DODAR is the process used in the Aviation industry by Pilots and Crew to assist in decision making during an abnormal situation or emergency.
Each of the acronym stands for something that allows Pilots to come back to a situation to re-analyse their course of actions and the next required tasks.
Let's take a look at what each one stands for and means:
D = Diagnose - This asks the crew to check and see if they are indeed aware of what the issue(s) or problems are in relation to abnormal malfunctions or circumstances e.g. Is it a hydraulic pump failure? Is it an electrical issue? Fuel? Weather? Medical? Knowing exactly what's wrong allows them to then see aircraft status e.g. Is it flyable? Is the autopilot still working? And are we time constraint in any way? Time is of utter importance as it will also impact stress and operational effectiveness in completing various emergency checklists or take up a holding pattern to deal with issues there. In a critical situation it is easy to loose attention to important aspects as stress levels go up very quickly, for instance always pay attention to not fly into bad weather and climb above the safe altitude so as to not worry about terrain in the region. It becomes very important to follow the golden rules; Aviate first, Navigate and then Communicate.
O = Options - This makes the crew think of what available alternate possiblities they have. The main ones really are:
A - Continue the flight. Minor issues that do not impact flight operation or safety.
B - Divert to a suitable airfield. This can be with enough available time or as soon as possible.
C - Immediate landing required either at an airfield or if not possible then forced landing on land or ditching in water.
Options then if required allows the crew to choose a suitable airfield for landing if required. This airfield could be limited by performance, weather, capabilities, rescue and fire fighting service, medical etc.
D = Decide - Having evaluated and diagnosed the problem, the crew will then know how major or minor the issue is and how much time they have to land. This is also related to options above as if the decision is to land immediately and you have selected a suitable airfield, then the decision is summarised as that. In the decision phase you can also analyse and conclude if this is an emergency or precautionary landing. This will allow the cabin crew to prepare and follow their drills as appropriate also. Once a final decision has been made to the next required actions, the crew can then move on to the next part.
A = Assign tasks - In this phase both pilots have to play a crucial part. The pilot flying or Captain depending on emergency may hand over control to the other pilot to monitor the hold, or navigate as per ATC accordingly whilst the other flying pilot sets up the procedure in required computer systems and radio aids whilst checking with approach charts. It is also advisable to have a second redundancy plan in case the primary planned approach fails or aircraft downgrades its capability. Once the aircraft is set up and ready for the planned arrival and approach procedure, the next part will be to first brief your senior cabin crew so he or she can brief their team members. This is usually done in the form of a NITS brief. It simply means Nature of emergency, Intention, Time available and Special instructions. It is best practise to keep this short and to the point so the crew member can repeat and understand what is going on. An example of this in an engine failure case would be like follows:
"We had an engine failure, we will divert to London Heathrow, Landing should be in about 15-20 minutes and it will be a precautionary landing."
After the cabin crew is informed, you can then finally bring the passengers in the loop. The captain will normally make a PA announcement explaining the issue and decision. It is best to not scare or alarm the passengers too much. It is better to also not go into too much technical details.
Once the above has been completed, the Pilot then comes back to the monitoring pilot to get back into the flying loop and brief him/her on the planned approach and how it will be flown and/or any redundancy plans e.g. If the ILS fails or has a problem, the second set up includes the VOR, or a different runway, in case of missed approach, fuel limitations, etc.
R = Review - This is the last part of the DODAR process which basically looks at the overall situation so far and allows both crews to simply question their action and decisions. It is a last review of if anything has been missed out or forgotten e.g. performance calculations, weather reports, checklists and so on because after this point both pilots will take up their necessary roles in flying the arrival, approach and safe landing.
I hope you found this article a bit useful to read and it helps the cadets understand a bit more on the breakdown of the DODAR process during an abnormal situation. Also perhaps something written here does not go in line with your company methods or training and thats fine as there is more than one correct way of achieving the right outcomes. We wish everyone out there great success and safe flights.
By Captain Faraz