Risk Management Teaching Techniques by Phase of Instruction

Instructors should teach risk management using a building block approach. This method will be effective with both new pilots as well as existing pilots who have not previously been exposed to formal risk management training.

Risk Management Training through the Private Pilot Level

A new learner’s exposure to risk management should begin before the first flight and become part of a routine that continues throughout initial training. Instructors should emphasize both practical risk management techniques and skills needed to comply with the Airman Certification Standards (ACS).


Instructor-led and guided risk management training should occur during pre-solo instruction. Risk management should be part of every preflight and postflight brief. To assist in structuring the risk management process, the learner should be introduced to a non­numerical FRAT, and its use should be demonstrated by the instructor during the first few flights. By the first solo, the learner should be able to conduct a basic risk management analysis.

Post-Solo Prior to Cross-Country Training

During the initial solo and dual flights following the first solo, the learner should be able to perform a risk analysis of the planned flight, with occasional coaching from the instructor. The instructor should review the learner’s risk analysis for all solo flights and provide any required feedback. At the completion of solo flights, the learner should de-brief the instructor on the risk management aspects of the flight.

Cross-Country Training

During the cross-country phase of training, learners should master risk management techniques commensurate with the complexity of flights and the terrain along the route to the destination(s). This could include, for a private certificate, flights at night, flights in complex airspace, or to unfamiliar airports. Instructors should ask the learner to accomplish a full risk analysis for every dual and solo cross-country flight. The process should include use of a FRAT or other method of analysis. The instructor should review and approve the risk analysis, just as would be done for other aspects of the learner’s preflight preparation and calculations.

Risk Management Training for Experienced Pilots

Risk management is not a task confined solely to the initial training environment. Instructors should ensure that risk management is part of all training events for all certificated pilots. This is especially important for pilots who have not been exposed to risk management standards now contained in the ACS.

Instrument Training

Risk management training is vital during instruction for the instrument rating because of the potential hazards related to IMC. Instructors should emphasize broad risk management techniques and strategies that will allow a pilot to analyze and evaluate complex weather and other elements that generate risk. For example, an instructor might suggest that a pilot consider the risk management aspects of flight in:
  • single-engine aircraft or over terrain higher than the single-engine service ceiling of a multiengine aircraft
  • aircraft with a single alternator or a single radio and navigation system
  • night conditions
  • low IMC
  • icing conditions or at altitudes above the freezing level

Transition Training

Pilots transitioning to more advanced aircraft will encounter additional types of risk associated with such aircraft. These include more complex systems and avionics, enhanced performance, and expanded abnormal and emergency procedures. Pilots transitioning to lighter, slower aircraft will also encounter additional risk due to less performance capability than the pilot has come to expect.

Before teaching in advanced aircraft, instructors should ensure that they have familiarity with the aircraft and equipment. Instructors should employ scenarios that emphasize risk management aspects of operating advanced aircraft in the National Airspace System. In addition to risk management, other SRM skills such as automation management, task and workload management, and maintaining situational awareness should be emphasized. In most instances, the pilot seeking training will be instrument rated and the instructor should evaluate the pilot’s risk management and other SRM proficiency under an IFR scenario.

Recurrent Training, Flight Reviews, and Instrument Proficiency Checks

Instructors should particularly emphasize risk management during any kind of recurrent training or proficiency event. Many pilots who held certificates prior to the introduction of the ACS may not have been exposed to formal risk management training or evaluation.

Instructors should consider using scenarios to evaluate pilot risk management proficiency. The scenario should be constructed in a way that mirrors the pilot’s typical operating profile. However, if the pilot plans to change that operating profile, the instructor should discuss or evaluate the pilot’s ability to address any potential new risk management issues. For example, a pilot usually operates flights between rural airports in Class E airspace, but is soon planning to begin flying regularly to a location in Class B airspace. In this case, the instructor should address the operating requirements, such as Mode “C” and ADS-B, and the environmental risk factors related to Class B operation.

Risk Management during Operational Flights

Pilots who are already certificated conduct most of their flights without an instructor present. As an instructor, you should encourage them to practice effective risk management on all their flights.

Realistically, pilots will not always follow the risk management procedures discussed in this site. Instructors should encourage pilots to scale their risk management procedures to match the complexity of the flight. For example, for a local flight, it is acceptable to use an abbreviated risk management protocol using the PAVE acronym to briefly review the major elements of potential risk. However, for longer or more complex flights it may be desirable to complete a FRAT. A key objective for instructors is to provide risk management guidance that will allow pilots to think of risk management intuitively, as a part of the preparation for every flight and continuously while the flight progresses.

Risk Management Training for Professional Pilots

Instructors may encounter pilots who fly professionally. Many professional pilots operate as a crew and receive ongoing and recurrent training at a Part 142 training center. Instructors who work in classrooms or simulators at such a facility will likely be proficient in subjects such as crew resource management (CRM). They may also be exposed to other training and operating concepts, such as threat and error management (TEM), which has similar elements to risk management.

Instructors may encounter professional pilots who own their own aircraft and fly them outside of their professional environment. An instructor who provides transition or other flight instruction services to professional pilots should emphasize risk management as part of the training. Pilots who operate professionally as a crew may not be used to operating as a single-pilot, without the support infrastructure of their professional employer. Their risk management responsibilities may need adaptation to flying their own aircraft.

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