Crew Interpersonal Relationship Dangers

Importance of duty division and shared understanding

Commercial airliners require the effective coordination of multiple flight crew members in order to operate, and interpersonal relationships is an important factor in this operation. It is important to have clearly defined duties and a common understanding of the situation for smooth intercrew relations, despite the fact that there will be differences in the level of experience of the crew members. By having a clear division of duties and a shared understanding, any danger that could occur due to the error of one crew member, can be prevented by another crew member’s instruction or action. If there is no clear division of duties, all crew members may be focussing on one problem or the capacity to correct an error is simply not possible at the time and so there is a possibility of entering into a dangerous situation.


Crew members unconsciously change into a mental state of dependence on other crew members, when there is no clear division of duties. This state is known as interdependency, where each crew member assumes that someone else will perform an action or notice a problem. There are also dangerous situations created when a person’s operation or instruction was not clearly communicated, and it was assumed to be understood and so confirmation was ignored.

Excessive reliance

Mutual reliance is important when there are several persons co-operating to achieve a single task, however, if there is too much confidence in the judgement or actions of the captain or other highly experienced crew member, then a crew member may hesitate to offer advice. The crew member may even be unable to accept advice from other crew members. Other, background factors may be involved, such as withholding questions due to being overly sensitive to another person’s point of view, or choosing to not give advice because of inappropriate deference or an excessive concern for the other person.


An appropriate degree of leadership needs to be applied by the captain in the cockpit, because without it, there will not be a clear division of duties or co-ordination among the crew members. There is however, the problem of excessive leadership and meddlesomeness, making it difficult to get advice from crew members, and reduce their ability to make decisions. Misleading over self-confidence of a crew member and lack of leadership by a captain can also be background factors which lead to unsafe events. A grave atmosphere can be created in the cockpit if crew members lose confidence in the captain and consider him unreliable due to his attitude while on duty.


Miyagi, M. (2005). Serious accidents and human factors: Breaking the chain of events leading to an accident: Lesson learned from the aviation industry. England: John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

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