Crew Resource Management Essay

Military flying differs considerably from commercial aviation due to the special circumstances and restrictions involved. Military discipline revolves around utter obedience whereas CRM aims to foster a culture with encouraging the freedom to respectfully question authority. The primary goal of CRM is enhanced situational awareness, self awareness, leadership, assertiveness, decision making, flexibility, adaptability, event/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.

The complexity of military aviation environment demands a foundation of solid airmanship and a healthy, positive approach to combating errors.


To learn about the importance of CRM vis-à-vis military aviation

CRM – Definition

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 flight operations.

CRM – Overview

Crew (or Cockpit) Resource Management training originated from a NASA workshop in 1979 that focused on improving air safety.

The NASA research at that time found the primary cause of the majority of aviation accidents to be human error, and further showed the main problems to be failures of interpersonal communication, leadership, and decision making in the cockpit. Cockpit Resource Management (CRM) has gained increased attention from the airline industry in recent years due to the growing number of accidents and near misses in airline traffic. Cockpit Resource Management is a far-reaching discussion of crew coordination, communication, and resources from both within and without the cockpit.

CRM concepts have endured by not only integrating themselves into the fabric of training, but also expanding the team concept, evolving into new applications, and possibly most important to the original operators, inspiring development and integration of CRM into safety and quality assurance goals at the corporate level. A variety of CRM models have been successfully adapted to different types of industries and organizations, all based on the same basic concepts and principles. Crew Resource Management still continues to focus on CRM in the cockpit, but also emphasizes that the concepts and training applications provide generic guidance and lessons learned for a wide variety of ‘crews’ in the aviation system as well as in the complex and high-risk operations of many non-aviation settings.

Characteristics – Military Aviation

The military is a non-homogenous organization. Throughout military aviation there are variations in the type of aircraft, missions performed, number of crew, automation levels and much more. Military flyers are by nature rule based i.e they are bound by policies, procedures and regulations that are often complex and overlapping from multiple origins. Therefore there are four principle characteristics that entail the reason for variety in military CRM training.

1. The Man

Civilian pilots are highly experienced in terms of flying hours contrary to the military pilots who are motivated and smart but must account for this large difference in experience. In commercial aviation, most pilots are hired on to airlines after they have achieved significant aviation milestones. In military flying, the pilots are cadets or young officers with almost no flying experience at all. They gain experience and proficiency on job. There are a large number of senior pilots and aircrew who garner substantial experience in their career.

Another important factor is the age difference. In comparison, military pilots are exposed to demanding situations at an earlier age and do not have the liberty to make decisions based on experience. The rank and experience gradient causes pilots and aircrew to move away for career progression duties other than flying. The learning styles, attributed to age, also differ from commercial aviation.

2. The Machine

The complexity of the machines operated by the military pilots is another factor in the training equation. A modern military aircraft requires that an aircrew member often make split second decisions regarding weapons and other automated systems. Several incidents have resulted in inadvertent weapon release, even resulting in the unintentional shooting down of a friendly aircraft. Military CRM must place additional emphasis on man/machine interface.

3. The Mission

Military machines have multidimensional roles. They range from super-sonic fighters in high skies to anti-submarine operations dipping helicopter sonar into the sea. From air assault and combat teams skimming the earth’s surface to anti-ship missile firings, military aviation missions are diverse. At the same time, military aviators apply different set of rules to different missions such as higher HQ missions, ORIs, check rides, standard training missions, and ofcourse combat. This often creates a level of urgency in the operators mind about the set of rules to be followed for flying each day. CRM not only tackles this dilemma, it creates a cultural approach towards safety and operational efficiency.

4. The Environment

The military is a fertile ground for hazardous attitudes to manifest themselves in young and aggressive aviators. Its only through effective CRM training that these aircrew members are shaped into safer and more effective aviators. Airline flight crews battle the environment, with safety the paramount concern. In contrast, in addition to the environment, the military aircrews must also engage a clever human enemy, armed with missiles and guns, who knows the fight is coming and constantly changes the rules. The relative importance of the mission must therefore be factored into the military CRM equation. Decision making by a young crew member in a combat environment, strapped inside a complex piece of military hardware while engaging a clever human enemy, is different than airline instructions. Therefore, training must be different and requires well deliberated modules in line with CRM practices.

Ideology of Military CRM training

The concepts which underpin CRM are not new; rather they are an attempt to distil old axioms into a more coherent management style across the flight regime. Safe and efficient military flight operations depend for their success not merely on the acquisition of sound technical knowledge and skills but also on the mastery by aircrew of the cognitive and interpersonal skills which form the basis of good CRM. Cognitive skills not only allow for the development and maintenance of good situational awareness but also underpin high quality problem solving and decision making techniques. In addition, interpersonal skills, which depend for their effectiveness on good communications, encourage the creation of synergy and the development of successful teamwork. Both cognitive and interpersonal skills are enhanced by a good emotional climate amongst the crew, but they are also easily degraded by stress, so management of the emotional climate and stress becomes an integral and important element of good CRM.

CRM is not, therefore, merely an abstract management concept; it embraces principles and proficiency which, if combined with a high degree of technical knowledge and skill, will enable the crew to make best use of all available resources to achieve optimum efficiency in the conduct of operations while at the same time maximising the safety of the flight.

Organizational benefits of military CRM efforts

There are many prominent organizational benefits that have been realized from the military CRM efforts. Some of these are as follows:

1. Improved mission effectiveness

2. Improved aircrew-maintenance co-ordination and co-operation

3. Improved morale

4. Improved training efficiency

5. Better care and use of valuable hardware


CRM evolved as a program concern with only emphasizing on changing individual styles and correcting deficiencial behaviour in the first generation, to the second generation with more core skills like decision-making. The term cockpit was changed to crew at this point of era as they realised that other aviation community require CRM training as well. The third generation has major development such as including human factors concepts into its program. The fourth generation integrated organizational culture into its context. Till today, the fifth generation of CRM training is still evolving and consistently monitored for any changes to improve in safety. CRM training now shifted its focus to limitation of human performance as compared to the first generation which is psychological in nature.

The prime focus of military CRM is on the quality of judgement rather than the quality of skills. CRM is not and never will be the only mechanism to eliminate error and assure safety in a high risk endeavor such as aviation. Error is an inevitable result of the natural limitations of human performance and the function of complex systems. CRM is one of an array of tools that organizations can use to manage error and achieve objectives by prioritizing CRM practice foremost i.e at the tip of the organizational spear.

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