Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Legacy Department

Industrial Engineering

Committee Chair/Advisor

Shappell, Scott A

Committee Member

Gramopadhye , Anand

Committee Member

Stringfellow , Paris

Committee Member

Switzer , Fred

Committee Member

Wiegmann , Douglas


The purpose of this study is to determine the effect of social pressure on general aviation (GA) pilots' weather decision making. Data have shown that GA accidents associated with visual flight rules (VFR) flight into instrument meteorological conditions (IMC) are more likely to result in fatalities than other types of GA accidents. This problem is compounded by the addition of passengers, who have been found to be present onboard during VFR into IMC accidents more frequently than in other types of GA accidents. The question is whether passengers influence a pilot's decision to continue flight into adverse weather. The extent other individual factors play a role in a pilots' decision to continue through adverse weather, including prior experience (i.e., flight hours), basic weather knowledge, decision-making, risk perception and tolerance, and the ability of the pilot to assert themselves in the cockpit were explored. To examine these questions, social pressure by passengers during flight was manipulated to encourage pilots to continue or divert from adverse weather.
Results conclude that the distance the pilot continued into the weather for positively motivated pilots (persuaded to continue) increased, and decreased for the pilots who were negatively motivated (persuaded to divert). The significant findings of persuasion on distance into the weather were compounded by the lack of awareness of the pilots on the impact of the passenger on their decision making behavior. Additional findings suggest that private pilots with instrument ratings are continuing further than either the low time VFR pilots or the high time commercial and/or ATP pilots.



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