When dealing with problem solving and decision making, there are tools that allow to gather all options, assess associated risks and determine the best course of action based on the corresponding analysis and thinking process.
This article deals with the FORDEC method.
FORDEC stands for:
In case of multiple problems, it is good to run as many FORDECs as necessary to deal with them all.
If you are flying in a multi-crew environment, it is obviously vital to perform the FORDEC out loud so your colleague is able to follow-up your reasoning.
The first step is to make sure of what you are dealing with. What situation are you facing? Have you already performed some actions to deal with it? If so, then what is the resulting outcome?
In short, make sure to identify the real problem comprehensively.
One good thing can be to retrace all courses of action, including yours, which led you to the present situation and to determine in case of failure what you have left to backup.
The importance of this step is crucial as it will determine the rest of the process. Make sure to do it thoroughly.
This step requires you to consider any possible options to deal with the issue. The emphasis should be set on any. This is very important as one option is the best course of action and a good FORDEC should lead you to it.
As it happens, you can find yourself dealing with quite a difficult and complex situation. Sometimes, there are just impossible situations where you should aim to find the least worst outcome.
The FORDEC process is still helpful in that regard.
For every option you have determined previously, risks associated with its execution may exist. Therefore, it is important to weigh the pros and cons carefully as it will necessarily drive the final outcome of your decision making process.
Again, you may face situations where all options present an equal level of risk, whether it be high danger or not, leading to the least worst decision.
When you have taken time to assess every possible outcome and the risks that come with each of them, you have to make your decision.
Execution is the list of tasks that need to be done in order to fulfill the outcome that should result from the decision.
It includes in particular assigning the tasks to the right people in order to demonstrate synergy in troubleshooting the problem.
After completing part or all of the execution process, it is interesting to look back on the status of the problem, verifying that every task needed to be assigned is (being) completed.
If the situation changes so as to let a new problem arise, it may then become necessary to run a new FORDEC thinking process in order to determine a new course of action.
This part is purely fictitious and shall not be used as a reference to deal with similar situations as every situation is unique as per the numerous parameters to take into account.
Let's consider the following map to set up our situation:
You are on a flight from mainland Europe to Tenerife South GCTS.
As you happen to be flying above the Atlantic (at the red pointer on the map), you are facing a sudden engine flame-out with no indication of structural damage.
A quick check shows that you still have fuel which could have powered this engine and there are no environmental causes which could have set off a flame-out.
You performed the checklist which relates to engine failure in cruise, and you are now flying at a lower flight level as you could not maintain your cruising altitude on a single engine.
You are now at an altitude allowing for the relight of your engine, and the remaining engine of the aircraft is taking care of all the systems (electrics, hydraulics...)
What is your next course of action?
Some available airports are highlighted in orange on the map. They can all accommodate your aircraft and here is some information about them:
In the following paragraphs, we are enunciating the FORDEC as if we were the pilot dealing with the situation.
We have suffered an engine flame-out while we were cruising. There was no indication of an incoming failure before the event, and subsequently there seems to be no structural damage.
We performed the checklist, secured our engine, drifted down to our single-engine cruising altitude.
We now need to determine whether we continue to our destination, do we divert and do we attempt to restart our engine?
A quick look at the map shows us the three following options:
- A: Diverting to the Azores which are the closest available airfields
- B: Diverting to Moroccan airfields which present with the closest commercial airports in the area providing good assistance without requiring additional qualifications.
- C: Continuing toward Canary Islands with the original flightplan requiring therefore less adaptation and allowing to reach commercial airports that are served regularly and offering the best commercial assistance.
Option A will lead us to either:
- attempt to land on an airfield where crews are required to be rated specifically to operate;
- land on an airfield where very limited assistance is offered and may not be the most convenient choice in case of forced landing;
Option B will lead the aircraft into a stormy area, facing adverse weather conditions while operating in single-engine conditions.
The difficulties that may arise in case of single-engine go-around as well as in case of secondary failures appearing due to weather must be taken into account.
Option C requires to fly longer and further on only one engine with no airfield in-between. However it is still possible to reduce the distance to be flown by diverting to GCFV instead of GCTS.
Given the risks created by options A and B, the decision is to continue inbound the Canary Islands and reduce track miles by diverting to Fuerteventura GCFV.
As Pilot Flying, I would like to proceed this way:
- I will transfer the flight controls to the Pilot Monitoring so I can focus on communicating our intentions to the Air Traffic Controller
- I will then insert into the Flight Management Computer the data to divert and approach to Fuerteventura
- I will ask the cabin manager to come to the flight deck so I can brief her about our whereabouts.
- I will finally make a quick public address to inform our passengers about where we are standing.
We can imagine that once you have made your PA call, you make sure the aircraft status has not changed. You will also update yourself on the aerodrome status of Fuerteventura and Tenerife South to make sure they remain perfectly suitable.
A possible outcome is to safely land in Fuerteventura.
Like with any thinking processes, perhaps you came up with your own solution to the problem which gives a totally different outcome. There is nothing wrong with that, as long as it makes sense!