• Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Instagram
  • Youtube
Helicopter Flight Training Sponsors

The Evolution of CRM

Posted 7 years 313 days ago ago by Admin


In the 1960s and ‘70s a disease seemed to strike the airline industry that caused airliners to crash for no known reason. NASA called a “Resource Management on the Flight Deck” workshop that identified human error as the main cause of several high-profile accidents. NASA’s research uncovered that from 1968 to 1976 there were 60 airliners that crashed due to elements of human error. Researching back further through the Boeing archives to 1940, NASA discovered that four out of five accidents—80 percent—had an element of human error. Since that workshop, six generations of CRM have emerged. 

In the early ‘80s, first-generation CRM was very modular in nature and was adapted from management training courses based heavily on psychology. Then in 1986, second-generation CRM programs began focusing more on group dynamics and the name changed from "cockpit" to "crew" resource management. Similar to first-generation CRM programs, second-generation CRM programs were also presented in a very modular fashion, covering such topics as decision-making, team building, briefing strategies, situation awareness, and stress management. This generation of CRM saw a shift in attitude towards CRM training and recognition that CRM should be embedded in all aspects of training and operations.

Then third-generation CRM programs emerged, advocating a systems approach to training that broadened the target audience to include other flight crew, dispatchers, and maintenance personnel. These programs often included discussions about organizational issues, such as corporate culture. This generation of CRM resulted in increased efforts to identify specific skills and behaviors that would enhance team coordination, while also providing dedicated CRM training to check airman and other personnel responsible for the training, reinforcement, and evaluation of CRM skills and behaviors. 

The fourth generation of CRM emerged in the early ‘90s when the FAA initiated the voluntary Advanced Qualification Program (AQP). While this program gave operators increased training flexibility to fit the needs of their organizations, it required them to provide line-oriented flight training (LOFT) and CRM, with CRM also required to integrate into technical training. As a result, there was some movement towards including CRM in routine manuals and checklists, as well as evaluating CRM skills in flight simulators. 

Threat and Error Management
A growing concern began to form that the original focus of CRM had been lost, so a fifth generation of CRM emerged. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) states that the fundamental purpose of CRM training is "to improve flight safety through the effective use of error management strategies in individual as well as systemic areas of influence.” Therefore, threat and error management (TEM) was integrated into CRM.

Fifth-generation CRM represents a return to the traditional aim of CRM: the reduction of human error, which can be defined as an "action or inaction that leads to deviation from crew intentions or situational requirements such as policies, regulations, and standard operating procedures."  Error management, in the context of CRM training, is the actions taken either to reduce the probability of errors occurring (error avoidance) or to deal with errors committed either by detecting and correcting them before they have operational impact (error trapping) or to contain and reduce the severity of those that become consequential (error mitigation). 

Fifth-generation CRM programs also include instruction on human performance limitations, and focus on providing strategies to effectively avoid, trap, or mitigate errors that may be encountered during a flight. Previous topics from earlier generations of CRM training are often included in fifth-generation programs; however, the modules are aligned with the overall theme of error management.

The current sixth generation of CRM continues where fifth-generation programs left off. Following a series of line operations safety audit (LOSA) studies where flight crews were observed during routine flights, the University of Texas Human Factors Crew Resource Project team found that pilots were often required to manage threats, errors, and undesired aircraft states. TEM advocates both the careful analysis of potential hazards and taking the appropriate steps to avoid, trap, or mitigate threats and errors before they lead to an undesired aircraft state. In other words, TEM stresses anticipation, recognition, and recovery as the key principles behind threat and error management. TEM also recognizes the importance of undesired aircraft state management, as that management represents the last opportunity for flight crews to prevent an adverse outcome.

Recent Developments
Research into the field of human factors as it applies to CRM is ongoing and new initiatives continue to emerge. The integration of CRM into training and operations via clearly defined standard operating procedures represents a move towards the establishment of CRM processes, rather than simply awareness training. Many operators have recognized the importance of scenario-based training as an effective way of teaching CRM skills because it allows pilots to practice skills and receive valuable reinforcement.

In recent years, there has been more focus on decision-making during CRM training. This approach views effective decision-making as the most important indicator of flight crew success, and traditional CRM subjects are presented as processes that assist decision-making. 

The U.K.’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) have established a series of stringent accreditation requirements for CRM Instructors (CRMIs)—which I have completed—and for CRM Instructor Examiners (CRMIEs). This accreditation process is designed to help ensure an acceptable standard of CRM instruction and evaluation, as individuals who receive this accreditation must meet a number of experience-related prerequisites, as well as demonstrate that they possess the necessary knowledge and skill to instruct or evaluate CRM before they are permitted to carry out those duties. In the U.K. and Europe the accreditation process also involves a renewal process every three years to ensure that previously qualified CRMIs and CRMIEs continue to meet the required standard. In the USA and Canada, there are no experience, training, or qualification requirements needed to teach CRM.  
In my view, there should be.

Fly safely!

About Randy: Randy Mains is an author, public speaker, and a CRM/AMRM consultant who works in the helicopter industry after a long career of aviation adventure. He currently serves as chief CRM/AMRM instructor for Oregon Aero. He may be contacted at [email protected]