thought-out plan for managing the necessary documents and data. This lack of planning often leads to confusion, distractions and aircraft mishaps.

Another way to avoid a potentially complex and confusing situation is to remove yourself from the situation. The following is an example of how proper resource management and removal from a situation are vital to safe flight.

A single pilot is conducting a helicopter cross-country flight. He frequently goes to and is familiar with the final destination airport. Weather is briefed to be well above the minimum weather needed, but with isolated thunderstorms possible. For the pilot, this is a routine run-of-the-mill flight. He has done this many times before and has memorized the route, checkpoints, the frequencies, fuel required and knows exactly what to expect.

However, once within 30 miles of the destination airport the pilot observes that weather is deteriorating and a thunderstorm is nearby. The pilot assesses the situation and determines the best course of action is to reroute to another airport. The closest airport is an airport within Class C airspace. At this point, the pilot realizes the publications with the required alternate airport information are in the back of the helicopter out of reach. Now what?

The pilot continues toward the alternate airport while using the onboard equipment to access the information. He struggles to obtain the information because he or she is not thoroughly familiar with its operation. Finally, the information is acquired and the pilot dials in the appropriate alternate airfield information. Upon initial contact ARTCC (Air Route Traffic Control Center) notifies the pilot that he has entered the airspace without the required clearance; in effect the pilot has violated airspace regulations.

Things have gone from bad to worse for him. When did the trouble begin for this pilot and what options were available?

Without a doubt, problems began during the planning phase, as the necessary resources were placed in the back of the aircraft, unavailable to the pilot during flight. Additional training with the available automated systems installed on the helicopter would have expedited access to the necessary information. What if they hadn’t been installed or were inoperative?

Next, a poor decision to continue towards the Class C airspace was made. The pilot could have turned away from the Class C airspace, removing himself from the situation until the frequencies were entered and contact established. Remember, when possible, choose an option that gives more time to determine a course of action. Proper resource management could have negated this airspace violation.

The example also demonstrates the need to have a thorough understanding of all the equipment and systems in the aircraft. As is often the case, the technology available today is seldom used to its maximum capability. It is necessary to become as familiar as possible with this equipment to utilize all resources fully. For example, advanced navigation and autopilot systems are valuable resources. However, if pilots do not fully understand how to use this equipment, or they rely on it so much they become complacent, the equipment can become a detriment to safe flight.

Figure 14-4. FAA-approved Rotorcraft Flying Manual (RFM).

Figure 14-4. FAA-approved Rotorcraft Flying Manual (RFM).

Another internal resource is the FAA-approved rotorcraft flight manual (RFM). [Figure 14-4] The RFM:

  • Must be on board the aircraft.
  • Is indispensable for accurate flight planning.
  • Plays a vital role in the resolution of inflight equipment malfunctions.

Other valuable flight deck resources include current aeronautical charts and publications, such as the Airport/ Facility Directory (A/FD).

As stated previously, passengers can also be a valuable resource. Passengers can help watch for traffic and may be able to provide information in an irregular situation, especially if they are familiar with flying. Crew briefs to passengers should always include some basic helicopter terminology. For example, explain that in the event you ask them if you are clear to hover to the right, their response should be either “yes, you are clear to hover to the right” or “no you are not clear.” A simple yes or no answer can be ambiguous. A strange smell or sound may alert a passenger to a potential problem. As PIC, a pilot should brief passengers before the flight to make sure that they are comfortable voicing any concerns.

Instruction that integrates Single-Pilot Resource Management into flight training teaches aspiring pilots how to be more aware of potential risks in flying, how to identify those risks clearly, and how to manage them successfully. The importance of integrating available resources and learning effective SRM skills cannot be overemphasized. Ignoring safety issues can have fatal results.

51l0aN891BL._SX396_BO1,204,203,200_Are you ready to start your journey learning to fly helicopters? Learning to Fly Helicopters, Second Edition, provides details on the technical and practical aspects of rotarywing flight. Written in a conversational style, the book demystifies the art and science of helicopter flying.


Previous post:

Next post: