ADM in Aviation

Pilots · 4 min read · Sep 12, 2022
adm in aviation

ADM stands for Aeronautical Decision Making in aviation. In other words, the acronym mainly refers to the series of steps pilots take to deal with a specific flight situation in order to guarantee safety.

As it happens in many other environments, human factors play a critical role in aeronautical decision making since human error can be catastrophic. So, a systematic approach is applied based on conventional decision making to achieve fewer in flight errors.

If you want to learn more about the ADM process, we invite you to keep reading as we disclose the details.

Aeronautical Decision Making in history

Aviation is an industry that has quickly evolved throughout history, and as it was growing bigger, it became obvious that human factors were responsible for most accidents. The airline industry realized they could not depend solely on the knowledge of their crews to make the correct decision, so they embarked in a journey to find a solution to the problem.

The quest for solutions culminated in 1980 when operators implemented Crew Resource Management (CRM) training, and the result was remarkable. Students that had received specific ADM training were tested against other people who did not receive the same training. The result was that students who received ADM training made significantly less mistakes.

Two pilots flying a commercial aircraft and reading charts.

Mental process to develop Aeronautical Decision Making skills

Developing aeronautical decision making skills may seem complicated, but it can be achieved following these steps:

  1. Identifying personal attitudes hazardous to safe flight.
  2. Learning behavior modification techniques.
  3. Learning to recognize and how to deal with stress, learning stress management techniques.
  4. Developing risk assessment skills and applying risk assessment tools.
  5. Using all resources available.
  6. Constantly evaluating your ADM skills.

ADM by the Federal Aviation Administration

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) provides a clear definition for Aeronautical Decision Making (ADM) in AC 60-22, stating that it is “a systematic approach to the mental process of evaluating a given set of circumstances and determining the best course of action.”

What are the 3 P’s in aviation?

Together with the definition, the FAA offers a model called the 3 P’s to implement the aeronautical decision making (ADM) properly. The 3 P’s stand for Perceive, Process, and Perform, and involve the following:

  • Perceive the given situation.
  • Process the given situation to identify any potential hazards.
  • Perform actions that will mitigate or eliminate the risk.

Let’s now see each of the P’s in detail.


The pilot must perceive the given set of circumstances during a flight. That means gathering all relevant information pertaining it. This allows the pilot to understand the situation and possible risks. In other words, it requires situational awareness from the pilot for a better decision making process.

For this step, the pilot can take advantage of the mnemonic PAVE to create the PAVE checklist:

  • Pilot
  • Aircraft
  • enVironment
  • External pressures

Examining these four elements will provide the pilot with greater situational awareness.

Two pilots in a cockpit agreeing on procedural decisions.


The pilot must process the gathered information, evaluate its impact on flight safety, and determine the best course of action. This analysis continues during the flight as the pilot receive new information.

Here another mnemonic can be applied, and it is usually applied directly on the PAVE checklist. This is CARE, which involves:

  • Consequences
  • Alternatives
  • Reality
  • External pressures


Performance should come naturally by implementing the best course of action. Performance results become information to be perceived and analyzed. Based on those results, pilots will decide whether to continue with the action or make a change.

After applying PAVE to perceive any possible hazards and applying CARE to determine the impact they may have to keep a safe flight, the decision making process to consistently determine the best course of action can be done by applying TEAM, a mnemonic that stands for:

  • Transfer: Should any decisions be delegated?
  • Eliminate: Can the hazard be eliminated?
  • Accept: Can the risk be reasonably accepted?
  • Mitigate: Can the risk be mitigated?

What is DECIDE in aviation?

Together with the Flight Risk Assessment Tools (FRAT) described above as mnemonics, there is another tool to assist the pilot during decision making situations. This tool is described by the FAA as the DECIDE model, a model that relies on the pilot’s ability to keep situational awareness at all times during a flight.

The DECIDE model involves the following as described by the FAA:

  • Detect the fact that a change has occurred.
  • Estimate the need to react to or counter the change.
  • Choose a desirable outcome for the flight or situation.
  • Identify actions to control the change successfully.
  • Do take the necessary actions.
  • Evaluate the effects of the action to react to or counter the initial change.

For the pilot flying solo, these are essential tools that should appear in the pilot training curriculum. Now, for airlines, these tools help facilitate crew cooperation.

Two pilots approaching a runway in a small plane and reading a chart.

What are the 5 P’s in aviation?

Similar to the 3 P’s in aviation, there is a model called the 5 P’s. This model involves periodically evaluating the following:

  • Plan
  • Plane
  • Pilot
  • Passengers
  • Programming

Given the fact that the 5 P’s involve the passengers, it is clearly a model applied to airliners. In this approach, it is not necessary to learn any mnemonics or steps. This should be part of the pre-flight and in-flight checklists to help when making any decision.

What is risk management aviation?

Generally speaking, risk management consists of identifying operational danger and adopting appropriate measures to reduce the potential risks of personnel injuries and equipment damage. In short, it means applying all the available tools as described above.

Final remarks

It is well-known that errors are part of the human nature. However, identifying the possible causes of those errors and the possible outcomes of wrong decision making is a great first step to minimize the impact of human factors in any situation requiring good pilot judgment.

To identify hazards, perception is important, and it all starts with the flight crews themselves. For example, by applying the IMSAFE checklist and being aware the 5 hazardous attitudes they should avoid, pilots can take the first steps towards the best possible choices during any decision making situation.

In summary, all the information supporting ADM should be provided together with the rest of aviation knowledge to the student pilots during their training. Whether student pilots received such training or not can make a huge difference to avoid operational pitfalls in the future. Fortunately, current FAA regulations require decision-making training to be part of the pilot training curriculum together with the standard flying curriculum, something that has made a statistically significant difference regarding accident avoidance.

Finally, it is important to highlight that research continues in this area. ADM research is a key pillar to safe operation within the industry and accumulation of accident free flight hours. Time will tell if things like automatic decision making technologies will become commonplace to assist human resources in the future.

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Jet pilot @NASA

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