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Aviation Crew Resource Management

in Aviation Blog, Professional Pilot Training

History and Background of CRM

The concept of Crew Resource Management was introduced to the aviation industry after it was revealed through investigations of a number of air accidents that many such incidents happen not because of a technical fault of the aircraft, but take place due to human errors. These human errors were not due to any lack of piloting abilities by the crew, rather some sort of wrong cockpit environment was found to be the cause of most human related accidents. CRM is also sometimes called Cockpit Resource Management. Air accidents are generally classified as human factor accidents, where pilot error is termed as the main cause of an accident. The pilots and other crew have generally been found properly trained, able, fit, and technically knowledgeable of the operating systems but somehow did not act appropriately to stop the situations getting totally out of control and cause accidents.

With the help of data recovered through the cockpit voice recorders and flight data recorders, the investigators were able to figure out the atmosphere inside the cockpit before the accidents. Lack of communication, and sometimes lack of co-operation, at other times a failure of the crew to act as a team, and their inability to analyze the emergency properly due to loss of situational awareness are the causes that have been blamed for the majority of such accidents. Human factor accidents result due to abnormal cockpit environment, cause bad judgment and decision making by the crew, and thus result in accidents. Sometimes the first officers and co–pilots were unable to object to, point out, announce, or even mention obvious wrong decisions endangering the safety of the flight because of domineering behavior and demeaning attitude of their captains and superiors; the subordinates did not act in a proper professional way to avert the danger to the safety of the aircraft.

This led to the development of cockpit training for the crew, so that the available resources are utilized in the best possible manner. Initially adopted by a few airlines as part of their internal training systems, CRM training is now an integral part of aircrew syllabus and testing. Proper training in CRM ensures that human factor accidents are reduced to the minimum possible levels. Many other emergency services have also taken the clue from the aviation industry and have adopted the CRM principles for their own staff training.

What All Crew Resource Management Entails

Simulator training and testing, and other methods prepare the Aircrew for proficient handling of the aircraft, both in normal situations and in emergencies, whereas CRM focus on the inter-personnel skills of the aircrew, and attempt to provide a congenial working space for all crewmembers thus affording them the possibility of peak performance even in times of great stressful situations. Situational awareness and decision making abilities under abnormal conditions are a particular concern for CRM trainers, open and frank communication between the crew to ensure an efficient teamwork is also emphasized.

Crew resource management is thus an attempt at the best use of available resources in the cockpit, be it the equipment, processes, or the crewmembers themselves, so that flight safety is promoted and safe flying operations are ensured. Nearly all the ideas that are part of the CRM training have been in aviation discussions for a long time now, but lacked proper definition and elaborate description previously. CRM attempts to properly define the structure and scope of existing aviation concepts like airmanship and cockpit leadership qualities, identify them properly, and scientifically explain their importance, and through proper technical training ensure their implementation and compliance thus offering safer flight operations. The cognitive and emotional skills of the pilots are not restricted to be used in multi-crew aircraft only, since even the single-pilot operators also need to continuously stay aware of the situations; know the positions and intentions of other aircraft, make emergency decisions to adapt to the situation, and communicate with the ground controllers and the aircrew of other aircraft.

Promote CRM to Promote Flight Safety

Communication skills, properly identifying the roles and responsibilities of the aircrew, emotional training to handle stressful situations, and ensuring a co-ordinated team effort on part of the aviators especially while taking difficult decisions and handling abnormal situations, are integral parts of CRM training. The bottom line here is that by professionally training the pilots and other crew related to aviation many accidents can be prevented, and thus safe flight operations can be ensured. Emotional intelligence and training to improve inter-personnel skills definitely help improve the communication and information sharing process in the cockpit, whereas the cognitive skill training help build on an individual’s decision making capabilities and enhance his situational awareness. Pilots are better able to cope with stressful incidents with the help of CRM training through a co-operative team effort. Promotion of ‘Crew Resource Management Principles’ is in reality promotion of flight safety, these CRM principles should be adhered to in letter and spirit by all aviation related people at all times.


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