1 Background and Introduction
Investigations have shown that human error is a contributing factor in 60 to 80 percent of air carrier incidents and accidents. These events have common characteristics. Many problems encountered by flight crews have very little to do with the technical aspects of operating in a multi-person cockpit. Instead, problems are associated with poor group decision making, ineffective communication, inadequate leadership and poor task or resource management.
Pilot training programs used to focus almost exclusively on the technical aspects of flying and on an individual pilot’s performance; they did not effectively address crew management issues that are also fundamental to safe flight.
Crew resource management (CRM) has become an integral part of training and operations. This briefing note presents the basics for implementing CRM within an airline based on a tried-and-tested structure from which all aspects of CRM training can be developed to the required detail. Guidance is presented in practical terms so that operators can immediately begin to move forward with their CRM training programs; it may thereafter be used to trigger more academic and in-depth studies on specific items, as required.
2 Objectives of CRM Training
The main goal of CRM is establishing a common safety culture within the company and with the following objectives:
- To enhance crew and management awareness of human factors that could cause or exacerbate incidents that affect the safe conduct of operations.
- To enhance knowledge of human factors and develop CRM skills and attitudes which, when applied appropriately, could keep a flight from incipient accidents and incidents, whether perpetrated by technical or human factors failings.
- To use CRM knowledge, skills and attitudes to conduct and manage aircraft operations, and fully integrate these techniques throughout every facet of the organization’s culture to prevent the onset of incidents and potential accidents.
- To use these skills to integrate commercially efficient aircraft operations with safety.
- To improve the working environment for crews and all those associated with aircraft operations.
3 CRM Training in Practice
The application of team management concepts in the flight deck environment was initially known as cockpit resource management. As CRM training evolved to include flight attendants, maintenance personnel and others, the phrase crew resource management was adopted.
CRM training is one way of addressing the challenge of optimizing the human/machine interface and accompanying interpersonal activities. These activities include team building and maintenance, information transfer, problem solving, decision making, maintaining situational awareness, and dealing with automated systems. Thus, training in CRM involves communicating basic knowledge of human factors concepts that relate to aviation and providing the tools necessary to apply these concepts operationally. It represents a new focus on crew-level, as opposed to individual-level, aspects of training and operations. CRM training focuses on situational awareness, communication skills, teamwork, task allocation and decision making within a comprehensive framework of standard operating procedures (SOPs).
Other groups who routinely work with the cockpit crew and are involved in decisions required to operate a flight safely are also essential participants in an effective CRM process. These groups include, but are not limited, to:
- Aircraft dispatchers;
- Flight attendants;
- Maintenance personnel; and,
- Air traffic controllers.
In fact, CRM training should involve all people working in an airline and should be considered as a long-term development process that encompasses a varied program of training resources and media, which run from the traditional and passive to the highly interactive and experiential, such as self-study, classroom awareness training, modeling, classroom skills training, continual skills practice in both classroom and simulator, and practice or coaching during flight operations.
CRM training programs should be administered in the following three phases:
In the awareness phase, crewmembers complete seminar instruction and group exercises to learn the basic concepts of CRM. In this phase, seminars focus on a series of topics that typically include communication, decision making, stress and workload management, leader and subordinate responsibilities, and management styles. Typically, seminars include participatory exercises in which crewmembers role-play various cockpit situations. In some cases, exercises are videotaped and subsequently reviewed and critiqued by the class.
Other useful techniques include computerized instruction, preparatory work for classroom instruction, detailed case studies of accidents and incidents focusing on crew performance issues, and videotaped examples of good and poor team behavior in the cockpit. The exposure of line and training staff to the awareness phase is a critical part of CRM training, and such exposure is also beneficial in heightening awareness in an organization.
Awareness promotes credibility and helps to change attitudes; however, it is important to recognize that it is only a first step. Some programs rely almost exclusively on this aspect of training, but classroom instruction alone will probably not significantly alter crewmember attitudes and behavior in the long term.
3.2 Practice and feedback
In the second phase, crews fly a realistic simulation featuring aircraft problems in the manner in which they would occur on the line and receive feedback on their performance. This is typically provided in the form of line-oriented flight training (LOFT) completed during a recurrent training cycle following the awareness phase. Ideally, this would occur immediately after initial awareness training, but the realities of simulator scheduling often result in some delay. So, some degree of this practice and feedback is deliberately emphasized in awareness-phase exercises.
LOFT is a technique in which a high-fidelity aircraft simulator is flown with a complete crew performing as if on an actual line flight. More recently, the term line-oriented simulation (LOS) has been used to describe the development of realistic flight scenarios for use in any simulator training event. In LOFT, crews complete all the preparations and paperwork, communicate with simulated air traffic control and company facilities, and perform all routine procedures required for a normal flight. The LOFT instructor provides the communications simulations in a manner intended to be consistent with normal practices. Typically, each LOFT session includes an aircraft system failure or weather-related problem for the crew to solve while completing all normal duties. Some LOFT sessions consist of a single flight segment, while others comprise multiple legs.
Crew performance is videotaped, and crews review the tape afterward. Videotape feedback is particularly effective because the third-person perspective creates a level of awareness not possible with other techniques. This perspective provides insight and provokes self-critique, which appears to be a strong stimulant for attitude and behavior change. It is virtually impossible to deny the presence of an ineffective managerial or interpersonal style if one sees it for oneself. Moreover, these video-feedback exercises provide opportunities for peer critique. There is ample evidence of the effectiveness of the video-feedback technique, and it should be used whenever possible.
In the past, many CRM programs have finished with the practice and feedback phase, and while crewmembers usually leave such programs feeling that they have learned valuable lessons, these insights more often than not tend to fade very rapidly. Today, we know that for a CRM program to produce more than short-term insight, it must be reinforced and integrated into a recurrent training program.
In this phase, the CRM concepts become a part of the organization’s overall training and operating practices. Research shows that when there is no effective reinforcement of CRM concepts by way of recurrent training, improvements in attitudes observed after initial indoctrination tend to disappear.
Reinforcement requires integration of crew coordination into the recurrent training cycle and also requires performance evaluation. LOFT should become a permanent part of recurrent training. It is often combined with a classroom presentation focusing on one CRM curriculum area. In this way, crewmembers receive a short refresher at least every 12 months. Perhaps the most critical part of the reinforcement phase is ensuring that supervisory pilots (e.g., training or line-check airmen) highlight crew coordination issues during evaluations of simulator-based proficiency checks or line checks.
4 Management of CRM, ‘The In-House Specialist’
There are valid reasons for large aviation companies to employ at least one qualified human factors specialist full-time. In fact, without some level of in-house expertise, human factors problems are not likely to be recognized adequately. A close association with flying will be necessary if the specialist is to work effectively and with credibility on operational problems.
The human factors specialist — the CRM manager — is responsible for all aspects of aircrew CRM, from the development of the syllabuses and course to the selection and training of CRM instructors and examiners. The CRM manager should be designated in the training manual. It is a statutory requirement that a training manual contain all information necessary to enable those persons appointed by the operator to give or supervise training to perform their duties. This does not mean that the training manual must contain every reference to CRM. It could contain the reference to the CRM manual, which could be a separate book that remains a controlled document within the overall training manual.
5 Fundamentals of CRM Training Implementation
Research and airline operational experience suggest that the greatest benefits are achieved by adhering to the following practices:
- Assess the status of the organization before implementation. It is important to know how widely CRM concepts are understood and practiced before designing specific training. Surveys of crewmembers, management, training and standards personnel, observation of crews during line operations, and analysis of incident/accident reports can provide essential data for program designers.
- Get commitment from all managers, starting with senior staff. CRM programs are received much more positively by operations personnel when senior managers, flight operations managers and flight standards officers conspicuously support CRM concepts and provide the necessary resources for training. Flight operations manuals and training manuals should embrace CRM concepts by providing necessary policy and procedures guidance centered on clear, comprehensive SOPs. A central CRM concept is communication. It is essential that every level of management support a safety culture in which communication is promoted by encouraging appropriate questioning. It should be made perfectly clear in pilots’ manuals and in every phase of pilot training that appropriate questioning is encouraged and that there will be no negative repercussions for appropriate questioning of another pilot’s decision or action.
- Customize the training to reflect the nature and needs of the organization. Using knowledge of the state of the organization, priorities should be established for topics to be covered, including special issues such as the effects of mergers or the introduction of advanced-technology aircraft. Other special issues might include topics specific to the particular type of operation, such as the specific characteristics that exist in commuter or long-haul international operations. This approach increases the relevance of training for crewmembers.
- Define the scope of the program and an implementation plan. Institute special CRM training for key personnel, including check airmen, supervisors and instructors. It is highly beneficial to provide training for these personnel before beginning training for crewmembers. CRM training may be expanded to combine pilots, flight attendants and aircraft dispatchers. It may also be expanded to include maintenance personnel and other employees, as appropriate. It is also helpful to develop a long-term strategy for program implementation.
- Communicate the nature and scope of the program before starting. Training departments should provide crews, managers, training and standards personnel with a preview of what the training will involve, together with plans for initial and recurrent training. These steps can prevent misunderstandings about the focus of the training or any aspect of its implementation.
- Institute quality control procedures. It has proved helpful to monitor training and to determine areas where it can be strengthened. Monitoring can be initiated by providing special training to program instructors — often called facilitators — in using surveys to collect systematic feedback from participants in the training.
6 Key Points
CRM training is based on an awareness that a high degree of technical proficiency is essential for safe and efficient operations. Demonstrated mastery of CRM concepts cannot overcome a lack of proficiency. Similarly, high technical proficiency cannot guarantee safe operations in the absence of effective crew coordination. Thus, the following points should guide the vision of the company toward CRM:
- Professional aircrew shall demonstrate high CRM standards.
- Consistent with other aspects of aircrew performance, these standards should be well-defined, objective and measurable.
- The knowledge, skills and attitudes required to meet these standards should be equally well-specified so they can be thoroughly and systematically integrated with other aspects of aircrew training and training standards.
- CRM standards of performance have a bearing on flight safety and the efficiency of aircraft operations, and they are essentially more explicit and refined versions of professional standards implicit in the common sense definition of airmanship.
- The required knowledge, skills and attitudes have wide applicability and should be incorporated into basic training of all personnel and their respective managers who are involved in the operation and dispatch of aircraft.
Good training for routine operations can have a strong positive effect on how well individuals function during times of high workload or high stress. During emergency situations, it is highly unlikely, and probably undesirable, that any crewmember would take the time to reflect upon his or her CRM training in order to choose the appropriate behavior. But practice of desirable behaviors during times of low stress increases the likelihood that emergencies will be handled effectively.
Effective CRM has the following characteristics:
- CRM is a comprehensive system of applying human factors concepts to improve crew performance.
- CRM embraces all operational personnel.
- CRM can be blended into all forms of aircrew training.
- CRM concentrates on crewmembers’ attitudes and behaviors, and their impact on safety.
- CRM uses the crew as the unit of training.
- CRM training requires the active participation of all crewmembers. It provides an opportunity for individuals and crews to examine their own behaviors and to make decisions on how to improve cockpit teamwork.
- The success of any CRM training ultimately depends on the skills of the people who administer the training and measure its effects. CRM instructors, check pilots, supervisors and course designers must be skilled in all areas related to the practice and assessment of CRM. These skills comprise an additional level to those associated with traditional flight instruction and checking.
Gaining proficiency and confidence in CRM instruction, observation and measurement requires special training for instructors, supervisors and check pilots in many CRM training processes. Among those processes are role-playing simulations, systematic crew-centered observation, administering LOFT and providing usable feedback to crews. Instructors, supervisors and check pilots also require special training in order to calibrate and standardize their own skills.
Instructors, supervisors and check airmen should use every available opportunity to emphasize the importance of crew coordination skills. The best results occur when the crews examine their own behavior with the assistance of a trained instructor who can point out positive and negative CRM performance. Whenever highly effective examples of crew coordination are observed, it is vital that these positive behaviors be discussed and reinforced. Debriefing and critiquing skills are important tools for instructors, supervisors and check pilots.
Feedback from instructors, supervisors and check airmen is most effective when it refers to the concepts that are covered in the initial indoctrination and awareness training. The best feedback refers to instances of specific behavior, rather than behavior in general.
Organizations such as the Royal Aeronautical Society (RAeS) Human Factors Group and the human factors groups in Europe and the United States have helped guide the industry. The RAeS group has made significant contributions, including conducting a series of low-cost mini-conferences targeting specific CRM areas and producing the Guide to Performance Standards for CRM Instructors. The guide and its briefer summary are required study for anyone intending to embark on CRM instruction.
8 Associated OGHFA Materials
9 Additional Reading Material
There are hundreds of references on CRM and human factors. Below is a brief list of the main documents and websites. Training material that may be suitable for CRM is also referenced, although some of the material, especially videos, may be proprietary and difficult to obtain. References have been grouped by topic to help one find appropriate documents among the wealth of information available.
9.1 U.K. Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) documents on CRM
9.2 Aviation training
- International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). Human Factors Training Manual. 1998. Doc 9683-AN/950.
- Telfer, R.; Moore, J. Aviation Training: Learners, Instruction and Organisation. 1986. Avebury Aviation.
- CAA. Guidance Notes for Accreditation Standards for CRM Instructors and CRM Examiners. Standards. Document 29, Version 1. 2001.
- Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority. Draft AC 121A-09. Human Factors and Crew Resource Management Training. 2003.
- Orlady, Harry W. Human Factors in Multi-crew Flight Operations. Chapter 13, “Crew Resource Management and the Team Approach.”
- International Air Transport Association (IATA) Human Factors Working Group. The Evolution of CRM: From Managerial Theory to Safety Tool. (2001).
- IATA Human Factors Working Group. CRM/LOFT Manual. (2001).
- Krey, Neil. “CRM Developers Forum.”
- Transport Canada. Crew Resource Management Manual.
- Weiner, E.; Kanki, B.; Helmreich, R. Cockpit Resource Management. (1993) San Diego, USA: Academic Press.
9.4 Cultural issues
- Helmreich, R.; Wilhelm, J.; Klinect, J.; Merritt, A. “Culture, Error and Crew Resource Management.” In E. Salas, C. Bowers, E. Edens (eds.) Improving Teamwork in Organisations. (2001). Hillsdale, New Jersey, USA: Erlbaum.
9.5 Organizational human factors
- ICAO. Human Factors Digest No.10.
- ICAO Circular 247-AN/148.
- Maurino, D.; Reason, J.; Johnston, N.; Lee, R. Beyond Aviation Human Factors; Safety in High Technology Systems. (1995). Ashgate.
- Reason, J. Managing the Risks of Organizational Accidents. (1997). Ashgate.
- CAA. Behavioral Markers for Crew Resource Management. CAA Paper 98005. (1998). Documedia.
- Helmreich, R.; University of Texas. “Bob Helmreich's CRM and LOSA site”
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