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My Two Cents Worth - April 2015

Posted 9 years 39 days ago ago by Admin


In the 1989 movie Field of Dreams, Kevin Costner hears ghostly voices coming from his Iowa cornfield telling him, “If you build it they will come,” meaning he should build a baseball diamond and former members from the Chicago Black Sox would come. Each day for the two months that I worked building a crew resource management instructor’s course, a similar line kept replaying in my head: What if I build it and no one comes?

    I’ve been evaluating CRM in the two-crew helicopter cockpit for 30 of the 45 years I’ve been in aviation, but I wanted something else. I wanted to become certified to teach CRM in ground school. I’d be shocked at what I didn’t find.

    When I began looking for CRM instructor (CRMI) courses in the States, I couldn’t find one. Perplexed, bewildered, and a little shocked, I asked the two highly experienced CRM instructors with whom I worked at Abu Dhabi Aviation if they knew of such a course? Without hesitation they both recommended Global Air Training (GAT) in Cheshire, England. They told me GAT had a stellar 16-year international reputation training CRM instructors for the airlines and the military, offering a course approved by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), the UK CAA, the FAA, the EU-OPS, and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). The 5-day, 40-hour course turned out to be one of the best aviation courses I ever took.   

    In March 2013 the FAA finally mandated that all Part 135 air taxi operators must undergo CRM training. I saw this as an opportunity to perhaps make a hands-on difference to lower the helicopter accident rate. I left my job at Abu Dhabi Aviation to teach and facilitate CRM courses back home.  

    All went well for about a year and a half teaching and facilitating courses across America and Canada, and then one day I suddenly had an epiphany. To spread a wider net, why not train suitable candidates to become CRM instructors for their organizations? With that thought in mind I took on the herculean task of designing and building a CRMI course wondering: If I built it, would they come?  

Where to start?

    The short answer is … not with the FAA. If you’ve ever read AC 120-51E on CRM or AC 00-64 on air medical resource management (AMRM), the FAA points out that CRM courses should be given by trained instructors and facilitators. There the problem lies; the FAA offers no guidance on how to train someone to teach CRM.

Choosing the best model

    From personal experience I knew the UK and EASA were years ahead in their implementation of CRM practices. For example, to become a CRMI you must first attend an approved 5-day, 40-hour course like the one I attended with GAT. A CRM examiner (CRME) then evaluates delegates while teaching and facilitating a CRM class.  In my mind, the UK and EASA models were the gold standard.

    The airlines and military aviation discovered decades ago that facilitation is the most successful method to deliver a CRM class to change behavior. The FAA points this out as well, but doesn’t tell you how to go about it. In Europe, they do.

    It took me a while to learn how to be a facilitator because I had to suppress years of habits acquired as an instructor. Being a facilitator requires a different set of skills. From the CRM courses I’d attended over the years I’d seen facilitation in action, but I had never done it myself. Unlike being an instructor, which is mainly a “telling” activity, a facilitator doesn’t tell delegates how to behave. A facilitator guides delegates to come up with the answer themselves, making them more likely to buy into it. For effective CRM, behaviors need to change. That cannot occur if team members are made to sit in front of a computer numbly answering questions or are lectured to by an instructor standing behind a podium.

    In the CRMI course I attended in England, we practiced facilitation skills on the other delegates in the class. Delegates in my course do the same by practicing instructional and facilitation skills in a friendly, safe, and intimate environment while giving three presentations to the other five members of the course using PowerPoint, a whiteboard, and flip charts. I limit each class to a maximum of six to ensure there is ample time for individual instruction and practice facilitation.

    At the end of my course each delegate receives a certificate of completion, a 250-page color instructor’s manual covering the 2-day CRM course, and a flash drive containing all 12-module plug-and-play PowerPoint presentations with slides, pictures, and video clips that they can immediately present to their team members when they return to their respective flight programs.

    When I finished building my course (which took 500 hours), I wondered with more than a little anxiety if they would come to my baseball diamond in the cornfield.  What I’ve learned from this journey is … they will. My first course was filled in one week and I’ve had queries for future courses from Australia, Denmark, and Chile.

    The delegates who attended my first course were: Mike Gilpin, chief pilot at Helicopter Transport Services; Rob Fournier, safety officer for Helicopter Transport Services; Ian Robinson, president of Five Star Helicopters; David Tappe, director of training and standards at CHI Aviation; and Geoff Painter, chief pilot and owner of Cloud 9 Helicopters. The combined flight time in the room totaled over 66,500 hours. 

    At the end of the course the positive feedback was unanimous, which caused me to let out a huge sigh of relief. Hopefully, the efforts of these newly minted CRM instructors and facilitators, along with the efforts of others I will mentor in the future, will hasten the day when I see a reduction in the helicopter accident rate at home, something I had only wished for in my personal Field of Dreams.