During my time as Operations Superintendent of the USAF Special Operations and Rescue Flight School I was always amazed by how many times we would tell aircrews to “Be Safe” or “Fly Safe”. Especially since this is what my mother used to say to me and my brothers as we left on one of our bicycling adventures. What is “B Safe”? Is it the safe between A and C safe? “Fly Safe” must mean that you are protected from flies. What we in Air Force leadership and my mother probably meant was, “Make sure you manage risk”. To be totally safe you wouldn’t ride a bike or fly an airplane for that matter. To keep our aircrews “Safe” I was tasked to come up with a briefing to help them not be safe but to manage risk. This 6 step Risk Management Process may help you manage risk.Step 1: Identify the Hazards. Step 2: Evaluate the Risks. Step 3: Analyse Risk Control Measures. Step 4: Make Control Decisions. Step 5: Implement Risk Controls. Step 6: Supervise and Review.
Here’s an example on how it works in action. One of the most prevalent risks we deal with as General Aviation pilots is weather. Most of the time flying and weather is a subjective decision. This is where we would “Identify the Hazard” by interpreting the forecasted and actual weather. “Evaluate the risks” is done by determining the effects on our flight and doing a worst case scenario on the situation. Then “Analyse Risk Control Measures” by putting in, if this happens I’ll do this, to the equation. “If I can’t see the horizon below the clouds and maintain altitude without entering the clouds I’ll do a 180 degree turn”. The next step is critical where you “Make the Control Decision”. Waiting to see if the weather will improve or justifying your lack of decision could result in serious circumstances. You have to make the decision to turn back or avoid the weather. “Risk Controls” are then implemented by communicating the risk and your intentions to manage the risk. This is where you would communicate with the controlling agency or airspace and list what you intend to do and what action you will take. The final step is to “Supervise and Review” by monitoring the action you implement and review for any changes in the situation. You decided to turn 45 degrees to avoid weather and you monitor for any changes in the weather ahead. These steps are something we do on a regular basis in everyday life. Crossing the street is another great example of this. We check for cars and any other hazards and risks. We decide if we think we can make it between cars coming. We then cross the road. If the cars are coming too fast we turn back or pick up our pace to make it across the road. We check again to make sure the cars won’t hit us until we make it safely across the road or back to where we started. There may be some communication in the process like, “That was close. ”We make similar decisions countless times in the safe operation of aircraft. This tool may help to create a checklist for ease of use and help you manage risk successfully and hopefully “Be Safe” and “Fly Safe”.