Crew Resource Management


The Dictionary defines the word "crew" as: "A group of people working together...." We'll consider our "group," for the sake of this discussion, to be "two," a pilot and a co-pilot, but could be a much larger group, like the crew of a jumbo jet, or a cruise ship.  .

The first thing that becomes obvious to the new jet pilot is the necessity that all tasks be performed as a "crew." This requires a constant, friendly communication between crew members involving all phases of the flight, from preflight planning to the "parking" checklist at the termination point. This communication can take the form of a simple question, such as, "What altitude did he say?" to, "Did you notice that oil leak on the preflight?" This constant cross-referencing of data drastically reduces the possibility of error which, in turn, reduces mistakes, and just might preclude an accident.


The crew member who is not flying the airplane should watch everything the flying crew member does. Watch headings, altitudes, speeds, power settings, and any performance trends, crossing restrictions, speed restrictions and the like. And don't be reluctant to bring it to their attention when it becomes obvious that no correction is forthcoming. Do not ever let yourself be tagged as reluctant or timid. A strong and assertive Captain usually favors a copilot with the same traits.


Some jet crews are organized and others are not. Some seem to have whatever they need at their fingertips, while others rarely do. Plain and simple, there is never an excuse to go digging for an approach plate or a low altitude chart when a controller gives you something you are not expecting. Before you begin a descent, have all approach plates, STARS, SIDs, and the appropriate low altitude and/or area charts for your landing airport out of their binders and within reach. If the weather is poor, make sure you have the same information handy for your alternate--just in case. More than once I've witnessed a crew given a "go-around" followed immediately by a SID. The weather was good and the crews were obviously expecting neither the go-around nor the SID. They were embarrassed.


This is the easy part. If you are flying the airplane, you should do nothing but fly. If there anything you need, just call for it. This includes gear, flaps, lights, radio frequencies, coffee; anything that you wish. The pilot flying should, however, keep one ear tuned to ATC, even though the other pilot is doing the communicating. The PIC must have the "Big Picture" at all times. When you are flying, you need not operate your own gear, flaps and radios, but DO NOT LET YOUR BRAIN GO INTO THE STANDBY MODE! If you are not flying, you should be responsible for everything except the physical manipulation of the controls. This responsibility includes all navigation and communication frequency changes, all radio communication, and, of course, gear, flaps, lights, and the appropriate checklists. Stay ahead of the situation. Anticipate the needs of your fellow crew member, and be prepared to help.


There is absolutely nothing wrong in developing a flow pattern as a method for accomplishing the required items on a checklist. In fact, a checklist is just that, a CHECKLIST, not a "DO" list. Make sure that your crew reads each item, and solicits the required response, no matter how repetitive or seemingly unnecessary this task might seem. Everyone will eventually overlook something of consequence, and that's what the methodical use of a checklist will prevent.

The checklist is not to be considered a solution to all problems you will face. The checklist can not think, nor can it deal with all situations. It merely exists as an aid to the flight crew. When properly used, it will prevent items from being forgotten, and serve as a handy reference when you must perform a procedure that is not often used. Do not use a checklist like a cookbook. Review the normal, abnormal and emergency procedures. If you do not understand what is happening to the aircraft systems as you complete the checklist, you don't know the aircraft well enough.


If there is any one element in flying, especially instrument flying, that can put the crew of a jet behind the eight ball, it is the simple inattention to what the flight instruments are telling you. Your number one priority, when you're flying, is to keep your airplane on its assigned altitude, and pointed in the right direction, meaning: on a heading that is appropriate; such as, flying an airway or an approach course. When things are not going well, you want to get on the ground. This is not done most quickly by flying in the wrong direction.

All this might not sound so silly if you could watch video tapes of jet crews in simulated emergency situations. Many of us pilots suffer from our own egos, and feel that we are the only ones "up front" who are capable of managing the complexities of our aircraft's systems, things can sometimes get out of hand.

One of the best emergency checklists I've ever read began this way: Step one: Fly the airplane. Step two: Maintain your assigned altitude and desired flight path. Then--with the assistance of your crew, figure out what the problem is, and proceed with the business of dealing with it.


The word "EMERGENCY" strikes fear into the hearts of us all. In my opinion, an emergency only exists when the safe completion of the flight is in doubt. Once it is established that the flight will have a safe conclusion, the "Emergency" evolves into the less ominous "Abnormal Procedure". Is the loss of cabin pressure an emergency? Yes, but only until the crew and passengers are breathing supplemental oxygen. Once oxygen is in use, the emergency becomes an abnormal procedure called "Emergency Descent". It is the same with an engine failure in any transport category airplane. Loss of an engine is an emergency only if the pilot does not maintain control of the aircraft. The difference is psychological I agree. Do we tense up at the thought of an "Emergency", or calmly perform an "Abnormal Procedure". You decide.


Prior to takeoff, the Captain will brief the co-pilot as to his duties and responsibilities during the departure phase of the flight. Each captain may elect to assign slightly different duties to the co-pilot. For example, some captains will allow the co-pilot the authority to call an abort, and others prefer that the nature of the emergency be called out such that they may make that decision themselves. The briefing should include, but need not be limited to the following:

If you have flown with the particular co-pilot previously and are sure that the duties and responsibilities of each crew member are understood by all, you may elect to specify a "Standard Briefing". Do not do this with a pilot who has not demonstrated the understanding and ability YOU require. The term "Standard Calls" has different meanings to different pilots. When any doubt exists, the entire briefing should be performed.

The following is a sample briefing given by the "Pilot Flying" to the "Pilot Not Flying" on a particular leg of a trip.

We are departing on Runway 30. Our clearance is maintain runway heading until 1500 AGL then turn left heading 270 for vectors to BOGUS intersection, , then as filed, maintain 3000'.

I will advance the thrust levers, sync them at 70 to 80% and call for "Max Power," as I further increase power, you set the computed takeoff power then respond "Power Set". Call out "70 KTS" (cross check airspeed indicators), call out " V1", call out Vr as "Rotate", call out "Positive Rate", and "V2". Advise me of any malfunctions, back me up on the power and make the standard calls as briefed. If you see any action on my part that you feel is unsafe, or in error, or in question, bring it to my attention immediately. You are a required crew member and your presence is essential to the safety of this flight. You are not just a "gear, flap, and radio operator," act accordingly. If we have an engine failure, fire, or other emergency before V1, we will abort. I will retard the thrust levers, apply the brakes and thrust reverse, and call for speedbrakes which you will extend upon my command. Advise the tower of our situation as time permits.

If we have an engine failure, fire, or emergency after V1, we will treat it as an in flight emergency. We will retract the gear at positive rate, then climb at V2 to 400 AGL prior to performing the Engine Fail/Fire or appropriate checklist on my command. Make the "Standard Calls". Do you have any questions?


Prior to initiating an instrument approach, the flight crew should review and discuss the procedure. This may prevent confusion in the cockpit, some heated arguments, and possibly save you from getting a nasty letter from the FAA.

The pilot who will conduct the instrument approach should direct the other pilot to fly the aircraft while he studies the approach chart. Once familiar with the chart he should take control of the aircraft and direct the other pilot to study the chart as well. After both pilots are familiar with the approach procedure to be used, the pilot flying should brief the pilot not flying to reduce the probability of a misunderstanding.

The following is a sample briefing given by the "Pilot Flying" to the "Pilot Not Flying" prior to an instrument approach.

We are going to make an ILS approach to runway 30 at Long Beach Airport. Current ATIS information is "Charlie". The localizer frequency is 110.30, and the inbound course is 301º. The compass locator frequency is 233 kHz. Minimum altitude prior to glide slope intercept is 1600 FT. The DH is 235 FT barometric and 200 FT radar. The missed approach procedure is "Climb straight ahead to 800 FT, then a left climbing turn to a heading of 200 degrees, maintain 2500 FT. Intercept the Los Angeles 145 radial and proceed to PADAR intersection. Do you concur? Any misunderstandings should be resolved prior beginning the approach.


Each company, and many times each pilot, has what they consider to be "Standard Calls", or "Standard Briefing or Procedures". You must learn these "Company Procedures" as you fly with various organizations. The following is our own set of "Standard Calls" at AvGroup. You may wish to modify them to suit your operation. This is fine, but make sure both pilots understand what they are.


    1. Any failure, malfunction, or warning light.
    2. Any airspeed deviations of more than 10 KTS from an assigned or target speed. Any deviation below the minimum safe speed in the current configuration.
    3. Any deviation below minimums on an instrument approach without both pilots having acknowledged "Runway in sight".
    4. On an IFR approach, "1000 AGL", "500 AGL", "100 Ft above minimums", and "Minimums."
    5. Altitude deviations more than 100 Ft enroute. 1000 Ft prior to assigned altitudes in a climb or descent. Passing 10,000 Ft and 18,000 Ft
    6. Any condition or situation that may adversely affect the safety of flight.