Saving priMate CRM



Power distance index

Crew resource management (CRM) concept and training was introduced four decades ago. The objective was to improve flight safety through understanding human factors in accidents.

CRM is limited to “understanding” through various means of delivery and assessments. Intentional noncompliance is a major concern when it comes to crew behaviour. There is no effort to control or modify behaviour. If human behaviour is unaffected, why would CRM strategies be effective? Humans will continue to play havoc & behave the way they have been programmed.

There is a need to save CRM which is now no more than a necessity rather than an effective training intervention/tool to improve safety. With artificial intelligence and deep learning slated to enter the cockpit of the modern airliner, there would be a third person in the cockpit or AI may just replace the co-pilot! What would the CRM needs in the reconfigured cockpit is worth giving a thought.


In the 1970’s investigators discovered that more than 70% of air crashes involve human error rather than failures of equipment or weather. The majority of crew errors consist of failures in leadership, team coordination, and decision making (Cooper, White, & Lauber, 1980).

The response of the aviation community was to develop new kinds of psychological training for flight crews that focus on group dynamics, leadership, interpersonal communications, and decision making (Helmreich & Foushee, 1993). These programs were initially known as Cockpit Resource Management (CRM).

CRM development

First generation: The program initiated by United Airlines in 1981 (Helmreich et al., 1999) was called Command-Leadership-Resource Management (CLR) (Helmreich, 2006). It consisted of a series of seminars during which the participants analyzed their own management styles.

Contributions made for NASA were used by Blake and Mouton, pioneers in management consulting, whose work acquired relevance in the field of work and organizational psychology, to the point that their theory, known
as the managerial grid (Blake & Mouton, 1964, 1985) appears in any self-respecting manual. The managerial grid consists of a numerical matrix to identify the different styles of leadership, depending on the two dimensions that are considered fundamental: the interest in people and the interest in production or results.

The theory of these authors considers that the optimal management style harmoniously combines concern for people
and for results, following on from the then famous Theory Y, by McGregor (1960), a key work of organizational psychology.

Over the past four decades, there have been 6 generations of CRM.

Objective of CRM

The objective of Crew Resource Management (CRM) Training is to improve flight safety through the understanding of the Human Factor in Aircraft accidents and incidents, and through effective use of error management strategies in individuals as well as in the system.

IATA report for Evidence Based Training

Despite efforts to eradicate unstable approaches and to mandate a go-around when conditions require, the rate of occurrence remains significant. A major concern of unstable approaches is the disregard of the SOP’s, in addition to the efficacy of threat and error management during the entire flight. According to the LOSA report, there is a “90% (SOP) violation factor” in terms of not executing a go-around from an unstable approach.

IATA Data Report for Evidence-Based Training 2014

After decades of CRM training and assessments, there are an alarming 59% flights with intentional noncompliance and an undesired aircraft state.

The LOSA report states: “As the rate of intentional non-compliance increases, the rate of errors detected and acted on decreases.” There is a negative correlation between the rate of non-compliance and the rate of errors detected and acted upon.” That is to say that non-compliance is an inhibitor to detection and correction (i.e., multiplier in a negative sense). This is true across all error types”.

Of the various intentional non-compliance error types, the higher rates generally occur with procedural errors. Commanders display significantly more non-compliance than first officers.

Over 50% of checklist errors involve some form of intentional non-compliance. The vast majority of non-compliance checklist errors are attributable to the crew, only around 10% to external influences such as ATC. Almost half of all non-compliance checklist errors occur during pre-flight and taxi out, which may be related to on time performance pressures and distractions.

There are multiple examples of high-risk situations exacerbated by non-compliance behavior, according to the LOSA Report, e.g., terrain, weather, traffic in addition to as well as approach and runway issues.

Compliance issues are also highlighted in the IATA 2008/2009 accident reports. Furthermore, compliance is listed as one of the top 3 threats to safety according to the UK CAA CAP 776, “Global Fatal Accident Review 1997-2006”. According to the EBT Pilot Survey on Training Effectiveness, 18% of respondents admit to deviating from checklists frequently and 21% of pilot respondents admit to deviations to standard call outs on virtually every flight.

mindFly analysis

Pilot training is devoid of empirical studies and the data available is highly subjective and loaded with bias. Therefore the training industry continues to use different methodologies, hoping that they would eventually make some difference.

Attitude is the key element of competency based training but it is not measured. What is measured is the behavioural indicator which is considered an indirect indicator of the attitude. However, it is an incorrect assumption.

LOSA Data supports the fact that intentional noncompliance is an area of grave concern. This attitude leads to accidents and thus marks the failure of CRM. No amount of CRM training will bring about a change in behaviour or attitude simply because its objective is just to develop understanding.

There is an urgent need to develop strategies to control/modify human behaviour by implementing methodologies which are proven effective in habit formation or behaviour modification in the long run. Saving priMate CRM therefore is the need of the hour.

About Capt. Amit Singh

I think therefore I am Airlines Operations and Safety balance expert. A former head of operations/training and safety of successful LCC's in India. An experienced member of the startup teams of these airlines has hands-on experience in establishing airlines systems and processes.

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