Standard Operating procedures, background & development



For many years the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has identified deficiencies in standard operating procedures (SOPs) as contributing causal factors in aviation accidents.

The ICAO has recognized the importance of SOPs for safe flight operations. ICAO Annex 6 and PANS-OPS Document 8168, Vol I, establish that each Member State shall require that SOPs for each phase of flight be contained in the operations manual used by pilots.

One size doesn’t fit all, therefore the SOP’s must be critically analysed, developed and disseminated. The intent of the procedure must be clear since a particular SOP has the desired objective. If in a particular situation the desired outcome is not achievable, then using good CRM practices and background knowledge, the SOP can be bypassed considering all risks.

Background of Safety Enhancement Initiative (SEI)

Standard operating procedures (SOPs) are universally recognized as being basic to safe aviation operations. Effective crew coordination and crew performance,  two central concepts of crew resource management (CRM), depend upon the crew’s having a shared mental model of each task. That mental model, in turn, is founded on SOPs.

A study of CFIT accidents found almost 50 per cent of the 107 CFIT interventions identified by an analysis team related to the flight crew’s failure to adhere to SOPs or the AOC holder’s failure to establish adequate SOPs.

Pinc and Punc

James Huntzinger, the former Vice President of Safety, Security & Compliance at Korean Air has been credited with coining the terms procedural intentional noncompliance (PINC) and procedural unintentional noncompliance (PUNC) (Agur, 2007). Quite simply, these acronyms are used to label behavior as pilots’ unintentional or intentional deviation from company-prescribed SOP. The Air Safety Foundation (2007) reported that a review of accidents involving professionally flown aircraft shows that four out of five events included PINC or PUNC by pilots.
Additionally, ‘‘PINCs and PUNCs are reduced dramatically when an effective safety culture exists.’’

Modern Airline Pilots9 Quandary: Standard Operating Procedures—
to Comply or Not to Comply (Carrie N. Giles Minnesota State University, Mankato

The Mission of SOPs

To achieve consistently safe flight operations through adherence to SOPs that are clear, comprehensive, and readily available to flight crew members.

SOP, Emergency procedures, Abnormal procedures & Limitations

Which ones of these are recommendations and which ones mandatory?

Limitations are must comply
Emergency procedures
Abnormal procedures
Normal procedures

Key Features of Effective SOPs

  1. Many experts agree that implementation of any procedure as an SOP is most effective if:
  • The procedure is appropriate for the situation.
  • The procedure is practical to use.
  • Crew members understand the reasons for the procedure.
  • Pilot Flying (PF), Pilot Monitoring (PM) are clearly delineated.
  • Effective combined means of information dissemination, be it through descriptive circulars (electronic or paper), courses (virtual or classroom) & line or scenario-based simulator training, is conducted.
  • Collective endorsement and continuous review of a new procedure by all stakeholders are fundamental to successful implementation and effective operations.
  • The procedure should be equipped with redundancy and thereby not be limiting. This will permit crews a degree of lateral flexibility when managing non- normal scenarios

2. The above seven elements are further reinforced by effective Crew Resource Management (CRM) skills, such as task sharing and communication, as well as a disciplined approach towards checklist philosophy. A process of continual open feedback, review and modification of all procedures will serve to enhance the organization’s overall level of safety.

The Importance of Understanding the Reasons for an SOP

  • Effective Feedback. When flight crew members understand the underlying reasons for an SOP they are better prepared and more eager to offer effective feedback for improvements. The operator/airline, in turn, benefits from more competent feedback in revising existing SOPs and in developing new SOPs. Those benefits include safety, efficiency, and employee morale.
  • Troubleshooting. When flight crew members understand the underlying reasons for and SOP, they are generally better prepared to handle a related in-flight problem that may not be explicitly or completely addressed in their operating manuals.

Collaborating for Effective SOPs

  • In general, effective SOPs are the product of healthy collaboration among managers and flight operations personnel, including flight crews. A safety culture promoting continuous feedback from flight crew and others, and continuous revision by the collaborators distinguish effective SOPs at air operators of all sizes and ages.
  • New operators, operators adding a new aircraft fleet, or operators retiring one aircraft fleet for another must be especially diligent in developing SOPs. Stakeholders with applicable experience may be more difficult to bring together in those instances.
  • For a startup AOC holder, the developers should pay close attention to the approved Airplane Flight Manual (AFM), to AFM revisions and operations bulletins issued by the manufacturer. Desirable partners in the collaboration would certainly include representatives of the airplane manufacturer, pilots having previous experience with the airplane or with the kind of operations planned by the operator,  and representatives from the CAA. The development of SOPs should maintain a close parallel with the ICAO Safety Management System (SMS) principles in that the process is subjected to constant open feedback, review and modification from all stakeholders. Together, managers and flight crews are able to review the effectiveness of SOPs and to reach valid conclusions for revisions.
  • An existing AOC holder introducing a new airplane fleet should also collaborate using the best resources available, including the AFM and operations bulletins. Experience has shown that representatives of the airplane manufacturer, managers, check pilot, instructors, and line pilots work well together as a team to develop effective SOPs. A trial period might be implemented, followed by feedback and revision, in which SOPs are improved. By being part of an iterative process for changes in SOPs, the end user, the flight crew member, is generally inclined to accept the validity of changes and to implement them readily.
  • Long-established operators should be careful not to assume too readily that they can operate an airplane recently added to the fleet in the same, standard way as older types or models. Managers, check pilot, and instructors should collaborate using the best resources available, including the AFM and operations bulletins to ensure that SOPs developed or adapted for a new airplane are in fact effective for that aircraft, and are not inappropriate carryovers.

Flight crew categorized as “Radiation Workers” in USA


With a thousand-fold rise in commercial airline flights over the North Pole in the last 10 years, exposure to radiation has become a serious concern.

This health news is fact checked.

  • Flying an Airplane for an Hour Exposes Pilots to as Much Radiation as a Tanning Bed.
  • Almost an Hour of Flying Equals 20 Minutes of Tanning
  • Strong Link Between UV Rays and Melanoma
  • Melanoma rates have jumped for young women by 800% in USA

People who work on commercial airline flights are technically listed as “radiation workers” by the federal government – a classification that includes nuclear plant workers and X-ray technicians.

Exposure to radiation has been shown to increase health risk, according to numerous studies. Space radiation on the ground is very low, but increases significantly with altitude. At 30,000 to 40,000 feet, the typical altitude of a jetliner, exposure on a typical flight is still considered safe – less than a chest X-ray.

Exposure is considerably higher, however, over the Earth’s poles, where the planet’s magnetic field no longer provides any shielding. And with a thousand-fold rise in commercial airline flights over the North Pole in the last 10 years, exposure to radiation has become a serious concern.(

FAA Advisory circular AC No: 120-61B gives the guidance material on exposure to radiation. Whereas USA federal government categorize crew members as radiation workers, other countries including India does not do the same. The exposure limits are the same as those in the FAA advisory circular. The Indian Atomic Energy Regulation Board limits are given below.

DGCA India recently put out an Operations circular 2/2019 based on the FAA AC.

AERB limits India

The Risk of Melanoma in Pilots and Cabin CrewUV Measurements in Flying Airplanes

Recently, a meta-analysis reported an increased incidence of melanoma in pilots and cabin crew, which was possibly due to occupational exposures.1 Cabin crews’ exposure to cosmic radiation was assessed in different studies and always found below the allowed dose limit.2However, the cumulative exposure of pilots and cabin crew to UV radiation, a known risk factor for melanoma, has not been assessed to our knowledge.

Airplane windshields are commonly made of polycarbonate plastic or multilayer composite glass. UV-B (280-320 nm) transmission through both plastic and glass windshields was reported to be less than 1%. However, UV-A (320-380 nm) transmission ranged from 0.41% to 53.5%, with plastic attenuating more UV radiation than glass.3

Intrigued by our findings and the clinical observation of pilots developing melanomas on sun-exposed skin, we measured the amount of UV radiation in airplane cockpits during flight and compared them with measurements performed in tanning beds.

The pathogenic role of UV-A in melanoma is well established. UV-A is capable of causing DNA damage in cell culture5 and in animal models. Pilots flying for 56.6 minutes at 30 000 feet receive the same amount of UV-A carcinogenic effective radiation as that from a 20-minute tanning bed session. These levels could be significantly higher when flying over thick cloud layers and snow fields, which could reflect up to 85% of UV radiation. Airplane windshields do not completely block UV-A radiation and therefore are not enough to protect pilots. UV-A transmission inside airplanes can play a role in pilots’ increased risk of melanoma.

mindFly analysis

What crew should know about their occupational exposure to radiation.

If NASA’s Chris Mertens has his way, weather forecasts and airplane cockpits of the future will include measurements of hazardous radiation in the atmosphere.

Mertens, a senior scientist at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., is developing a system to predict radiation entering Earth’s atmosphere from space. The goal is to provide high-flying commercial airline passengers and crew with real-time information about the radiation they will be exposed to in flight.

“Aviation occupational radiation exposure currently is not monitored, measured and quantified,” says Mertens. “This will be the first model of its type to do that.”

Better be safe than SORRY.

Fixation causes the background to disappear


Try this experiment. Focus your attention on the cross for a while. As you concentrate hard to focus on the cross in the centre, the background slowly begins to disappear.

This could be a possible explanation why crew of AC759 flew over 4 aircrafts at San Fransisco with noticing them.

The Troxler Effect is named after Swiss physician and philosopher Ignaz Paul Vital Troxler (1780-1866). In 1804, Troxler made the discovery that rigidly fixating one’s gaze on some element in the visual field can cause surrounding stationary images to seem to slowly disappear or fade. They are replaced with an experience, the nature of which is determined by the background that the object is on. This is known as filling-in.

Read about the troxler effect from the website.

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