Risk assessment matrix
As flight instructors, our primary goal is to teach students how to fly, and perhaps more specifically, how to do it SAFELY.
Everything we do involves risk.
Risk management is a decision-making process designed to identify hazards, assess the degree of risk, and determine the best course of action to mitigate or avoid such risks.
Use a risk assessment matrix (like the one below) to help your students understand where specific scenarios will be found on the matrix. Teach them to mitigate and/or avoid high or very high risks.
How to use the Risk Assessment Matrix
- Describe a scenario.
Example: You’re flying 15 ft AGL downwind (wind is 10 mph) over harsh rocky terrain when your motor suddenly dies.
- Evaluate the likelihood of it happening. How likely is it that your motor could die? Anywhere from possibly to very likely.
- Explain what could happen and determine the severity. If the motor dies, you probably won’t be able to turn into the wind in time to land so you will probably land downwind going 40mph. That will likely cause moderate to severe injuries to the pilot.
- See where the scenario would be on the matrix. Probably in the red.
- Discuss other factors that would affect the placement on the matrix. Pilot experience, type of wing being flown, details of the terrain, etc.
Discuss ways to mitigate or avoid the risk. Don’t fly low when flying downwind and especially over dangerous terrain.
Come up with as many scenarios as you can:
You can get ideas from the USPPA Incident Database (usppa.org/incidents)
- GROUND STARTING
- SAFETY CHECKS
- FLYING OVER WATER
- FLYING DOWNWIND
- OBSTACLE CLEARANCE SCENARIOS
- LOW ALTITUDE MANEUVERS
- WING MALFUNCTIONS
- WEATHER CONDITIONS
- GUST FRONTS
- AIRSPACE INCURSIONS
- MIDAIR COLLISIONS
- OLD GEAR
- POROUS WINGS
- FLYING IN RAIN
- ONSHORE/OFFSHORE WIND
- BLOWN OUT OVER WATER
- MOUNTAIN AIR
- MIDDAY THERMALS
- FLYING OVER WILDERNESS AREAS
- FLYING INTO RESTRICTED AIRSPACE
- STUFF FALLING OUT OF POCKETS
- ETC. COME UP WITH AS MANY SCENARIOS AS YOU CAN.