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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.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The Wright Stuff...

Team Assessment, Stress 
and Communications... 


Captain Jim Wright sent a wonderful comment on his impression and correlation between aviation and maritime with lessons learned in The Pilot Factor. Today is day two of that assessment.



Team Assessment

Your novels (Flight For Control and Flight For Safety) suggested that “team assessment” in aviation begins in the airport crew room before boarding the aircraft. A Flight for Safety incident described a Captain who did not adopt the best techniques for inspiring a sense of “team confidence” in his abilities. Additionally, his disinterest in assessing the FO’s flying skills worked against CRM principles. The net result was that overall team performance was less than it could have been.


 

“Assessment” with regard to maritime pilotage is a two-way street. Upon entering the wheelhouse the pilot begins an assessment of the “bridge team” at the same time that the “bridge team” is assessing the pilot. Many years of experience with this “waltz” has convinced me that the pilot should considered him/herself as a stage actor with the wheelhouse being the stage and the bridge team as the audience. Just as Lawrence Olivier successfully convinced theater audiences to accept him as “Hamlet” so the pilot should instill confidence in the “bridge team” to trust him/her with the conduct of their vessel.


Good maritime pilots tend to become perceptive observers (assessors) of the “bridge team’s” level of confidence in the pilot. For example, Asian Captains and Mates typically demonstrate an increasing level of anxiety by sucking through their teeth – a speed reduction often eliminates the sucking. On another occasion during one memorable nighttime pilotage transit through a narrow and shallow passage in SW Alaska, the Russian Captain put his arm around my shoulder and whispered, “Are we safe yet?” (See Stress below)

 

Team Communications

Although English is the compulsory language for maritime pilotage (and presumably for aviation), the “Pilot” and the “Team” often speak different languages which can be quite challenging. The challenge increases when individual members of the “team” speak different languages and occasionally do not communicate well with each other.

An additional communication problem in both aviation and maritime can arise when a response to a question is not the expected answer. Taking action on the expected response rather than the actual response appears to have been the cause of the Tenerife collision between the Pan-Am and KLM 747’s. 


In other cases communications have been left unresolved. One such incident occurred maybe 20 years ago during a charter flight from Anchorage to Tatitlek (Prince William Sound) in a Navajo with 2 pilots and 2 passengers. We had an IFR clearance at 10,000 to Johnstone Pt where we hoped to find a hole to descend through over the water and then go visual below the ceiling to the Tatitlek airport. We were maybe 15 – 20 minutes West of Johnstone Pt when we heard AK-Air contacting Anchorage Center. ATC’s response was something like, “Alaska 91 descend and maintain 10,000 – contact Anchorage Center at Johnstone Point on ….” In my simple mind the possibility of meeting each other at the same altitude seemed worth considering. About that time the FO asked the Capt. “Did you hear that? – What do you think?” The Capt said something like, “yeah….” and we pressed on to Johnstone Point at 10,000. We probably were never even close to AK-91 although that unresolved communication between the Capt. and FO has continued to roll around in my mind over the years. "

Stress

When discussing stress in BRM-P classes we compare “eustress” (good stress) with “distress” (bad stress) and look at how each condition affects decision making. Empirical evidence has shown that “eustress” enhances SA and “distress” diminishes SA. Airline pilots probably experience the same feeling of “eustress” when approaching the runway threshold as marine pilots feel when 3 or 4 ship lengths from the berth. Advice given to me in my early piloting days illustrates that concept..

“If the ship is not where you want it to be then get it there (Eustress) and if you don’t know where you want the ship to be (distress) then you shouldn’t be in this line of work." 
Jim Wright

Tomorrow 

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