There are many reasons why those involved with the airline safety commit errors that on occasion lead to the injury or death of innocent people - people who had every right to expect better of their caretakers. Such accidents can be traced to many broad categories. Categories such as weather, mechanical malfunction, terrorist acts or into what may be termed ‘acts of God’. Apart from these, perhaps the most important and the fundamental category are errors attributed to the ‘human factor’ such as sheer carelessness, inexperience, personality flaws, fatigue, in adequate training or inadequate operating instructions. However, the irony aspect of this issue is that in most of the cases, accidents were resulted from the performance error made by healthy and properly qualified individuals though it is a somewhat ambiguous term and is in our haste to attribute an accident to somebody - the pilot.
Over the past decade, one of the most striking developments in aviation safety has been the overwhelming endorsement and widespread implementation of training programs aimed at “Human Factor” to increasing the effectiveness of crew coordination and well being of crew resource management. (Human Factor Digest No.1, 1989)
Crew Resource Management
Crew Resource Management (CRM) training has become an integral part of many training programs for the pilots and other aviation personnel. Wiener, Kanki and Helmreich (1993) have defined CRM as ‘using all available resources - information, equipment, and people - to achieve safe and efficient flight operations’ (p.4, 1993). Thus, training in CRM involves communicating basic knowledge of human factor concepts that relates to aviation such as leadership, effective team formation and maintenance, problem solving, decision-making, and maintaining situation awareness.
One of the most important keys to good crew management, as in much management position is communication among the crew members. Information must be requested, offered and/ or given freely in a timely way to permit the captain to make accurate, effective decisions. It also requires an understanding of communication styles used by other members of the crew for interpretation and to determine the proper emphasis for a response. Finally, it requires an understanding and acceptance of the unique role and the leadership responsibility of each of the crew members. Therefore, the primary emphasis in CRM training is in interpersonal communications. (Jensen, 1995)
Communication and Resources
Robbins, (1998) referred communication to a process where information is transmitted between two or more people. (p.345, 1998) However, effective communication is essential for the safe operation of flight as operating modern aircraft is a high-stakes profession with lives invested in every flight. And messages can be transferring by speech, by the written word, by a variety of symbols and displays (e.g. instruments, CRT, maps) or by non-verbal means such as gestures and body language.
There are three elements in the process of communication, namely sender, message and receiver. The communication process begins with the sender transmitting content of his/ her idea in a best possible way to enable the receiver to understand the message best. This process is called encoding. Upon receiving the encoded message, the receiver then interprets the message in a process known as decoding. This process is followed by a certain action of the receiver to reciprocate to the sender’s message. (Kaye, 1994)
Applying to the case study, Lloyd Steiner had demonstrated that he was lacked of communication flows with Gene Westin. In the office, Lloyd was seated at his desk and he realized that planning the jet trip was beyond his experience, and he did not ask for any assistance with Gene. As Gene was a novice corporate pilot who makes his first duty for Qual, he was assigned to assist Lloyd on a flight to Freemont. During the flight, he felt unsure about Lloyd’s intentions for several times yet Lloyd was fully confidence with his experiences. This situation had aggravated a barrier in communication between both of them. This is known to be the non-verbal form of downward communication which has be lead to the misunderstanding between both pilots. As being a superior and well-experienced pilot, Lloyd should be more welcoming towards Gene. For instance, he may just ask Gene to have a seat for a moment while he finished with his telephone call - whilst offering him a cup of tea just to ease a certain stress tension or anxiety one may have encounter on a first flight. Also the pre-flight briefing is another way of communication with the crew coordination.
Leadership and Crew Management
A crew is a group and arguably the most critical resource in Crew resource management. Wiener, Kanki and Helmreich recogises that groups fly crew-served airplanes, for a number of reasons. “As a direct result of the limitations and imperfections of individual humans, multi-piloted aircraft cockpits were designed to ensure needed redundancy” (p.75 1993).
Leadership is a process of influencing an organized group toward accomplishing it’s goals. Directing and coordinating the work of group members, as well as transforming follower, creating visions of the goals that may be attained, and articulating for the followers the ways to attain those goals.
Due to the fact that Gene was new to his working environment, it was foreseeable that, Lloyd did not establish any task for him. Whiles the aeroplane was encountering moderate turbulence, even though the circuit breaker has tripped, Lloyd would rather handle by himself. As being a proficient crew captain, the level of trust, delegation, evaluation and perform high level of competence is a fundamental of good leadership. In order to improve Lloyd’s poor leadership and crew management skills, it is necessary for him to attend some CRM or management training session. In addition, establishing receptiveness, attentiveness, cooperative, assertiveness are the roles of the crew management.
Aeronautical Decision Making and Situational Awareness
The nature of the processes involved in a decision depends on the structure of the decision task and the conditions surrounding it. However, crew decision-making is not one thing. Crews make many different kinds of decisions, but all involve situation assessment, choice among alternatives, and assessment of risk. The decisions are differ in the degree to which they call on different types of cognitive processes. Endsley (1988) defined the situation awareness as the perception of the elements in the environment within a volume of time and space, the comprehension of their meaning of that status in the near future. Thus the situation awareness involves interpreting situational cues to recognize that a problem exists which may require a decision or action.
In this case, Lloyd was trying to avoid a fuel stop, so he has chosen an inappropriate route even though he recognize that the bad weather might build up near the midpoint of the route. Although he can arrive at Freemont to pick up their customers, it seems that he has made a poor decision with his route. Especially when encountering moderate turbine from a thunderstorms, there is a risk involved in his choice. For the poor situation awareness with Lloyd, he could not clarify the risk with the problems, even attempt the need for actions. As a result he should realized that the valuable on decision making and situation awareness, and he may start to consider the improvement by CRM training.
Assessing the impact of the “Human Factor” in this case, the critical performance of the crew members are not only affected by these three factors.
¨ Human Factors Digest No.1, (1989). Circular 216-AN/131, Fundamental Human Factor Concepts, ICAO, Canada.
¨ Jensen, R.S. (1995). Pilot Judgement and Crew Resources Management. Avebury Aviation, England.
¨ Kaye, M. (1994), Communication Management, Prentice Hall, Sydney.
¨ Robbins, S.P. (1998). Organisational Theory: Concepts and Cases. Prentice Hall
¨ Wiener, E.L., Kanki, B.G., & Helmreich, R.L., (1993). Cockpit Resource Management. Academic Press, California
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