I have become increasingly interested in the subject of crew resource management (CRM), specifically as it applies to aviation. With the advent of increasingly complex technology and several layers of redundancy designed into most automation systems, humans have become the leading cause of aviation accidents. As aviation professionals and pilots especially, it is our duty to strive for increased safety and improved performance in the cockpit. One way that we can achieve this is through studying how flight crew interact under different conditions, along with basic psychology principles. The underlying goal of any such study is to discover mistakes that have been made in the past and to identify specific methods to avoid repeating them in the future.
From the assigned reading in a class that I am taking, I discovered six main areas that ICAO includes in the discussion of crew resource management. These are communication skills, situational awareness, problem-solving and decision making, leadership roles, stress management, and critique. While all of them are important, I tried to focus specifically on critiquing, asking myself how I usually analyze my own performance actions after a particular situation. I realized it is something that I and many other people often fail to excel at for a variety of reasons.
One possible reason I came up with was fear of appearing incompetent or unskilled. A good example could be when a student makes a mistake during a flight lesson. Every student is trying to impress their instructor and present an image of confidence; this means that after a minor mistake they might try to divert attention away from their error and move on to a different area of the lesson.
A good practice applicable to CRM would be for the student to try to identify his own mistake, and with the instructor’s help, explain why he might have inadvertently taken the incorrect action that he did. Showing a willingness to criticize and analyze your actions allows you the opportunity to learn from the experience more effectively. Explaining and identifying the causation of something is a much better way to learn, compared to solely listening and acknowledging the statement that there was a mistake.
So far I am only two weeks into the Crew Resource Management class that I am taking, but I’m looking forward to the rest of the material that we are going to cover. There will be multiple case studies and accident reports that we investigate, and it is my goal to find ways to apply CRM principles learned from these incidents to improve my own flying and become a safer pilot.
Image is from Air Line Pilot, April 1988.