Crew Resource Management May Still Need Tweaking

Aviation Safety Action Program (2)

Crew Resource Management is important for all flights and crews 

It’s been over 30 years since I worked with this man, but I’ll never forget flying with the Captain with no concept of Crew Resource Management (CRM). The idea meant nothing to him. Seeing his name on the trip pairing was enough to make my skin crawl.   

But he wasn’t the only Captain with a miserable personality. There were plenty of other Captains like him; communication on the flight deck was always tense and restricted in these cases. There was no learning, no teamwork, and certainly no mentoring. So we did what we had to do to get through the trip and not one thing more.   

They weren’t all like this; many forward-thinking Captains understood the safety implications of working together as part of a crew. And just like that, we were no longer afraid to speak up if something didn’t look right. We were not afraid to admit to a mistake that might affect the safety of a flight. We were able to ask questions, bounce ideas off one another, and become better pilots.  

It amazes me that we are still having conversations 30 years later about the importance of good CRM, especially related to the safety culture within a corporate flight department or charter company. It’s one thing when you are one pilot out of 5000 at a large airline – it’s quite another when you are one of 3. I probably flew with my least favorite airline pilot 3 or 4 times. At my current job, I fly with the same guys repeatedly and will continue to do so indefinitely, and fortunately, we all get along. But what if we didn’t? I’ve heard horror stories in the corporate world that meet or exceed my airline nightmares, and they’re stuck with each other. There’s no asking for a different partner when you can count the entire roster on one hand. What happens to the safety culture then?  

Is there even a safety culture when the pilots do not get along? Personally, I don’t think so. But we can fix this. Because of my early days as a newbie airline pilot, I go out of my way to make my FO feel like part of the team. Not as equals, of course, because there can only be one PIC, but we can sure operate as part of a team. It’s not that hard to do, and good CRM is critical in a flight, especially during an emergency.  

I want my FO to be able to speak up and to know that I will consider their concerns. I want CRM to mean something – I want the safety of our flight to be more important than my ego. Whatever it takes, we need to work on building a safety culture within even the smallest flight departments. 

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