CRM: History and Evolution

What is Crew Resource Management (CRM)?

Crew Resource Management can be defined as, “the effective use of all resources available to the flight crew, including equipment, technical / procedural skills, and the contributions of flight crew and others” (Taggart, 1994, p. 309). In the Early days, this definition would bear very little meaning to the pilot due to the ‘single pilot tradition in aviation’ (Helmreich, Foushee, 1993, p.4).

Traditionally, it was of the opinion that a pilot’s ability to perform safely was determined by the individual’s superior technical proficiency. But as the technical failures of aeroplanes reduced with the introduction of jet engines and automation and also, as aeroplanes became bigger and more complex, it became apparent that one person alone cannot handle all the activities. Taggart (1994) states that incidents analysed in the past 20 years indicate that over 65% of the accidents and incidents were caused not because of the lack of technical proficiency but due to the lack of leadership qualities, communication skills, crew coordination and decision making. In other words due to the lack of proper use of all the resources available to the crew.

What Is The Objective Of CRM?

The objective of CRM is to provide the technical and pilot skills that are required to operate the aircraft, whilst using all the available resources to ensure safe and efficient operations (Taggart, 1994, p. 309). How this is achieved is through the improvement of performance of crews in the areas of decision making, communication, leadership, stress and fatigue maintenance and teamwork (Jensen, 1995, p.118). CRM is not an idea developed to change the personality of people involved but rather change their attitudes towards how things are done and managed in the cockpit environment.

The Evolution of CRM

First Generation CRM: The first CRM programme was initiated in 1981 by United Airlines. The programme itself was rather psychological in nature with heavy focus on psychological testing and general concepts such as leadership. Advanced Interpersonal behaviour was also a major focus but unfortunately this interpersonal behaviour did not advocate any sort of cockpit behaviour.

Second Generation CRM: In the second generation, CRM programmes started to deal with aviation concepts related to flight operations and were also more modular in nature. Training consisted of tasks such as team building, briefing strategies, situational awareness and stress management.

Third Generation CRM: In this time, CRM training reflected characteristics of the aviation system with greater emphasis on organisational culture and automation. The training also started to extend to other groups within the airline such as flight attendants, dispatchers and maintenance personal.

Fourth Generation CRM: Began with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) introducing a major change in the training qualification of flight crew with the implementation of advanced qualification programme in 1990. This made CRM an integral part in flight training and operators were required to provide CRM training as well as Line Oriented Flight Training (LOFT) for all crew members.

Fifth Generation CRM: The realisation that error in the aviation environment cannot be fully eliminated resulted in the development of the concept of threat and error management. Simply put, recognising and trapping errors before anything happens or managing of errors.

(Helmreich, Merritt & Wilhelm, 1999, p. 2-9)

1. Helmreich, R.L., Foushee, H.C. (1993). Why Crew Resource Management? Empirical and Theoretical Bases of Human Factors Training in Aviation. In E.L. Wiener & B.G. Kanki & R.L. Helmreich (Eds.), Cockpit Resource Management (pp. 3-45). San Diego, California, U.S.A.: Academic press, Inc.
2. Helmreich, R.L, A.C., & Wilhelm, J.A. (1999). The Evolution of Crew Resource Management training in Commercial Aviation. International Journal of Aviation Psychology, 9 (1), 19-32
3. Taggart, W.R. (1994). Crew Resource Management: Achieving enhanced flight operations In N. Johnston & N. McDonald & R. Fuller (Eds.), Aviation Psychology in Practice (pp. 309-339). Aldershot, England: Ashgate Publishing Limited.
4. Jensen, R.S. (1995). Pilot Judgement and Crew Resource Management. Aldershot, England: Ashgate Publishing Limited.

Want to know more?

Crew Resource Management
In depth explanations of some of the theoretical and practical concepts of CRM
Single Pilot CRM
CRM concepts for the single pilot scenario
Combat CRM
CRM in the combat environment.
Threat and Error Model
Introduction to the concept of threat and error management (TEM)
Crew Resource Management Instructor Training
Training resources for CRM instructors

Contributors to this page

Authors / Editors

Mishma HameedMishma Hameed

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