Brief history of CRM

In 1978 United Airlines flight 173 crashed running out of fuel over Portland, Oregon, while troubleshooting a landing gear problem. NTSB investigation produced a series of recommendations focused on the poor management of resources in complex environments shown by the crew.

The term "cockpit resource management" was coined later in 1979 by John Lauber, a NASA experienced psychologist in crew communication. While retaining a command hierarchy, the concept was intended to foster a less authoritarian cockpit culture, encouraging First Officers to question Captains regarding their actions and decisions.

Crew resource management grew out of the 1977 Tenerife disaster, where two Boeing 747 aircrafts, Pan Am and Klm, collided on the runway, killing 583 people. United Airlines was the first airline to provide CRM training for its cockpit crews in 1981 and in 1992 it became a global standard.

Through decades, CRM concept changed from Cockpit Resource Management to Crew Resource Management to Company Resource Management back to Crew Resource Management. Reason of this turn-back was the conception that the resource management skills needed to be applied to complex environments and some company departments were considered to have too simple jobs before the 2000s. Nowadays, the concept is expanding again. In fact, every modern employee involved in the aviation industry has to face different complex safety-critical tasks. This is pushing aviation administrations to create dedicated syllabi in order to guarantee smooth and safe operations at multiple levels of competencies.

CRM, intended as Crew Resource Management, instead, today is addressed to the entire Crew onboard aircrafts. Pilots and Flight Attendants receive their CRM training in every moment of their professional career. Every recurrent training, every check, every flight is conducted with a reference to the management skills that CRM emphasizes to be essential for safe airline operations.

CRM skills are briefed, used, trained, checked, debriefed in terms of communication, situational awareness, leadership, teamwork, problem solving, decision making, workload management.

ICAO Annex 6 Part 1 Chapter 9, DOC 9683 and many other documents regulate airline’s training programs.

Modern CRM concept

The fast pace of aviation modernization before the covid-19 pushed administrations, scholars, operators to work on a new CRM vision. Technology was advancing at warp speed and pilots’ tasks got replaced by automation. Many visible control sequences got hidden into computer processes. Onboard systems are today so complex that malfunctions are sometimes more demanding than those studied or trained. The result is that next-generation aircrafts pilots will have to adopt a new approach to unexpected events. Since experience and knowledge will be less developed on these unpredictable airplanes, flight crew will need to learn how to cope with startle effects in front of unexpected malfunctions. The process of correct reactions after a startle is called resilience. It is the capability to bounce back into the loop of operations after a startle. Most Pilots freeze when something unforeseen happens. New CRM training syllabi train Crew Members on how to properly react without jumping into quick and eventually wrong actions, influenced by fear and adrenaline.

Only in this way, Crews will have the chance to manage different forms of malfunctions originating from modern aircrafts equipped with complex interconnected systems.

Part of the resilience is purposefulness, in other words the dedication that Professionals need to have in order to succeed in modern complex environments. This dedication starts much earlier than the flight duty. In fact, being a Pilot today means being responsible for flight duty preparation much before the sign-in. Modern life is so stressful and fast, that pilots have to take care of their lifestyle much more than the past. Mentally and physically.

Everyday life CRM

Modern CRM concepts teach management skills that can be applied in everyday life. That is a certainty.

In their classes CRM experts show how to control different aspects of human personality in order to safeguard efficient and safe operations. Most of these techniques, especially those related to smooth communication and emotion control, can be used with family members. In addition, learning how to develop a resilient approach to unanticipated routine events can help to keep calm and face difficult life moments in a structured way, avoiding being prone to mistakes. In this way, a good situation awareness, workload management, teamwork, leadership if needed, problem solving, decision making will become automatic behavioral makers of our attitude.

So, even in a difficult moment, like this covid-19 time, pilots can avoid falling into stressful situations, using the power of CRM to control it. Breathing techniques, healthy life habits, timely established strategies, updated knowledge, thinking-out-of-the-box reasoning are some of the golden columns CRM presents to Pilots for a smooth sailing through a rough sea.

How can we adapt for the aviation career ?

Situation Awareness, as you know, is one of the CRM skills. It is familiar to every pilot and can be used as a tool to survive in our aviation life.

The aviation business has always been affected by the world economy, sometimes smooth, sometimes rough air. Situation awareness could help you to catch a change in the aviation market condition and to adapt to the current conditions for your career development.

The definition of CRM skills has been introduced in our professional world for more than thirty years and extensive training syllabi have focused on how to manage situations in our operation using those skills. Although professional pilots are believed to have a natural aptitude for CRM, I think that the training to improve CRM skills is still important and needs to have dedicated syllabi.

Generally speaking, the weakness of applicability comes from a lack of understanding. That’s why we, professional pilots, are supposed to have a shared view of CRM skills in aviation common perception. To achieve this, I think we still have a lot of room in each CRM skill improvement.

I would like to define the situation awareness as an imagination skill. To collect information, to know conditions and to think about circumstances guide you to imagine near future situations. This situation awareness process could be an effective skill to notice life threats, not only in your flight operations.

I could say this is exactly CRM skill.

Imagine the way to your career goal.

Another important factor to improve CRM skills in your life is to set a goal. The main goal in our flight operations is always flight safety, but the goal of your career is not only safety, but different personal desires influence it.

The image of the journey toward your career goal stimulates thinking about the requisite strategy. To work out a strategy requires a recognition of current conditions and future forecasts. And the minute strategy needs the correct imagination of the future as well. To imagine the future world, an ability to carefully sense the current situation and possible tendencies is required.

In my opinion, this is exactly Situation Awareness.

We should manage rough air situations to make the best use of professional skills which are obtained by training.

That’s the meaning of being professional pilots.

Weathercock Lab.