Teaching Using the 4Ps – Why a Dark Cockpit and Quiet Cockpit?

Dark cockpitDavid Santo: When I’m teaching ground school one of the things with the four Ps is just a little historical data about the dark cockpit and the quiet cockpit philosophy.

Paula Williams:    Okay.

David Santo: So you know when airplanes first started out

David Santo: An airlines started to fly and these were pretty unsophisticated aircraft.

But we didn’t have all the human engineering and the cockpit design. A lot of that has been learned through trial and error over 100 years. So originally, airplanes, airliners had lots of lights. There was green lights and blue lights and red lights and all kinds of lights. Like a Christmas tree dashboard, right?

And what they discovered about human beings is, we are not good at staring at lights.

Paula Williams:  


David Santo: The problem that happens when we stare at lights is we tune them out. So then when the big red scary one comes on, we don’t see it, because it’s just blended in in the sea of lights.

So it was very quickly that they decided they would go to a dark cockpit philosophy. So if everything is normal we want the cockpit as lights out as possible. And then if something happens that we need to focus our attention on, we have a color coded light system.

So that it alerts us to the level of concern. For example, if an amber light comes on, that means that there may be a system irregularity or malfunction, but it may not be time critical. If a red light comes on, this is a more pressing or serious concern, and it may in fact, be time critical.

So if you think about that, red lights, amber or yellow lights coming on, then you go, well isn’t that pretty much now the same as our car? You get in your car and your car lights are color coded the same way.

Paula Williams:   Mm-hm

David Santo: In fact, every cockpit now, if you get into a crane or ship or a train, they’ve adopted these same basic color coding and lights codings because it’s a human factor.

It has nothing to do with just airplanes, it has to do with human beings interacting with machinery.

Paula Williams:   Right.

David Santo: So that was very, very successful, but that’s applying to one of our senses, our sense of sight. Well, the other sense that we use pretty extensively flying airplanes, is hearing, so if there’s continual communication, what happens is, we tune it out, right?

So if there’s excessive conversation going on, excess talking going on, it’s very easy for threats that are called out to just get lost in the sea of all the other words and communication that’s going on in the cockpit. So we very much adopted the quiet cockpit, standardized cockpit ideology, philosophy, very the same as we did with the dark cockpit philosophy.

Now I only expect to hear certain things. If I hear anything different than that, it should raise my antennas, my red flags of warning should go up and it should hone me in on why. Why is this non standard? And it’ll really make it stand out.

Paula Williams:   Right.

David Santo: And so to me that’s an example of in teaching a four P. I just gave you a philosophy on the dark cockpit and the quiet standardized cockpit philosophy. Not that I want you to build the airplane, I just want to give you enough to know why. Then I went in to a little bit on the policy because I talked about amber lights being warning lights, red being emergency.

We talked about standardized, so that’s a little bit of a policy. We talked about the procedure, that it says an amber light might not be time-sensitive, a red light may be time-sensitive. We talked about in the quiet cockpit, if anything is said that’s not expected to be said, it raises our red flags of warning.

So, again, that’s a procedure, right? And then, how do we put it in practice? And that is, by giving them the philosophy, policy, and procedure, they will put it in practice on their own, cuz now they understand the why. Why is it important that I do this?

Paula Williams:   Right.

David Santo: So there’s an example of how I teach four P for something very, very simple and it’s quick.

Paula Williams:   It didn’t take very long but it certainly is a lot more effective than, as a student I had an instructor that just was constantly talking. And it was a real problem for me because we were having a fantastic time and having all these great conversations and really enjoyable flights, but I wasn’t learning as much as I should have been.

And I didn’t have the words to articulate any of this. So I can see how just telling somebody to shut up [LAUGH] is not going to have the same impact as if you go through this whole explanation and understand the reasoning behind it and everything else. And it’s also going to take the whole personal factor out of it and to say this is why this needs to happen and this is why I need you to really focus on what we’re doing