Crew Resource Management

Crew Resource Management (CRM) training with the SDI helps crewmembers gain greater influence over the human factors that contribute to critical incidents. While this training originated with the airlines, its applicability to all types of crews is gaining recognition. Airlines apply these concepts to ground crews as well as air crews. Emergency response teams, police, fire, and forestry services all benefit from human factors training – as most critical incidents have human error as a significant contributing factor.

When individual motives and conflict sequences are considered as part of CRM training, all members of the crew get an idea of how they will respond individually and collectively. With this knowledge, crews can agree in advance about who will do what in the event of a critical incident. Some crews use the Expectations Edition of the SDI to clarify role expectations for certain types of situations. When the expectations are clear, members of the crew understand more readily how to borrow behaviour and manage the incident more effectively.

Consider Robyn and Mark, a two-person flight crew. They work at an airline that includes a review of crew SDI results as part of a pre-flight check. Robyn’s SDI result is Red-Blue (Assertive-Nurturing) when things are going well and she responds first to conflict with a very high score in the Green (becoming cautious and analytical). Mark’s SDI results are Blue-Green (Cautious-Supporting) when things are going well and he also is Green first in conflict.

During their discussion they determined that if something out of the ordinary were to happen during the flight they could conceivably both become focused on the details and try to work out why something has gone wrong. If they were to do this to excess, it is possible that they would lose track of other important information and could run the risk of making the situation worse. Therefore, they agreed that in the unlikely event of an irregularity, Robyn would control the plane while Mark investigated the details. Robyn, Mark, and the flight attendants made similar role assignments based on other potential scenarios.

During the approach at their destination an irregularity occurred. A light indicating that the landing gear is down was not lit. It should have been lit because Mark had deployed the landing gear at the appropriate time. Mark alerted Robyn to the irregularity and Robyn began to investigate the problem with the instruments accessible to her. When Mark saw her doing this he said, “Robyn, you fly. I’ll investigate.” as they had agreed during the pre-flight check. This pre-agreed phrase and Robyn’s awareness of her own SDI result helped her to understand the need to borrow Red (Assertive) behaviour even though she was personally feeling a need to analyse the situation before taking action.

Recalling other parts of their CRM training, they were able to determine that the landing gear was in fact deployed, by requesting an observation from the air traffic controllers. They then brought the plane in safely.

A post-incident investigation revealed that the landing gear indicator light bulb had burned out. Robyn and Mark attributed their successful handling of the incident to the pre-flight check, the CRM training and their awareness of their SDI results.