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PILOT STRESS: Factors Affecting Performance. Dr. Jim Giordano, AGI, IGI Aviation Safety Counselor 409-895-8947. STRESS. Environmental challenges that induce a non-specific set of neurologic and hormonal responses: Increased cardiac output Increased respiration

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pilot stress factors affecting performance

PILOT STRESS:Factors Affecting Performance

Dr. Jim Giordano, AGI, IGI

Aviation Safety Counselor


  • Environmental challenges that induce a non-specific set of neurologic and hormonal responses:
    • Increased cardiac output
    • Increased respiration
    • Sympathetic nervous system arousal
    • Redistribution of bloodflow
  • Any environmental change, novelty and/or instability that eludes control
  • Change in the ability to exert control
    • Can be inherently unpleasant (distressor)
    • Can be inherently pleasant (eustressor)
stress diathesis
  • A condition of increased biological susceptibility to stresses that can lead to increased reactivity to various stressors
  • Each individual has distinct diatheses
    • Some are biologically determined
    • Some are environmentally conditioned
    • Some are interactive
stress response general adaptation syndrome
STRESS RESPONSE:General Adaptation Syndrome
  • Three-stage response of hierarchical biological systems:
  • 1. Alarm Stage: immediate, short-term
  • 2. Resistance Stage: mobilization against
  • threat
  • 3. Exhaustion Stage: biological fatigue
8 types of stress factors
8 Types of Stress Factors
  • Conscious Factors: thought, judgement, decision making
  • Unconscious Factors: past influences, memories
  • Personality Factors: character and temperament
  • Psychological Factors: emotional condition
  • Physiologic Factors: biological influences/condition
  • Environmental Factors: noise, comfort, ergonomics
  • Experiential Factors: situational influences
  • Sociocultural Factors: family, finances, life-changes
8 interactive stress variables
8 Interactive Stress Variables
  • Intensity: magnitude (low vs high)
  • quality: insignificant vs significant
  • Duration/frequency: short vs long; high/low
  • Focus of Stressor: vulnerability (high vs low)
  • Extent of Stress: scope of influence (isolated vs extensive)
  • Mental/Physical Status: hardiness (high vs low)
  • Resistance: active vs inactive
  • Perception: reductive vs magnifying
identified pilot stressors
Identified Pilot Stressors
  • Flying alone
  • Congested airspace/busy airports*
  • Emergencies
  • Night flying
  • Check rides
  • Flying over water
  • Getting lost/landing at wrong airport
  • Losing medical certificate/grounding
  • Violating FARs/grounding*
  • Miscomprehension of ATC*
  • Making a fool of oneself
  • Crashing/midair collision*
stressful aspects of flight
Stressful Aspects of Flight
  • 1. Approach/landing (Demand = Stress)
  • 2. Takeoff (Demand > Stress)
  • 3. Cruise (Demand > Stress)
  • 4. Taxi (Demand > Stress)
stress performance error
Stress, Performance & Error
  • Under low perceived stress:
    • Boredom/complacency may be high
    • Performance = low, with high potential for poor judgement
    • Under high perceived stress:
    • Performance degrades due to decreased skill
    • and/or diminished endurance
    • Poor judgement and error potential increase
ideal stress level
“Ideal” Stress Level
  • “Stress Comfort Zone”: environment in which eustressors outnumber distressors to increase arousal within response limits, while generating peak performance
    • Low boredom factor
    • Low potential for poor judgement
    • Low potential for error
stress coping patterns behaviors
Stress-coping Patterns/Behaviors
  • Denial: Ostrich effect “This isn’t happening to me”
  • Suppression: “I’m OK…I’ll be fine”
  • Humor: “Pagliacci effect”
  • Projection: “I’m OK, you’re the one who’s stressed out!”
  • Intellectualization: “Let’s examine the data…”*
  • Rationalization: “What are some options here…”*
  • Decompensation: Pass the Xanax and could I wash it down with some gin, please?
overcoming stress
Overcoming Stress
  • It’s not the stressor, it’s your reaction to it!
  • Every stress Activates a particular set of Beliefs that drive your Cognitions to evoke Consequences. (A - B - C)
  • Access the ABCs of any stressor you encounter
  • Dispute your irrational Beliefs to generate new Expectations and Feelings (D - E - F)
preparation is the key
Preparation is the Key
  • Through preparation, you can gain knowledge to rationally dispute beliefs that lead to inadequate behavioral consequences
  • Such preparatory safety is not a fable…remember
    • Aircraft factors
    • Environmental factors
    • Situational factors
    • Options
    • Personnel factors