Critique and Proposed Revision of Crew Resource Management (CRM): A New Paradigm

Critique and Proposed Revision of Crew Resource Management (CRM): A New Paradigm

Ronald John Lofaro (FAA (ret.), USA) and Kevin M. Smith (United Airlines (ret.) & USNR (ret.), USA)
Copyright: © 2012 |Pages: 27
DOI: 10.4018/jitr.2012040104


It is well over 30 years since the first (then called) cockpit resource management (CRM) training, now called crew resource management was introduced. It is a shibboleth, a sacred cow as it were, despite many issues, concerns, and changes over the years. Some 20 years ago, 1992, an Air Transport Association (ATA)/Federal Aviation Association (FAA)-sponsored Workshop was convened in an attempt to deal with some specific CRM issues. Yet the issues and needs as articulated in Workshop, and some newer ones, remain. Thus, this Chapter is 20 years overdue, leading to the questions: why now and is it still relevant? Why now? As said, some needs, issues, concerns remain. The relevancy is that we present both a critique of civil aviation CRM on many levels and a look/comparison with current USAF, USCG, and USN CRM. The authors include a proposed skeleton/template for a long-overdue revision of civil aviation CRM.
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CRM training was first developed in the late 1970’s/early 1980’s after a series of disastrous and fatal aircarrier accidents; accidents where perfectly functioning planes crashed; beginning with the Eastern Airlines L-1011 in 1972 that crashed on an approach to Miami, killing 104 persons and culminating, so to speak, with the 1978 United DC-8 which ran out of fuel, after circling for an hour, approaching Portland, OR. That pilot repeatedly ignored verbal input from crew members that they were to the point of not having enough fuel on board to reach their destination. Indeed and sadly, this was true and the plane crashed. Fortunately very few (10 out of 189) people perished. But, that accident that was seized on as paradigmatic; the pilot's attitude and actions were somehow seen as relatively endemic to airline Captains. Nothing could be further from the truth...this type of Captain were anomalies. Perhaps 1% to 2% of airline Captains acted in such a manner; after all who wants to die? Captain Smith, in his 34 years of flying with United, as line pilot, check airman and flight training center time, has verified that what that pilot did was egregious, but also not typical. Yet, why was this accident allowed to become a cornerstone for CRM? Why indeed?

The flying public wanted assurances that something was being done to counteract the root causes of those highly-publicized 1970-1980's accidents. The aircarriers were extremely concerned about the impact of negative publicity on their bottom line. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulates aviation in the United States (U.S.). The federal regulations covering aviation are all found in Combined Federal Regulations (CFR), Title 14, Aeronautics and Space; these are commonly referred to as the FARs. These are divided into parts and each part has a descriptive title and is a specific and detailed regulation. A major example is CFR 14, Part 121 is the FAR titled Operating Requirement: Domestic Flight and Supplemental Operations, usually referred to simply as Part 121. Remember that back then the FAA's stated mission was to ensure flight safety AND promote airline travel; difficult if not oxymoronic.

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