Updated: Dec 8, 2020

Identifying Hazards and Mitigating Risk Lesson by wifiCFI

Identifying Hazards and Mitigating Risk If a pilot fails to search for risk, it is likely that he or she will neither see it nor appreciate it for what it represents. 

Unfortunately in aviation, pilots seldom have the opportunity to learn from their small errors in judgment because even small mistakes in aviation are often fatal.

PAVE Checklist One guide in the form of a checklist that helps the pilot examine areas of interest in his or her preflight planning is a framework called PAVE.

P = Pilot in Command (PIC)

A = Aircraft

V = EnVironment

E = External Pressures

P = Pilot in Command (PIC)

A pilot must continually make decisions about competency, condition of health, mental and emotional state, level of fatigue, and many other variables.


A pilot had only 4 hours of sleep the night before being asked by the boss to fly to a meeting in a city 750 miles away. The reported weather was marginal and not expected to improve. After assessing fitness as a pilot, it was decided that it would not be wise to make the flight. The boss was initially unhappy, but was later convinced by the pilot that the risks involved were unacceptable.

The IMSAFE checklist should be performed during the pilot’s self evaluation.

I = Illness

Is the pilot experiencing and illness that could impact the safety of flight?

M = Medication

Is the pilot using medication that could negatively impact his/her faculties?

S = Stress

What stressors are affecting the pilot? (at work or home)

A = Alcohol

Is the pilot following the proper alcohol rules set forth in FAR 91.17?

F = Fatigue

Is the pilot properly rested to make the flight safely?

E = Emotion

Is the pilot emotionally upset?

A = Aircraft A pilot frequently bases decisions on evaluation of the airplane, such as performance, equipment, or airworthiness.


During a preflight, a pilot noticed a small amount of oil dripping from the bottom of the cowling. Although the quantity of oil seemed insignificant at the time, the pilot decided to delay the takeoff and have a mechanic check the source of the oil. The pilot’s good judgment was confirmed when the mechanic found that one of the oil cooler hose fittings was loose.

V = EnVironment The environment encompasses many elements that are not pilot or airplane related, including such factors as weather, air traffic control (ATC), navigational aids (NAVAIDS), terrain, takeoff and landing areas, and surrounding obstacles. Weather is one element that can change drastically over time and distance.


A pilot was landing a small airplane just after a heavy jet had departed a parallel runway. The pilot assumed that wake turbulence would not be a problem since landings had been performed under similar circumstances. Due to a combination of prevailing winds and wake turbulence from the heavy jet drifting across the landing runway, the airplane made a hard landing. The pilot made an error when assessing the flight environment.

E = External Pressures The pilot must evaluate the three previous areas to decide on the desirability of undertaking or continuing the flight as planned. It is worth asking why the flight is being made, how critical it is to maintain the schedule, and if the trip is worth the risks.


On a ferry flight to deliver an airplane from the factory, the pilot calculated the groundspeed and determined he would arrive at the destination with only 10 minutes of fuel remaining. A check of the weather revealed he would be flying into marginal weather conditions. By asking himself whether it was more critical to maintain the schedule or to arrive with an intact aircraft, the pilot decided to schedule a refuel stop even though it would mean he would not be able to keep to the schedule. He chose not to “stretch” the fuel supply in marginal weather conditions which could have resulted in an emergency landing.

FAA Sources Used in this Lesson Risk Management Handbook - Chapter 3 Federal Aviation Regulations (FAR) – 91.17

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