Post-Flight Debrief

Michel MASSON • 28 January 2021
in community Rotorcraft

Post-flight de-briefing can lead to significant improvements in pilot safety and proficiency. In both the video and this article you will see and hear from pilot and instructor Mona Seeberger what she has learned about post-flight debriefing and walkaround – why’s its important, what to cover and lots of other useful tips to you learn and develop your pilots skills.

Why debrief?

Debriefing is important to identify things that went wrong or not as planned during the flight: any issues or emergencies, as well as planned and unplanned decisions. Debriefing also includes reviewing performance, competences and things that went particularly well or that you are particularly content about or pride of. 

Replay, review and debrief your flight, share your experience with others and report any incident. See the article From Take-Off to Landing published in the EASA Rotorcraft Community.

Flight recorders allow better debrief of the flight and detect possible issues. A Flight Recorder is any system dedicated for recording data and/or audio or images, installed on board the helicopter (not portable) and continuously recording from take-off to landing. Flight Recorders are mandatory for heavier aircraft and recommended for lighter aircraft. Refer to the article Flight Recorders for Light Helicopters published in the EASA Rotorcraft Community.

What to debrief?

Replay the flight mentally and compare the plan with the actual flight, looking possible deviations.

The plan is a guide for action. It should be modified as the situation requires. Press-on-it or Get-there-itis (the desire to try and reach your destination no matter what the circumstances and the resistance to adapt plan when the conditions would require so) is a powerful bias that can lead to accidents.

Interestingly, the aspects to address in pre-flight planning can also be used to guide post-flight debriefing.

And the good news is that there are plenty of pre-flight planning aids and checklists (in paper or electronic format) you can therefore also use for the debriefing, for instance:

You could also structure the debriefing following the approach taken in the article From Take-Off to Landing published in the EASA Rotorcraft Community.

Guiding questions

Ask yourself - What have I learned in this flight? What new have I noticed? How different was this flight compared to previous flights? How comfortable was I during the flight? Were there episodes of pressure and stress? Did I take risks? What wrong could have happened and what prevented this from happening? Did I take appropriate actions or was it only due to chance? Was I in control of the situation?  What will I do differently or better in my next flights?

Post-flight debrief is also a good way to develop and maintain flying skills, especially cognitive and tactical skills such as decision making, communication, navigation, fuel management, risk management and Threat and Error Management (TEM).  

On TEM, refer for instance to the EHEST Leaflet HE 8 The Principles of Threat and Error Management for Helicopter Pilots, Instructors and Organisations and the EASA Helicopter Flight Instructor Guide, Part 1, page 62.

When to debrief?

Immediately after landing. This can help you to remember the flight with a better accuracy.

Evaluate and improve

  • Report technical problems and occurrences.
  • Pilots of all experience levels can evaluate their performance, identify errors and define and improvements for the next flights.
  • In your next flight, remember to use checklists. Checklists provide important verifications and actions and allow preventing, detecting and correcting errors that are difficult to catch otherwise. Read the checklists aloud and mind the checks and actions you make!

Post-flight walkaround – Secure and protect the aircraft

At the end of the flight, park the helicopter where it does not interfere with other aircraft and is not a hazard to people, especially during shut down.

Let the engine and other parts cool down before the walkaround and visual inspections.

Before leaving the helicopter, make sure to secure it safely.

Cover the aircraft if it won’t be used it for some time.

CAUTION: Beware that certain systems, parts and components like the engine and the exhaust system take time to cool down. Do NOT touch or cover hot parts and surfaces!

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