What is situational awareness?

Situational awareness is the accurate perception and understanding of the major risk elements that affect safety before, during, and after the flight.

There are four major risk elements which are the Pilot, Aircraft, enVironment, External pressure. These elements can be remembered easily with the acronym PAVE.

The PAVE checklist is used in the decision-making process to identify changes in the risk elements. Once identified, the risks are assessed and appropriate management strategy can be employed. Each element is listed below:

Pilot: The pilot’s fitness to fly must be evaluated, including competency in the helicopter, currency, and flight experience.

Aircraft: The helicopter performance, limitations, equipment, and airworthiness must be determined.

enVironment: Factors such as weather and airport conditions must be examined.

External Pressures: The purpose of the flight is a factor that influences the pilot’s decision on undertaking or continuing the flight.


FAA-H-8083-25B Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge 2-24
ECIDE model for
decisions, or the 5P model for evaluating the risk elements. There is no requirement
to use a specific model, but the pilot should develop a systematic approach to identify and minimize risk.


FAA-H-8083-21A Helicopter Flying Handbook pg. 14-11
FAA-P-8740-69 Aeronautical Decision Making

Other Risk Management Topics