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"We are the protagonists of our stories called life, and there is no limit to how high we can fly."

Type rated on A330, B747-400, B747, B757, B767, B737, B727. International Airline Pilot / Author / Speaker. Dedicated to giving the gift of wings to anyone following their dreams. Supporting Aviation Safety through training, writing, and inspiration.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Aviation, Maritime & The Wright Stuff

Awareness Cohesion 
and Management...

Captain Jim Wright

This week has been about the Wright Stuff by Captain Jim Wright. He read The Pilot Factor and that book got him thinking. When Captain Wright thinks... his lessons flow. More to contemplate by Captain Wright...


Team Awareness

My understanding of aviation is that while the cockpit crew might not know each other they have a reasonable expectation of a common understanding of the aircraft’s check lists, systems and procedures. This may not have always been the case. If you are an Ernest Gann fan you might recall the episode in “Fate is the Hunter” where both Ernie and the Captain thought the other knew how to start, taxi and take off a Connie – both were wrong.

In your aviation novels (Flight For Control and Flight For Safety) both the Captain and FO are considered (in most cases) to have the basic skills necessary to handle the aircraft. The incident in “Flight for Safety” where the FO was flying the approach with the sleeping Captain would be uncomfortable. The possible solutions for this type of problem can often trigger unexpected practical and/or legal consequences. Calling in sick might be the best option – but that just leaves someone else with the same problem.

My experience has been that the maritime pilot should inform the “bridge team” of his/her general plan but not include too much detail. Conveying excess detail to an unfamiliar “bridge team” can box the pilot into a plan that may prove unworkable and need to be changed on short notice. Since the shiphandling capabilities of the “bridge team” are usually unknown to the pilot it could be futile to try to keep everyone “in the loop”. It would seem that the opposite should be true in aviation because the cockpit “team” should have common flying skills.

Team Cohesion

In modern day aviation annals, the US Air landing in the Hudson has to be one of the best examples of the interaction of leadership, management and team cohesion. Going back in history, the United DC-10 into Sioux City was an exceptional example of leadership by Al Haynes to ensure that the cockpit crew used their skills to manage available aircraft control systems.


“Flight for Control"and “Flight for Safety” recounted examples of “negative team cohesion”. A solution for several of these situations was for the FO to become the real if not legal leader. Effective leadership is more a state of mind than a legal designation. A caveat is that if the effective and legal leaders are not the same person then “team cohesion” can become a difficult objective.

A maritime example of “team cohesion” occurred in the passenger vessel “Regent Star” in July 1995. During the early morning hours while transiting Knight Island Passage in Prince William Sound a fuel line fracture resulted in a massive engine room fire that disabled the vessel and left us adrift with the fire uncontrolled and spreading into the passenger areas. 
The pilot retained navigational control (effectively the leadership role) while the Master remained in command of the vessel. The pilot’s job was to ensure that the Master and the bridge team were maximizing their abilities to manage communications, successfully fight the fire and oversee the evacuation of 600+ passengers. As the day progressed, all hands performed admirably. Language anomalies including Greek, Italian, Indonesian, Asian and central European were successfully overcome. All passengers and non-essential crew were evacuated to the Holland American liner “Rotterdam” with minimal injuries and no loss of life. At the end of the day we had managed to tow “Regent Star” to Whittier and accomplish a dead-ship landing at an available berth.

Team Management

In aviation the Captain, as the leader, has the responsibility of allocating management responsibilities to crew members. When both Capt. and FO have questionable hand-flying skills for their assigned aircraft, as was the case in one of your novels, it seems that the Captain should plan the route (or adjust the planned route) to avoid a situation requiring anything above basic hand-flying skills. Once underway the cockpit crew would have to manage the resources necessary to support the Captain’s decision (wx radar, etc). Of course, this situation would not develop in the first place without a failure in both leadership and management at the corporate level.

The maritime pilot’s should provide the leadership to ensure the proper level of performance from the “bridge team”. The vessel’s Master (Captain) then bears the responsibility to manage the “bridge team” to achieve this goal. "

Concluding Thoughts:

"Although not a major feature in “The Pilot Factor” one of the more important factors in leadership is a sense of humor."

Captain Jim Wright
Captain Wright could not be more accurate 
about the power of Humor!  
Humor is so important it holds a chapter in 

The Publisher has the finished Book... We are days away!

Enjoy the Journey!
XO Karlene

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