The Need for Crew Resource Management During a Pandemic


Crew resource management is just as important now as before the pandemic hit as more Captains may find themselves in the right seat

As the aviation industry struggles to recover from the devastating effects of the global pandemic, many pilots are left wondering what will become of their once promising careers. As Captains slide 3 feet to the right to take their seats as newly assigned first officers, there is no doubt that crew resource management will play an important role in aviation safety for years to come.

By definition, crew resource management (CRM) is a set of training procedures for use in environments where human error can have devastating effects. CRM specifically focuses on interpersonal communication, leadership, and decision making on the flight deck. While still utilizing the command hierarchy, the concept of CRM was intended to foster a less authoritarian interaction between two pilots and has saved countless lives as the communication barrier between Captain and First Officer was greatly reduced.

But add in power struggles and bruised egos due to furloughs and backward sliding seniority lists, and interpersonal communication may get dicey again. Of course, we are all professionals and can hopefully appreciate the fact that we are still alive and even still employed during these dark times, but pilots can sometimes have rather strong personalities and we don’t like being demoted, not even a little bit. 

So now, due to the luck of the draw, there may be a relatively young, inexperienced corporate or 135 captain who ends up flying with a newly hired older pilot who was recently furloughed by an airline. The new pilot is coming from a position of relative power and respect and had grown accustomed to being handed the fuel load and weather package and coffee from the lead flight attendant but now? You’re the new pilot who files the flight plan and gets the donuts at 5 am and orders the fuel after you figure out what is required. It may be a culture shock, but we all have to keep food on the table.

So how do we keep things flowing smoothly? Yup…CRM. Clear, concise, communication. Leadership, assertiveness, communication, and adaptability may all have to be adjusted by both pilots. The Captain may have to up her leadership skills while the new hire may have to tone it down a little, but movement on both sides is more than likely necessary. 

Most training facilities include crew resource management as part of their curriculum, and I know there are a few pilots out there who might consider that portion of ground school a good time to catch up on lost sleep. I would caution you, that with our changing industry, now might be the perfect time to guzzle a red bull and pay attention to the pearls of wisdom shared by your instructor. You may find yourself flying with someone new one of these days and it may come in handy.

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