Risk tolerance and pilot involvement in hazardous events and flight into adverse weather

Keryn Pauley*, David O'Hare, Mark Wiggins

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Citations (Scopus)


Introduction: According to Lopes [Lopes, L.L. (1987). Between hope and fear: The psychology of risk. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 20, 255-295] tolerance of risk may be governed by sensitivity to either the opportunities for gain or threats of loss involved. Methods: In the initial study, qualified pilots were presented with 36 written flight scenarios that varied in the levels of opportunity and threat present. The pilots rated the likelihood that they would undertake each flight. Pilots were largely risk averse, as their ratings were all significantly influenced by threat. Results: The pilots whose ratings were significantly influenced by opportunity had been involved in more hazardous aviation incidents than the other pilots. In the final study, 32 qualified pilots completed both the risk tolerance measure and a simulated flight into adverse weather. The pilots who continued flying into adverse weather were less risk averse compared to the pilots who diverted. This further highlighted the link between risk tolerance and risk-taking, and suggested that some pilots may fly into adverse weather because of a greater tolerance of risk. Impact on Industry:The studies provide evidence that a measure of risk tolerance can predict potential accident involvement amongst general aviation pilots.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)403-411
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Safety Research
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Aviation
  • Decision-making
  • Opportunity
  • Risk tolerance
  • Threat


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