Professional Standards, Cockpit Resource Management and Accident, Prevention 901996
The role of Cockpit Resource Management (CRM) in enhancing flight safety is being increasingly recognized throughout the aviation industry. At the same time, pilot Professional Standards Committees (PSC) are also being acknowledged as having a definite place, along with Cockpit Resource Management, in aircraft accident prevention. This paper examines the similarities and differences between CRM and PSC as well as their relationship to each other in positively affecting flight safety.
CRM is generally defined as a flight crew-coordinated team effort that uses all means available to enhance safe flight crew operations. Resources here includes all elements, both in and out of the cockpit, that reinforce the crew's ability to function as a team while they cope with various real-life situations. Management skills include the ability to lead and to follow, to effectively communicate within the cockpit and outside it, to gather and evaluate information, to assess and assign crew member task loads. It also includes the ability to make decisions, to resolve conflicts and to control stress.
All elements of CRM training should reinforce cockpit chain-of-command and the crew's situational awareness of what is going on throughout the operation of the flight. Lack of leadership, followership, i.e. teamwork, and loss of situational awareness have probably been cited more in the majority of today's human performance related accidents than any other causes.
With its emphasis on behavioral modification to enhance crew performance, CRM has certainly had some real success stories. The highly publicized 1989 United Airlines' accidents, near Honolulu, Hawaii and at Sioux City, Iowa, are two prime examples of crew teamwork at its absolute best under extremely trying conditions. At Hawaii, the B-747 crew had to make a two-engine-out night landing with a substantial portion of the right forward fuselage missing. And, at Sioux City, the DC-10 crew had to instantly invent a flying technique to contend with a critically wounded aircraft that had almost no flight control ability following the catastrophic failure of the center engine.
Both crews credited their CRM training with having helped them to cope with these unprecedented situations that “no one ever dreamed would happen.”
CRM is basically an extension of each airline management's operating philosophy. It emanates from the top down and reflects the corporate culture and management's commitment to the program. As a result, the quality of the programs and training courses vary widely at present. They range from mere lip service at one company to another corporation's total dedication to CRM. All CRM programs require some commitment of airline resources.
CRM programs also require FAA scrutiny and approval. They are designed to further flight safety and to produce a more efficient cockpit operating atmosphere. “Using all available resources” is a basic premise of Cockpit Resource Management programs and involves all the crew, the aircraft and the flight environment. CRM programs are designed to enhance the Captain's authority by providing the best combination of available resources to assist in the command decision requirement of the FAR's that still holds the captain responsible for the safety of the flight.