The Importance of Crew Resource Management in Aviation

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One of the primary resource management’s premises is that a team is required to perform than the individuals at the cockpit. Proper crew resource management involves having a balance in the group and recognizing that it is the responsibility of the captain to give the final say and ensure the safety of the aircraft. For them to be useful in carrying out all the assigned duties there is need to communicate, be able to listen to each other and be assertive where required. The commanders have to ensure that the crew is effectively functioning. The principles of effective crew resource management include the company experts, ATC, and maintenance who are involved in the team. According to a recent study in the UK, about 40 % of the 249 F/O's reported, happened due to failure in communication whereby the commanders did not communicate to the captains about the doubts they had concerning the operation of the aircraft. A possible reason for this would be to avoid conflicts.

Case Report

            There is a case that shocked people in the year 2009 on 15th January whereby a U.S Airways Flight 1549 landed in the Hudson River with no one getting injured. The Plane had 150 passengers, 3 flight attendants, and two pilots, but none lost their lives. All the fatalities that could have occurred to the victims such as hypothermia or drowning did not happen. Although the plane crashed, the loss of altitude made the captain land in the river instead of a populated area. According to his co-pilot, another reason for opting to land in the river was to ensure that the passengers would be quickly saved due to the proximity of numerous ferry boats. The trained ferry boat captains managed to rescue the passengers rapidly to avoid hypothermia. Clear instructions from the crew also helped some passengers to obtain assistance from their colleagues, and no passenger drowned.

The passengers were able to utilize their last minutes of airtime to read the instructions at the safety card which enabled the plane to evacuate quickly in accordance to the guidelines which state that it should leave within 90 seconds. The evacuation was facilitated by police divers and the captain who checked twice to ensure that everyone was safe. One of the essential lessons that can be deduced from this incident is that it is imperative to check and verify various tasks involved during a flight, bearing in mind that functions have a significant impact on the reliability of flight effectiveness. The exit doors, emergency slides are double checked as well as engaging the girt bars during take-off and disengaging them during landing. This will ensure that the slide deploys the door when opened during an emergency.


            Communication is vital in the functioning of every industry, especially in the aircraft operations. A breakdown of communication has been attributed to the occurrence of aviation accidents and incidents (Bearman 2010, p.175). Communication involves giving feedback, presenting proposals and ideas, giving instructions and expressing feelings. When a sender sends a message, they expect a relevant response from the person receiving the signal. The mode of information may either be verbal or non-verbal. Verbal information may be functional or social and helps in building teamwork which is essential in flying and operating an aircraft. The sender should ensure that they are using the same communication channel, the message is meaningful and the language used is understood by all (Endsley 2016, p.25). Pilot –ATC communication is essential and should apply the Crew resource management principles as well as ATC communications employing standard phraseology.

            Non –verbal communication involves the use of gestures and can be accompanied by oral modes. It may also comprise the use of written notes or information, which is exchanged between pilots, the cabin crew, and the flight deck. There is a possibility of having more non-verbal communications in the future ground-air communication due to the increasing data link technology and related strategies which have replaced RTF communications between pilots and ATC. Nonverbal is the typical mode of communication in which systems pass information about their status. For instance, information in the aircraft cockpit is presented graphically. Nevertheless, the man-machine interface does not apply these non –verbal communication modes.

            There are two ways which can hinder effective passing of information, which are poor communication and lack of communication (Eisen and Savel 2009, p.913). For instance, when a flight deck crew informs the cabin crew of a potential precautionary emergency landing but does not warn them not to evacuate the cabin. The two problems can result in a following human error. If one party makes a particular kind of assumption, the sender may assume that the receiver is conversant with the terms used. The receiver assumes that the message means a specific thing whereas it implies something different. These problems can be minimized by making them unambiguous, and there is proper feedback. There are several hazards which lower the quality of communications.

 One of them is failures in the transmitting process which involves sending unclear or ambiguous information and language difficulties (Ginnett 2010, p.82). The second one is difficulties brought by a transmission media such as information distortion and background noises. Another hazard is failures during the process of receiving information such as wrong interpretation of the information and expectation of a different message. Physical problems in speaking and listening such as impaired hearing and wearing of masks is another hazard which reduces the quality of information. Lastly, it is the failures from interference between emotional and rational communication levels.

Decision Making

            Decision making encompasses selecting an option or making a judgment concerning a particular issue. It involves several processes (Jensen 2017, p.56). The first one is problem definition and diagnosis which comprises the process of collecting information required to define the issue at hand as well as the factors that have led to its happening. Some of the poor practices that may occur are not discussing the possible causes and failing to define the nature of the problem. It is essential to gather all the information and have a review of the factors causing the problem. The second step is generating options which involve generation of various responses to the question. The third one is assessing risk and selecting an option whereby the crew member’s asses the risks and benefits of the reactions to the issue (Liou et al., 2008, p.22). All these are achieved through discussions with the entire crew team, and a selected course of action is confirmed. The next step is decision making which involves a standard mnemonic to assist in remembrance of the effective making of decisions. It comprises P for the pool the facts, I for identifying the problem, l for looking for solutions, O for operate and T for taking stock.

            The process is aimed at promoting a cycle in the process. The taking stock helps in reviewing the original problem and gives the structure as well as aiding in making subsequent decisions when faced with strange issues. The decision-making process involves four critical priorities which are safety, schedule, economy and the comfort of the passengers.

Factors Influencing Effective Communication and Decision Making

            Three major factors affect effective conveying of information and making decisions in the airline crew (Mosier and Skitka 2018, p.203). One of them is delivery of information. In cases of high time, pressure and excitement speech is telegraphic and simplified whereby short simple and abbreviated sentences are used as well as cryptic expressions. The shorthand verbal information can cause misinterpretations and misunderstandings. Moreover, negative instructions are heard as positive instructions. The alterations in patterns of speech often affect interpretation and intelligibility of the message intended. Phonetic change is another form of speech alteration which comes as a result of pressure. Individuals alter vowel sounds which makes their pronunciation similar, therefore corrupting communication especially if a low fidelity telephone or microphone (Orasanu 2017, p.255). The second factor is receptivity of information which is affected by stress. There can occur a narrow perception and attention in case of stressful situations which can result in prioritizing a task in the expense of another. This phenomenon has led to losing information for most crews after they miss loud warnings and subtle cues. Further, pilots are sometimes engaged in solving mechanical problems which makes them forget announcing instructions to both passengers and flight attendants who might be stranded with no clue of what is going on.

            Other manifestations also affect communication and decision making in the crew. For instance, stress is known to lead to risky behavior (Wiener et al., 2010, p.201). Human beings are likely to decrease the alternative options as pressure goes up. Superior decision makers in aviation tend to take their time under stress. According to research, people who are under stress are more supplicant and obedient to authorities whereby junior members of the crew are passive and differential in a way that they are unable to pass relevant information to their superiors. Such an incident occurred in the Air Ontario accident at Dryden in the year 1989 whereby even though the qualified passengers passed their concerns concerning building of snow up on the wings, the flight attendants believed that the pilots already knew about the conditions but did not bother giving the information on the flight deck (Beach and Lipchitz 2017, p.840). Pressure increased due to earlier delays and weather factors and the plane crashed, killing 21 people including the flight attendant and pilots.

In conclusion, continuous flow of communication is an effective strategy to reduce ignorance of workload and conditions in the other sectors of the aircraft. It also reduces anxiety in the crewmembers and the passengers concerned in unusual situations. It is imperative for the crewmembers to be reminded that they should speak up in case of any concern. The decrease in communications is as a result of stress and can be eliminated through the practice of appropriate behaviors. Flight attendants can gain a lot through regular opportunities arising within the year to acquire and practice skills of reporting. Similarly, crewmembers need to regularly practice positive commands as well as learn to slow down their speech. Moreover, a check may be included in decision making to determine that there are no viable alternatives that are being overlooked.


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October 24, 2023

Business Government

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