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Duet in the cockpit: what does it take to ensure the safe flight?

Baltic Aviation AcademySeveral days ago the Saudi Arabia's General Authority of Civil Aviation finally announced the main reasons for the Lufthansa problematic landing in July 2010. Among the major factors causing problems during the flight the Authority listed the Captain’s attempt to take control of the aircraft without alerting the First Officer. Failure to coordinate actions resulted in both flight crews acting simultaneously on the control column.

The human factor in aviation has been a topical issue among aviation experts for many years now. Knowing that aviation sector is only expanding and the technologies involved in aircraft manufacturing and controls are becoming increasingly sophisticated, it is obvious that in modern aviation the weakest link will continue to be a human being.

According to Baltic Aviation Academy experts, it is an exceptionally sensible issue for the aviation markets in the Middle East, Russia and Asia Pacific where companies are currently purchasing hundreds and hundreds of Western-made aircraft whilst lacking thousands of qualified pilots to operate them. A most common barrier for pilot re-qualification is the hierarchical social stratification still prevalent in the aforementioned cultures which is also applied in the process of equally sharing functions and responsibilities among flight crew members.

Does a Commercial Pilot License (CPL) and Instrument Rating (IR) certificate in your pocket mean that you can start flying for the airlines straight away? A short answer is no. In order to prevent human factor caused errors in multimember flight crews one must complete a special multi-crew cooperation training program (MCC).

‘Most communicational issues in hierarchical cultures can be observed between a young, still relatively inexperienced yet well trained pilot and an older, well experienced, bossy and arrogant captain. With over ten thousand flight hours on his resume the latter may feel way more superior to the former and often criticises or ignores the young colleague’s opinions. As a result, one may observe the following scenario: in case of any deviation from the norm a younger pilot warns the slightly irritable older captain, however, with little trust in his less experienced fellow pilot, the first pilot does not take relevant action and fails to react to the previously expressed concerns. Under such circumstances a younger pilot must take command and attempt to rectify the situation but instead, he often fails to take decisive action and is afraid to confront the captain. This is one of the prevalent barriers that a young pilot is taught to overcome during multi-crew cooperation training course. We try to eradicate the notion that a captain is some sort of a God out of the minds of our students,’ said Vytautas Stankevicius, the Head of Training at Baltic Aviation Academy.

The foundation for the MCC training program was laid by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration that pointed out the importance of crew resource management in 1979. The research presented at the meeting identified the main human error aspects of the majority of air crashes including but not limited to failed interpersonal communications, poor decision making and bad leadership. At this meeting, the label Crew Resource Management (CRM) was applied to the process of training crews to reduce the chances of a ‘pilot error’ by making better use of the human resources on the flight deck. 

In less than a year’s time the CRM practice was adapted for global aviation training and was integrated into type qualification training programs. Since then the standards of MCC became a compulsory part of training that every student must pass before becoming an airline pilot. A single remaining question is whether each pilot is able to overcome himself and implement the lessons learned during such training in his daily operations for the sake of aviation safety.

If you have a particular aviation topic that you are interested in and would like to get more information on it, please let us know by emailing Baltic Aviation Academy at ideas@balticaa.com.
 



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