Hazardous Attitudes — The Difference Between Life & Death

What are Hazardous Attitudes???

Ok, my guess is that you’re freaking out because I’ve just used the “D” word.  I think you’ll see, after reading this post, that attitudes really make a difference.  I’ll say right now that I’m not an expert in psychology or pretend to know what makes everyone tick.  However, I’m taking a class at UND entitled “Human Factors” and Hazardous Attitudes is actually something everyone in Private Pilot Ground School will learn about and be tested on.  It’s essential to understand more than just the technical part of flying and how much attitudes influence decisions we make before and during a flight.

My guess is that most people understand what an attitude is, but just in case I’ll provide you with a definition.  Attitudes are basically your thoughts and behavior patterns that are influenced by your prior experience, current situation, or your mood.  An attitude is also a paradigm which is your pre-conceived notion about a situation.  They are actually less ingrained than personality traits and, therefore, are easier to change.  Some of you might be familiar with Crew Resource Management (CRM) – CRM is actually designed to change attitudes of people through changing their paradigm, and is used primarily in aviation environments.  Let’s examine the different kinds of Hazardous Attitudes:  Anti-Authority, Impulsivity, Invulnerability, Macho, and Resignation.

Have you seen these attitudes in yourself & others?

Anti-Authority is our desire to resist rules, regulations, procedures, and laws.  You might have either said or have heard someone say: “I don’t like being told what to do.”  This is a prime example of Anti-Authority.  Pilots might see this when a fellow crewmember decides to violate company procedures, skip checklists, or in training setting, land at an airport that isn’t pre-approved.  For those that don’t fly, examples of this may be violating traffic laws because we don’t see the point in it, or underage drinking.

Impulsivity is being compelled to act fast due to a false time pressure.  This may come from the thought that you have to make the decision now!  Often these decisions are made with only a few options to choose from and not enough information available.   This attitude is often more common in a high workload situation.  For example, this could entail a pilot deciding to continue on to his destination because he feels he must beat a storm moving in. Another example is that you might be driving back home over the weekend and decide to leave late at night because you have to make your morning class.  You may not consider how tired you are, the fact that you really don’t have to rush back to class, or the dangers of all the animals out at night on back roads.

“It won’t happen to me.”  This is something someone with the attitude of Invulnerability might say.  I think we all know that one person that says this just before something happens that is obviously unsafe and generally kind of dumb – let’s face it: we’ve been that person.

Next we have Macho.   Macho is your need to prove your skills and abilities to another person, beyond what is considered good sense or practical.  For pilots, you might have that landing approach that looks pretty questionable, but feel you must stick that landing to impress your instructor.  Guys (sorry, I am picking on you) might use this attitude to impress a potential girlfriend and show just how cool you are.  Let’s face it: we all have macho attitudes.

comicLastly, we have Resignation. Resignation is when you believe that your input will have no effect, even to the point that you give up.  People experiencing resignation often think “what’s the use?”  You might feel helpless, less experienced, and think what you’re experiencing doesn’t matter.  For example, you might be a low-time pilot recently hired to fly as a First Officer for a regional airline.  You’re sitting in the right seat on your first day of flying after going through months of training.  You took Flight Physiology at UND since that’s a required class and know your unique symptoms of hypoxia (basically, it’s when the brain is starved of oxygen).  Anyways, you take off and things seem to be going just fine. Halfway through the flight, you start feeling hypoxic – your fingertips start turning blue, you’re dizzy, and feeling very euphoric.  However, you remember that it’s your first day, you’re probably just overly excited, cold, and think that your captain won’t listen – he is much more experienced, and hasn’t said anything about feeling ill at all.  You think that there really isn’t a point in speaking up since everyone else seems fine and probably will just laugh at you.  Unknown to everyone else, the cabin is actually leaking oxygen, and less than 10 minutes later, the entire flight crew and the passengers all pass out, and the aircraft eventually crashes.

Still think your attitude isn’t a big deal?

Winston_Chruchill_AttitudeYou may be sitting there thinking that my scenario was a little grim. Yes it was, but it only shows how dangerous hazardous attitudes can be and it really is a matter of life and death!   Each of the attitudes I covered have an impact on the decisions we make in the aviation industry.  It is not always the difference between living and dying, but when you’re in charge of an expensive piece of equipment and other people’s lives, it suddenly takes on a whole new meaning.  However, this just doesn’t apply to aviation, as these attitudes exist in everyday life.

The key to changing these attitudes is to change your paradigm.  This means following the rules, taking your time, realize it could happen to you, not trying to prove yourself excessively, and voicing your opinions.  This isn’t the easiest task, but we all owe it to ourselves to combat these hazardous attitudes and help create a safer aviation environment.   By the way, there really was a First Officer from UND that used what he learned in class to find an actual cabin pressure leak.  The plane landed safely and was repaired with no injuries.  Still think that my scenario was a little too extreme?


One thought on “Hazardous Attitudes — The Difference Between Life & Death

  1. Pingback: Winter Weather Flying – Blue Skies & Tailwinds

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