Crew Resource Management, more commonly known as CRM, is crew training that is designed to focus on group dynamics, crew coordination, communication skills, leadership and decision-making. However, CRM wasn’t always around when it came to aviation. In 1978, United Airlines Flight 173 (UAL 173) was on a scheduled flight from New York City to Portland, Oregon when it crash in a neighborhood in Portland as a result of running out of fuel. Upon investigation, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) found that the First Officer (FO), while aware of the fuel issue, did not assert himself enough to the Captain to communicate this. As a result of UAL 173, the NTSB indicated that FOs needed assertiveness training, and participative management was needed by Captains in the cockpit.
CRM seeks to solve some of the challenges we face in aviation. Often, those in any type of flying occupation are thrown together with people they have never met, with differing personalities, and different levels of experience. In the past, flight training focused on the technical knowledge and skills, not the skills needed to help everyone work together. Common challenges include: forming a group from strangers, becoming a team, integrating skills, maintaining vigilance, and responding to demanding conditions as a coordinated team.
As a result of UAL 173 and other research, it is found that “over 70% of accidents were due to human error and group performance problems” (Jensen, 2015). This includes leadership team coordination and decision-making in all phases of the flight.
CRM & Me…
So you might be wondering what CRM has to do with you. As a whole, CRM is focused on changing attitudes, which have been found easier to modify than personalities. Types of training, such as practicing assertiveness, help to bring a balance to a situation where a procedure is unclear, or a member of the crew is overloaded. Participative management is taught so that the Captain learns to effectively manage the workload that everyone carries and recognizes the needs and concerns of the rest of the crew. When used correctly, participative management is high which means the need for assertiveness is low. CRM is all about changing attitudes of those all around you – when participative management is used correctly, everyone has the right attitude needed to complete the mission in a safe and effective manner.
Now, I know a lot of my readers aren’t necessarily pilots. However, CRM isn’t just used in aviation. It applies well to any situation when you are working with a group of people that may not know each other well. So, try applying the assertiveness technique next time you’re in a situation where you need to bring up an important and vital piece of information – it could save lives.
Stay tuned – next week I’ll be checking in from the 2015 National Business Aviation Association Convention held in Las Vegas, Nevada!
Dr. Warren Jensen, University of North Dakota, Introduction to Crew Resource Management, Lecture, Fall 2015.