Sabrina Woods

Date of Award


Access Type

Dissertation - Open Access

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Aviation


College of Aviation

Committee Chair

Scott R. Winter, Ph.D.

First Committee Member

Steven Hampton, Ed.D.

Second Committee Member

Stephen C. Rice, Ph.D.

Third Committee Member

Paul A. Craig, Ed.D.


Continued flight under visual flight rules into instrument meteorological conditions is the predominant cause for fatal accidents by percentage, for general aviation aircraft operations. It is possible that a pilot’s motivation or reason for flying will override other safer, more logical courses of action when a hazard presents itself. The decision appears to stem from a willingness to persist in a course of action despite factors that indicate an alternate and safer course is warranted. This research addresses what is currently presumed about the decision to continue flying under visual flight rules into instrument conditions and marries those ideas with the extensive studies on how theoretically affects the decision-making process.

The research used a quantitative factorial experimental design and explored what bearing, if any, does type of motivation, or meteorological condition, or the interaction of the two have on a pilot’s willingness to persist in visual flight rule into instrument meteorological conditions. The researcher applied fundamental motivation theory and aviation regulation in the development of scenarios that were used to assess a pilot’s willingness to persist in unsafe weather conditions, and to determine what role motivation and the weather conditions might have played in that decision. A 3x3 factorial design was followed, and the method of analysis was a two-way mixed analysis of variance.

The independent variable meteorological condition indicated a significant effect on the dependent variable willingness to persist, and the independent variable motivation did not indicate a significant effect. The interaction between meteorological condition and motivation resulted in a significant effect on the dependent variable, particularly in the marginal weather condition, although with a low effect size. This result suggests that those who are motivated to fly for a specific reason or reasons might be more willing to persist over those who have no real reason to be flying. A recommendation for future research is that the experiment be replicated in a direct observation experimental design in either a full or partial motion simulator.

Further defining how motivation and meteorological conditions influence aeronautical decision-making can change the way aviation safety advocates, academics, regulators, and industry approach the issue. The results of this research could help determine what part of aeronautical decision making is objective and what is more subject to a person’s base desires.