Crew Resource Management


This is a set of training procedures for use in environments where human error can have devastating effects. Used primarily for improving aviation safety, CRM focuses on interpersonal communication, leadership, and decision making in the cockpit of an airliner. Its pioneer was David Beaty, a former Royal Air Force pilot and later a BOAC pilot who wrote his seminal book The Human Factor in Aircraft Accidents in the late 1950s. Despite the considerable development of electronic aids since then, many of principles he developed continue to prove effective today.

Crew resource management formally began with a National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recommendation made during their investigation of the 1978 United Airlines Flight 173 crash. The issues surrounding that crash included a DC-8 crew running out of fuel over Portland, Oregon while troubleshooting a landing gear problem.

The term "cockpit resource management" (later generalized to "crew resource management") was coined in 1979 by NASA psychologist John Lauber who had studied communication processes in cockpits for several years. While retaining a command hierarchy, the concept was intended to foster a less authoritarian cockpit culture, where co-pilots were encouraged to question captains if they observed them making mistakes.

Crew resource management grew out of the 1977 Tenerife airport disaster where two Boeing 747 aircraft collided on the runway killing 583 people. A few weeks later, NASA held a workshop on the topic, endorsing this innovative training. United Airlines was the first airline to provide CRM training for its cockpit crews in 1981. By the 1990s, it had become a global standard.

United Airlines additionally trained their flight attendants to use CRM in conjunction with the pilots to provide another layer of enhanced communication and teamwork. Studies have shown that by both work groups using CRM together, communication barriers are reduced and problems can be solved more efficiently, leading to increased safety. CRM training concepts have been modified for application to a wide range of activities where people must make dangerous time-critical decisions. These arenas include air traffic control, ship handling, firefighting, and medical operating rooms.


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