Cockpit crew representatives are expressing concern over the potential for misuse of self-assessment data for pilot performance, arguing that claimed safety benefits of such tools could be undermined in various ways.

While self-assessment is intended to draw an individual pilot’s attention to areas for possible improvement, the international cockpit federation IFALPA highlights the risks posed by comparisons of performance data.

IFALPA argues there is “little evidence” that self-assessment serves to enhance flight safety and that “on balance” they might actually have a negative effect.

It says pilots could be tempted to adopt a “competitive” approach among colleagues in regard to certain flight-performance criteria – particularly if a tool provides data in the form of out-of-context ranking. This could also lead to peer pressure, it adds.

Individual pilots are “unlikely” to be able to make the best decisions about their flying competence, the federation states.

“Expecting them to do so is at odds with current training standards as well as the multi-crew airline environment in which they operate,” it adds.

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Pilots should not face temptation or pressure to compare performance data, IFALPA insists

Pilots could also be prompted to share data, the federation claims, even in circumstances – such as a training environment – where the intention is positive. Outside of formal training, a pilot could seek to self-correct a perceived problem by taking action which might have unintentional detrimental effects in other areas.

IFALPA insists that pilot performance data should be reserved exclusively for formal flight-data analysis programmes within an airline, as this will ensure that safety improvement is driven by validated information and overseen by an appointed safety-focused committee.

“This system develops trust, which in turn protects the validity of the data being fed back to an airline’s safety-management system, encouraging pilots to operate according to their safe judgement,” the federation says, “rather than flying in a way that benefits their statistics or is likely to avoid perceived punitive action.”

If an airline opts to implement self-assessment tools, it should ensure that implementation is carried out with “careful thought” to any possible adverse consequences, says IFALPA, and consideration given to data-sharing restrictions, pilots’ individual agreement to participate, and the ability for stored data to be deleted.

“Self-assessment software [or] tools must never be advertised by the airline as a ‘safety enhancement’,” it adds.

“Safety is based on standards set and performance achieved across an [airline, fleet or base] and not on individual data sent to individual pilots.”