Crew resource management is not a compulsory course for all operators; however, it is an integral part of the practical management of any flight. As a result most operators now include some form of CRM and human factors training into their regular program. Changes to CASA legislation will see this becoming a compulsory element in the near future. Developed in the late 1970s, CRM is the precursor to ADM (Aviation Decision Making) and Human Factors.
It is the combination of the skills of decision-making, communication, teamwork, leadership, and situation (al) awareness that results in effective and systemic consultation, participation, supervision and behaviour.
“CRM is the effective use of all resources, hardware, software and liveware to achieve a safe and efficient flight operation.” Dr John Lauber, 1984
When most people hear CRM, they immediately associate it with aviation accidents or incident reports where a failure in human performance has resulted in an unwanted outcome in the workplace. However, CRM is more than an accident analysis or an incident report. The skills one learns in Crew Resource Management are essential for managing day-to-day situations on any flight. Be those situations emergencies or routine operations.
With flight operations, there is never a typical day. Circumstances can change in the blink of an eye, and what started as a normal day can quickly become abnormal. CRM is about mitigating unforeseen problems and maintaining the safety and integrity of the aircraft.
A lot has been written about CRM, a vast subject. We will briefly outline five important skills of CRM and why they are so important.
Identifying problems accurately can help us, but only if we analyse all the information presented.
Collaboration is critical as working together to solve problems will more likely give you a solution. Using the right balance of assertiveness when contributing information to a problem will ensure that the team stays level-headed and there is more likelihood of making a correct judgement.
A good team leader will keep everyone on task and involved in the process and follow up with them. A continuous review of the action plan is vital to ensure that nothing is missed and that necessary adjustments or changes are made.
When problem-solving, the principles are like most decision-making models. It starts with analysing the situation and getting information; defining what needs to be achieved; coming up with solutions or alternatives, and assessing everything. Once a decision has been made, execute the decision and then analyse the new situation.
FORDEC model of decision-making
There are many decision-making models available. The FORDEC is one of many.
F – Facts: What is the problem? Analyse the situation. Gather information.
O – Options: What options are available? Come up with alternative courses of action.
R – Risks and Benefits: plus and minus for different courses of action? Assess the risks and chances of success.
D – Decision: What are we going to do? The choice with the most likelihood of success and the least risks.
E – Execution: What steps should we take? Who is doing what, when and how? Then, carry out the preferred option.
C – Check: Has anything changed? Can we improve the situation? Compare the actual effects with expected effects. Has everything been carried out? Has new information emerged? Do they impact the chosen initial option?
Good teamwork requires excellent communication skills. A good leader will set the tone and create a working environment to allow the flow of information to reach all crew members. However, it is not just leaders that need good communication skills; it is every crew member. Effective communication can be the difference between a good outcome and an unwanted one in all situations, including an abnormal situation.
The importance of briefing at the beginning of the day cannot be emphasised enough. Reminding the crew if they ”see something, say something” or always questioning what they are unsure of will encourage team members to come forward and contribute to problem-solving situations.
A good briefing keeps everyone in the loop. Therefore, along with the beginning of the day briefing, there should also be shorter briefing sessions throughout the day.
A debrief is just as important as a brief. It doesn’t have to be a long, drawn-out session, just an analysis of what went well and what didn’t, along with feedback for crew members. A debrief closes off your day and allows for resolving unsolved issues.
Knowing how to give positive and not-so-positive feedback to crew members will determine how they provide feedback to you in an abnormal situation.
A team on an aircraft is every staff member from the ground handling agents, refuelers, gate staff, flight attendants and, of course, the pilots. Team members are not always visible; they could work behind the scenes. We need to remember that all team members are vital, and all have a job to perform. A team is made of many different types of people:
- Training levels
- Physical abilities
They are all responsible for the safe and efficient operation of an aircraft.
The aircraft captain has a great deal of influence on the crew and needs to apply three leadership roles of commander, leader, and manager, as do all other leaders involved in aviation.
Different leadership styles work in different situations. For example, it can be a decision made solely by a captain, or it could also be collaborative problem-solving using a decision-making model such as DODAR or FORDEC to set some limits around a decision to allow a team to decide.
Leaders don’t always know all the answers, nor should they be expected to. It’s not about who is in the right but what is the right thing to do and who is the right person to ask. Knowing which person in your team has the knowledge and information to solve a problem does not mean a leader loses their standing; it means you are an effective leader using your team to their best capability.
An effective team is a crew who knows what is expected of them and who knows their roles within that team. In an aircraft, roles are set out and defined in operating manuals and SOPs. Understanding your role means if you are faced with a crisis, you are more likely to escape unscathed.
Situational awareness is being constantly aware of your surroundings to remain ahead of a situation. Questions to ask yourself when operating an aircraft: What is happening now? What has gone on in the past? What may go on in the future? Keeping yourself ahead of the game (so to speak) requires that you are constantly updating that information and always maintain practical scepticism.
As we all have different backgrounds and experiences, it’s essential to stay aware that everything can impact how we react in different situations.
CRM training teaches crew members to identify signs that their perception might be incorrect. Awareness, especially in an intense flight situation, can be harder to maintain than you think. Taking on too many tasks at one time can overload us, and our perception can change; alternatively, long flights and boredom can also cause us to “drop the ball” and lose interest in our surroundings. Both cases can decrease our situational awareness.
How often should I complete CRM Training?
CRM is something that should be practised every day. But we recommend that a refresher course is completed every two years. The skills and knowledge you obtain from completing one of our correspondence courses will hold you in good stead and eventually become second nature.
The Civil Aviation Academy CRM and ADM Course is highly comprehensive and contains a wealth of information too big to cover in a blog. Please contact us today to receive a Zoom call or arrange a Teams meeting to chat with one of our experienced consultants. (08) 61807939 or firstname.lastname@example.org