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Case study: the importance of Crew Resource Management training

Crew Resource Management trainingWith the recent JetBlue incident, on which the co-pilot locked an erratically behaving captain out of the cockpit and diverted the plane to a safe landing, the changes that have altered the training and culture of flight personnel have come to light. Three decades ago a United Airlines jet crashed in Portland, Oregon supposedly because the co-pilot was too scared to speak up against the erring pilot. It cost the lives of 10 people. On March 27th, 2012, a co-pilot took swift action when he saw the other pilot erring, and brought a plane-full of lives from near-catastrophe to safe landing.

Times have changed - co-pilots were taught to speak up if they had concerns. Captains, many of whom had come from the military where officers were always considered to be right, were instructed to listen and encourage others to voice concerns.
The training, known as crew resource management, has been made compulsory by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, and, according to an advisory circular on the agency's website, has progressed from classroom discussion in its early years to full-blown exercises in flight simulators.

According to a CRM course training instructor Dainuole Bartasuniene, human failure is composed of several inherent failures. It is based on Active Failure – including standard operating procedures and law violations, failure to follow written instructions, failure to manage cockpit resources and laziness. The other part, passive Failure, is related to unawareness – misunderstanding, miscommunication issues, lack of support, distraction, complacency, boredom and fatigue. Skill Failure involves misjudgement, incorrect decisions, lack of experience, training and unfamiliarity with the task.

D. Bartasuniene maintains that crew cooperation involves more than just technical skills –attitude and motivation also play a very important role. Other crucial factors include group interactions and group thinking, leadership and followership, authority, status and role, communication, listening and advocacy, conflicts and conflict resolution, dealing with criticism, different cultures and languages.


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