CRM Questioning the Senior Pilot

The crash of 2 Boeing 747’s in 1977 was cited by a NASA workshop which initiated CRM (Crew Resource Management). Skipping all the buzz words and hoopla, the big deal was crew coordination and to encourage questioning authority… ie, if a FE or copilot saw things going south, not to sit back and wait for fecal matter to hit the fan.

See a recreation of the disaster in this video.

As a result of the NASA study, United Airlines rolled out CRM training to their crews in 1981. While airline safety improved, CRM didnt really drop right into general aviation operations being most are single pilot ventures… It took a while, more buzzwords needed to be created, things needed to be tailored to fit, and lobbyists needed to be plaacted etc… but after 24 years or so, SRM entered the general aviation scene in 2005.

The thing is, most every chief flight instructor I worked for didn’t need an acronym and fancy FAA promo materials to utilize the human factors issues from CRM, ie situation awareness, workload management, automation management, and aeronautical decision making. Many adopted CRM as part of their 135 ops, and it was a natural thing that many of these concepts rolled into their 61 flight schools… but, the bit about crew coordination, questioning authority etc was for the most part left out for seemingly obvious reasons.

I think this was and is a mistake… The PPL likely wont be flying as SIC anytime soon, especially as most wont go on to 135 or airline careers. Otoh they will be flying with or even for other pilots…

I about bought the farm years ago as I didn’t bug the senior pilot…. with 14,000+ hours, combat experience, and 40+ years as a pilot in all types of aircraft, who was I, a 19 year old n00b to question him? That was a hard lesson, and its one thats stuck with me and something I try very hard to impress upon my students.

Another reason for including the crew aspect early on is despite decades of CRM, crew coordination is still a problem.

Consider the very sad story behind AF447 and TK1951.  Granted, there were other problems that started the  chain, but all along the way CRM weaknesses are popping up. While its easy to arm chair quarterback, had crew operations been included from the earliest days of flight training, one has to wonder if it wouldn’t have made a difference.

Test your own CRM with this scenario simulator from Transport Canada.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *