Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)

Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)


writing sop


Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) is policies, procedures, and responsibilities set out by an airline that supports operational personnel in ground and flight operations of a commercial aircraft safely and consistently.

The primary purpose of SOP is to identify and describe the standard tasks and duties (considering the who – does – what – and – when). To achieve consistently safe flight operations through adherence to SOPs that are clear, comprehensive, and readily available to airlines operational personnel such as flight crew, cabin crew, engineers, air traffic staff, etc.


In this article, I will give you a background, benefits of SOPs.  And considerations to be followed when developing SOPs for flight operations.


For many years the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has identified deficiencies in standard operating procedures as contributing causal factors in aviation accidents. Among the most commonly cited deficiencies involving flight crews have been their non-compliance with established SOPs; another has been the non-existence of established SOPs in some manuals used by flight crews.

The ICAO has recognized the importance of SOPs for safe flight operations. Recent amendments to ICAO Annex 6 and PANS-OPS Document 8168, Vol. I, establish that each Member State shall require that SOPs for each phase of flight be contained in the operations manual used by pilots.

Many Aviation Safety Organizations have concluded that Air Operators perform with higher levels of safety when they establish and adhere to adequate SOPs.

How do airlines benefit from adhering to Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)?

By adhering to SOP, the airline ensures its aircraft is flown correctly per the manufacturer's guidelines. Furthermore, airlines utilize aircraft resources and functionality appropriately.


Why do airline pilots must adhere to SOPs?

A Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) provides a flight crew with a step-by-step guide to effectively and safely carry out operations. Furthermore, most managerial tasks completed by flight crews are contained in standard operating procedures (SOPs).

Adherence to SOPs means each pilot knows what they and the other pilot should be doing in any given phase of flight. It is important when working for a large airline with hundreds of pilots.

Key Features of Effective SOPS for Aircraft Operations

Many experts agree that implementation of any procedure as an SOP is most effective if:

1)         The procedure is appropriate to the situation.

2)         The procedure is practical to use.

3)         Crew members understand the reasons for the procedure.

4)         Pilot Flying (PF), Pilot Not Flying (PNF), and Flight Engineer duties are delineated.

5)         Effective training is conducted.

6)         The attitudes shown by instructors, check airmen, and managers, all reinforce the need for the procedure.


What should be taken into consideration while designing SOPS?

SOPs design should take into consideration the following:

1) The nature of the airline environment and type of operation;

2) The operational philosophy, including crew coordination;

3) The training philosophy, including human performance training;

4) The airline corporate culture, including the degree of flexibility to be built into SOPs design;

5) The levels of experience of different user groups, such as flight crews, aircraft maintenance engineers, and cabin attendants;

6) Resource conservation policies, such as fuel conservation or wear on power plants and systems;

7) Flight deck automation, including flight deck and systems layout and supporting


8) The compatibility between SOPs and operational documentation; and

9) Procedural deviation during abnormal/unforeseen situations.


The SOP must not only achieve the task at hand but also be understood by a crew of various backgrounds and experiences within an airline. SOP's can also be developed as time goes by to incorporate improvements based on experience, accidents, near misses, or innovations from other manufacturers or operators to suit the needs of a particular organization.

Safety in commercial aviation continues to depend on good crew performance. Good crew performance, in turn, is founded on standard operating procedures that are clear, comprehensive, and readily available to the flight crew.

Maged Saeed AL-Hadabi

I’m Instructor / Maged Saeed Al-Hadabi. ​ Air Cargo / IATA Dangerous Goods Regulations / Safety Management System Senior Instructor, Auditor [ Yemen Airways] . Approved IATA DGR/ SMS Instructor by Yemen Civil Aviation Authority. We hope you find Aviation Professional website not only informative, but interesting and helpful as well. Leave your comment , thank you.

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