What is get there itis for pilots? Although this may sound like something that’s real, it’s a very real problem for many pilots.
Get-There-Itis is when a pilot wants to get to their destination, even if there are safety threats. One of the reasons this problem is so deadly is that pilots stop thinking clearly and throw away all precautions.
There is a term for this phenomenon: plan continuation bias. One of the things that make this issue particularly deadly for pilots is that many of them will ignore any evidence indicating that their desire to reach the destination as soon as possible isn’t safe or practical.
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What Is Get-There-Itis for Pilots? What Can Be Done to Prevent It?
A study that NASA conducted in 2004 found that almost half of 19 plane accidents occurring between 1991 and 2000 that investors blamed crew error for were plan continuation bias-related.
One of the things this study found was that the closer pilots got to their destinations, the stronger the continuation bias became. Another common scenario is for pilots’ situational awareness to decline, increasing the possibility of errors and accidents.
What Are Some Examples of Common Get-There-Itis Errors?
The errors that often occur with get-there-itis usually involve critical decision-making processes. Some examples might include refusing a go-around or not diverting to a different airport.
A separate study that the University of Illinois conducted found that in addition to plan continuation bias, many of these pilots exhibited confirmation bias. One of the easiest ways to describe confirmation bias is accepting cues supporting an established belief while rejecting differing cues.
A problem that is all too common among people, in general, is to behave reactively instead of proactively. It’s in our nature to react to something new instead of taking steps ahead of time for a better outcome.
The longer a pilot keeps going down the wrong path, the stronger the continuation bias. As situational awareness declines, a pilot will be heading into a dangerous situation.
There are no precise statistics on how many airline fatalities are directly related to get-there-itis. However, there is a strong chance that it is a factor in many aviation accidents. Yes, even highly-paid airline pilots are also human!
Flying comes naturally for pilots once they have the necessary skills, just like driving a car. However, as we can become distracted or otherwise inattentive when driving, this is also an issue when flying.
Are There Ways to Mitigate Get-There-Itis?
One thing helpful to know is that there are mitigation strategies that pilots can use. Raising awareness and resisting some parts of human nature is essential to make sure you don’t become the next airline casualty headline.
The more steps you take to eliminate continuation bias, the higher your chances of safely arriving at your destination. The following tips are especially helpful for a safe arrival.
Be Aware of Get-There-Itis
Keeping yourself aware of the possibility of get-there-itis is crucial. You can easily watch for signs that you’ve become too obsessed with reaching your destination.
Running through a simulation where you take this scenario into account and coming up with an action plan before you go can be helpful. If a Plan B is in your mind the whole time, it will be easier to make this change.
Have Alternatives to Your Main Plans
You won’t have yourself under as much pressure to stick to your original plan if you have alternatives of some kind. If you have an out, you won’t encounter as much stress if you have to change course.
One thing that can help you make peace with having to change course is to think about good things that can happen because you change locations. For example, you might be able to fit in a visit to an attraction not possible with your original plans.
Remember That All Actions Have Consequences
Think about all the possible outcomes of your flight-related decisions, including the negative ones. Remind yourself of some of the negative possibilities if you keep pressure on yourself when you shouldn’t.
If you end up making navigational errors because you’re rushing, for example, you’ll spend more time dealing with the consequences of your mistake. Your desire to arrive faster could end up backfiring.
Whatever You Do, Don’t Procrastinate
Avoid procrastination by making your decisions sooner rather than later. If you opt for a go-around, divert or change course, you’ll have a better outcome by making your choice sooner.
When you have additional working time to make your decision, you’ll have better options available. Decisions made at the last minute often end up being poor decisions for everyone involved.
Think of Others in Your Decisions
Act responsibly by keeping your loved ones on the ground or passengers in mind. A reality check like this can go a long way in preventing you from making a reckless decision.
Have you ever seen a meme popular on social media around New Year’s Eve that reminds people their kids and pets might wonder why they didn’t come home after drinking and driving? A similar principle applies to poor decision-making when flying.
One way to think about this situation: there is less of a chance of surviving a plane crash. You owe it to your loved ones to make responsible decisions in the pilot’s seat.
If you keep the correct mindset as a pilot, you can easily manage plan continuation bias or get-there-itis.
By using our flight planning calculators, pilots can easily manage plan continuation bias or get-there-itis while staying committed to doing their best.
As great a privilege as being a pilot is, we must always commit to doing our best.