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rew resource management or cockpit resource management (CRM) is a set of training procedures for use in environments where human error can have devastating effects. Used primarily for improving air safety, CRM focuses on interpersonal communication, leadership, and decision making in the cockpit.

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RM grew out of an NTSB analysis of the crash in 1978 of United Airlines Flight 173 where the plane ran out of fuel while the flight crew were troubleshooting a landing gear problem. The NTSB issued its landmark recommendation to require CRM training for airline crews on June 7, 1979. 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. 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.

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ince that time, 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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RM aviation training has gone by several names, including cockpit resource management, flightdeck resource management, and command, leadership, and resource management, but the current generic term, crew resource management, was widely adopted. When CRM techniques are applied to other arenas, they are sometimes given unique labels, such as maintenance resource management or maritime resource management.

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RM training encompasses a wide range of knowledge, skills, and attitudes including communications, situational awareness, problem solving, decision making, and teamwork; together with all the attendant sub-disciplines which each of these areas entails. CRM can be defined as a management system which makes optimum use of all available resources—equipment, procedures and people—to promote safety and enhance the efficiency of operations.

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RM is concerned with the cognitive and interpersonal skills needed to manage resources within an organized system, not so much with the technical knowledge and skills required to operate equipment. In this context, cognitive skills are defined as the mental processes used for gaining and maintaining situational awareness, for solving problems and for making decisions. Interpersonal skills are regarded as communications and a range of behavioral activities associated with teamwork. In many operational systems as in other walks of life, skill areas often overlap with each other, and they also overlap with the required technical skills. Furthermore, they are not confined to multi-crew craft or equipment, but also relate to single operator equipment or craft as they invariably need to interface with other craft or equipment and various other support agencies in order to complete a mission successfully.

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RM training for crew has been introduced and developed by aviation organizations including major airlines and military aviation worldwide. CRM training is now a mandated requirement for commercial pilots working under most regulatory bodies worldwide, including the FAA (U.S.) and JAA (Europe). Following the lead of the commercial airline industry, the U.S. Department of Defense began formally training its air crews in CRM in the mid 1980’s. Presently, the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy require all air crew members to receive annual CRM training, in an effort to reduce human-error caused mishaps. The U.S. Army has its own version of CRM called Aircrew Coordination Training Enhanced (ACT-E).

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RM aims to foster a climate or culture where the freedom to respectfully question authority is encouraged. However, the primary goal of CRM is enhanced situational awareness, self-awareness, leadership, assertiveness, decision making, flexibility, adaptability, event and mission analysis, and communication. It recognizes that a discrepancy between what is happening and what should be happening is often the first indicator that an error is occurring. This is a delicate subject for many organizations, especially ones with traditional hierarchies, so appropriate communication techniques must be taught to supervisors and their subordinates, so that supervisors understand that the questioning of authority need not be threatening, and subordinates understand the correct way to question orders.

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ockpit voice recordings of various air disasters tragically reveal first officers and flight engineers attempting to bring critical information to the captain’s attention in an indirect and ineffective way. By the time the captain understood what was being said, it was too late to avert the disaster. A CRM expert named Todd Bishop developed a five-step assertive statement process that encompasses inquiry and advocacy steps:
Opening or attention getter – Address the individual. “Hey Chief,” or “Captain Smith,” or “Bob,” or however the name or title that will get the person’s attention.
State your concern – Express your analysis of the situation in a direct manner while owning your emotions about it. “I’m concerned that we may not have enough fuel to fly around this storm system,” or “I’m worried that the roof might collapse.”
State the problem as you see it – “We’re showing only 40 minutes of fuel left,” or “This building has a lightweight steel truss roof, and we may have fire extension into the roof structure.”
State a solution – “Let’s divert to another airport and refuel,” or “I think we should pull some tiles and take a look with the thermal imaging camera before we commit crews inside.”
Obtain agreement (or buy-in) – “Does that sound good to you, Captain?”

These are often difficult skills to master, as they may require significant changes in personal habits, interpersonal dynamics, and organizational culture.

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he basic concepts and ideology that make CRM successful with aviation air crews have also proven successful with other related career fields. Several commercial aviation firms, as well as international aviation safety agencies, began expanding CRM into air traffic control, aircraft design, and aircraft maintenance in the 1990s. Specifically, the aircraft maintenance section of this training expansion gained traction as Maintenance Resource Management (MRM). In an effort to standardize the industry wide training of this team-based safety approach, the FAA (U.S.) issued Advisory Circular 120-72, Maintenance Resource Management Training in September 2000.

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ollowing a study of aviation mishaps over the 10-year period 1992-2002, the United States Air Force determined that close to 18% of its aircraft mishaps were directly attributable to maintenance human error. Unlike the more immediate impact of air crew error, maintenance human errors often occurred long before the flight where the problems were discovered. These “latent errors” included such mistakes as failure to follow published aircraft manuals, lack of assertive communication among maintenance technicians, poor supervision, and improper assembly practices. In 2005, to specifically address these maintenance human error-induced root causes of aircraft mishaps, Lt Col Doug Slocum, Chief of Safety at the Air National Guard’s 162nd Fighter Wing, Tucson, AZ, directed that the base’s CRM program be modified into a military version of MRM.

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n mid-2005, the Air National Guard Aviation Safety Division converted Slocum’s MRM program into a national program available to the Air National Guard’s flying wings, spread across 54 U.S. states and territories. In 2006, the Defense Safety Oversight Council (DSOC) of the U.S. Department of Defense recognized the mishap prevention value of this maintenance safety program by partially funding a variant of ANG MRM for training throughout the U.S. Air Force. This ANG initiated, DoD-funded version of MRM became known as Air Force Maintenance Resource Management, AF-MRM, and is now widely used in the U.S. Air Force.

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he Rail Safety Regulators Panel of Australia has adapted CRM to rail, Rail Resource Management, and developed a free kit of resources. Operating train crews at the National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak) in the United States are instructed on CRM principles during yearly training courses.

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ollowing the successes experienced in the aviation community, Crew Resource Management (CRM) was identified as a potential safety improvement program for the fire services. Specifically, Ted Putnam, Ph.D., wrote a paper that applied CRM concepts to the tragic and violent deaths of 14 Wildland firefighters on the South Canyon Fire in Colorado.

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rom this paper a movement was sparked in the Wildland and Structural Fire Services to apply the Aviation CRM concepts to emergency response situations. Various programs have since been developed to train emergency responders in these concepts and to help track where breakdowns occur in these stressful environments.

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lements of CRM have been applied in U.S. healthcare since the late 1990s, specifically in infection prevention. For example, the so-called “central line bundle” of best practices recommends using a checklist when inserting a central venous catheter. Unlike in the cockpit the observer checking off the checklist is usually lower ranking than the person inserting the catheter (nurse practitioner or MD). The observer is encouraged to communicate when elements of the bundle are not executed for example a breach in sterility has occurred A division of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, the Agency for Healthcare Quality and Research (AHRQ), also provides training based in CRM principles to healthcare teams at no cost. This training, called TeamSTEPPS, is provided at six medical school campuses across the United States. Educating health care organizations in crew management has also become a business venture.