Cockpit Distractions

Cockpit distractions are significant threats that pilots face frequently during flights and can lead to crucial safety issues. Pilots must continually maintain an awareness of their environment and must focus their attention on the tasks and actions required to operate and manage the aircraft systems. Procedures, checklists, and proper training can provide pilots with the information and skills required to handle any unforeseen distractions, however, if the distraction occurs at a critical moment, any consequence can have a catastrophic effect on the safety of the flight.

Distractions can break the flow of ongoing cockpit activities which can lead to errors in safety-critical tasks while monitoring or controlling the aircraft. Distractions often leave the flight crew with a feeling of being rushed and faced with completing multiple tasks, resulting in a perceived increase in workload. Distractions can also lead to reduced situational awareness which could possibly cause runway incursions, altitude or course deviations or incorrect takeoff configurations.

Factors that Cause Distractions

Distractions in the cockpit can come in many forms. Distractions may be temporary or of long duration but even minor distractions can turn a routine flight into a challenging event and result in a significant safety issue.

There are several primary factors and behaviors of the flight crew that generates most of the distractions:

Reducing or Eliminating Cockpit Distractions

There are no absolute methods to prevent or control cockpit distractions. Pilots do not have control over all sources of distractions Some cannot be avoided and therefore must be coped with. Others can be minimized or eliminated through the adoption of effective procedures, discipline and the use of good judgment. Appropriate training for all flight crews should include material on potential distractions and discussions on how to minimize them.

One of the first priorities in reducing the impact of distractions is recognizing that a distraction has occurred. Knowing that, the proper steps can be taken to regain awareness of the situation.

Some of the procedures that have been adopted to help control the major factors that encourage distractions include:

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