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PHD. MBA. MHS. Type rated on A350, A330, B777, B747-400, B747-200, 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. Fighting for Aviation Safety and Airline Employee Advocacy. Safety Culture and SMS change agent.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016


From the Early Years Forward...

The early years of aviation saw many safety challenges resulting in regulatory change due to economics, more so than safety; yet, eventually the FAA became a dual gatekeeper of safety and economic protection (Adamski & Doyle, 2010; Gesell & Dempsey, 2011). The aviation industry expanded quickly and aircraft crashes were due, in part, to under-developed technology, the inability to avoid weather, and a paucity of ground support systems (Perrow, 1999). 
Early aircraft were unsteady, demanded continuous pilot input, and required unyielding attention due to unreliable external cues for navigation (Mosier, 2010). Aircraft technology evolved, and human factors specialists worked with engineering and flight crews to reduce cockpit workload. In the early 1970s CRM became the first regulatory mandate to deal with crew interpersonal and communication issues (Helmreich, Merritt, & Wilhelm, 1999). 

Crew Resource Management (CRM) 

Crew resource management (originally termed cockpit resource management) was a movement to teach crewmembers interpersonal and communication skills in effort to reduce pilot error. CRM was not a one-time fix, but a process that evolved over five developmental generations during the 1990s—theory; teamwork emphasis; team expansion; AQP; and TEM (Helmreich, et. al., 1999). 
One of the greatest challenges with CRM was to convince pilots that they needed to improve their communication skills (Helmreich, et. al., 1999). However, once leadership understood that errors were unavoidable, but could be mitigated, corporate support was gained (Broyhill & Freiwald, 2012). CRM was mandated, and programs were developed and subsequently forced upon flight crews. Despite resistance from some, CRM took hold and became the way flight crews operated—CRM became embedded in airline culture (Broyhill & Freiwald, 2012; Helmreich, et. al., 1999; Valazquez & Bier, 2015). When CRM moved into simulator training in the form of AQP, operational training combined with interpersonal communication practice ensued. 


Advanced Qualification Program (AQP)

AQP provided airlines an economic benefit by granting training departments the ability to reduce training footprints with a train-to-proficiency concept (FAA, 2006), notably reducing training expense. At the same time, airlines were required to track crew performance to ascertain training effectiveness, yet managers were perplexed how to accomplish this task (Nemeth, 2015). AQP also required the inclusion of CRM training, line oriented flight training (LOFT), and line operational evaluation (LOE) scenarios (FAA, 2006). 
These training/checking scenarios changed traditional processes where a pilot was trained and checked on individual performance, to training and checking crew-based performance (Helmreich, et. al., 1999). Line-oriented training processes not only enabled crews to learn how to manage the aircraft, but also worked toward improving team and communication skills. With the availability of highly reliable automated aircraft, designed to reduce workload and improve situation awareness (SA), training departments could achieve results quicker than ever before. CRM opened the door to exceptional communication, where crewmember briefings began with, “Today the threats are…” 

Threat and Error Management (TEM) 


TEM, the essence of fifth generation CRM, was developed to assist pilots with identifying operational threats in order to mitigate risk (Helmreich, Klinect, & Wilhelm, 2001; Mathew &Thomas, 2004). TEM began the bold shift from the reactive safety strategy of CRM, to a proactive strategy where the pilots assessed their environment (inside and out of the flight deck), and openly discussed potential threats (Helmreich, et. al., 1999). Accepting that errors would occur, and identifying areas of potential threat, created awareness and assisted pilots in not only anticipating those threats, but prepared them mentally for the unexpected event (Helmreich, et. al., 1999; Merkt, 2010). Trained observers subsequently joined pilots in the line environment to observe behavior. 
References available upon request!

Enjoy the Journey!!
XO Karlene


  1. Karlene, you bring two points and nailed them well. Communication and pro-active vs. re-active. Both are a must and with out them, we wouldn't want to think what would happen with out them.

    Ok, must get back to work, however, wanted to reply quickly. Have a great day!!

    1. Jeremy, Thank you so much! Yes, we need to remember both in a fight for safety. And... on every flight for safety too. :)


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