Aviation industry Threat Error Management (TEM)

Threat Error Management (TEM) is a term that has commonly been associated with airline operations and it is all about being a safe and well-prepared pilot.

1. TEM as defined by the Aviation Industry 

Threat Error Management (TEM) has been defined by various institutions. The Australian authority Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA), defines it as:

‘the process of detecting and responding to threats and errors to ensure that the ensuing outcome is inconsequential – the outcome is not an error, further error or undesired state’.

2. It wasn’t always called TEM

The term has evolved over time from Cockpit Resource Management (CRM) to Crew Resource Management (CRM), to its current form as TEM.

Although these big words and terms sound noteworthy, you most likely won’t come to grips with what they are really about or how much of an impact they have on a pilot during a flight without exploring them in detail through study and practice.

3. Its impact extends beyond aviation

While TEM was first adopted by the airline industry, its importance for all of us should not be underestimated. TEM has impacted of all kinds of industries in a multitude of ways.

Threat Error Management processes and practices have become the benchmark when approaching tasks and activities in a range of professions, including our flight training and other standard aviation procedures.

4. TEM gives us perspective on perception

Each of the key concepts in TEM relates to a specific aspect of a total process, and all are aimed at handling a particular threat.

What is a threat? Furthermore, what is a threat to you?

In many cases, this threat can be different to the one which is commonly perceived.

Threats can come in many forms, such as environmental. The weather, or other factors that may seem inconsequential such as

  • flying in a different aircraft compared to your usual one
  • having a change of instructor on the day
  • preparing adequately for your flight
  • or even not having enough sleep the night before

All of which are considered threats as they can have an impact on the outcome of any flight.

5. Errors become easier to manage

Beyond the threats is the resulting error. Some errors may result in a further error, varying in size but depending on how we handle it may or may not impact on the safety of the flight. Ultimately, this aspect relies heavily on how the management of that error is addressed.

As pilots, we are the last line of defence when considering errors and, therefore, safety. The key responsibility to prevent this error from having an outcome or impact on the flight and placing one’s aircraft in an ‘undesirable state’.

This management should not be underestimated because a significant or undesirable outcome places one in a position that none of us would like to contemplate, irrespective of the size or aircraft type that we are operating.

6. TEM Invites closer analysis of safety

The question that arises is what should we do when handling threats and errors each time we go flying? The answer may vary, however, we should actively look around us and consider any factor that may be perceived as a threat.

Beyond this, consider what error could arise from this and how as an individual you would manage or handle this situation. Only then with constant attention, proactive discussion and consideration of factors around us will we improve our skills and awareness towards becoming better and potentially safer pilots of the future.

If you want to find out more about safety at Learn to Fly and how we incorporate TEM into our procedures and flight training, please get in touch!

Contributed by Darren McPherson from Aviation Consulting Services. A senior captain at a major international airline with over 30 years experience and provider of our Airline Interview and Workshops 

TEM Triangle