Crew Resource Management: A Wild Ride At O’hare


Crew Resource Management when it works well, works well

Quick. You just landed. You press on the brakes and…nothing happens. No brakes, no airbrakes, no reverse. Nothing. What’s your next move? What would you do? Sounds like a bad simulator training scenario, doesn’t it? But no, this actually happened. And crew resource management saved the flight and probably some lives too.

It was a USAir Fokker 100 and they touched down at O’Hare, one of the busiest airports ever, and the weight on wheels switch failed. The jet thought it was still in the air, so the pilots were unable to apply the brakes or reverse and they only had seconds to come up with a game plan. 

Fortunately for their passengers, and the airport, the crew quickly became experts in crew resource management and the ground controller instantly became a member of the team. Just like Captain Al Haynes in Sioux City, the crew had to immediately work together or face disaster. 

With no time to diagnose and troubleshoot, the crew worked with what they had, which was a jet screaming down the runway with no chance of stopping. And they had each other.

The Captain was able to yell out his next move, and the FO was well prepared with the airport diagram on his yoke clip so he was able to broadcast their specific intentions on the tower frequency before they actually made their turns. In response, the ground/tower controller immediately cleared other aircraft out of the way. 

It worked! It wasn’t pretty, but it worked. The crew ended up careening onto numerous high speed taxiways, runways, and even some 90 degree turns as they bled off their speed and finally coasted to a stop, but there were no injuries, no aircraft damage and no collisions. 

Would you be ready for such a harrowing ride? I think it’s safe to say that the crew did not brief for such an incident, and yet, the FO had the airport diagram out and available, the Captain had the presence of mind to call out his next move in time for the FO to locate the runway or taxiway on the chart and then broadcast it to the controller. What a great example of teamwork!

True, this was an unusual incident – we don’t normally lose both brake systems and reverse at once, but you never know. Be prepared for the unexpected and use every resource that is available to you. I would certainly say that crew resource management should be at the top of your list when faced with an unusual or dangerous situation. Use the guy or girl sitting next to you and your workload just got cut in half!

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