Crew Resource Management

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Pilots learned long ago that average people working together in a team will out-do a brilliant loner along with ways to make it easier.

We can learn from pilots. I just read Sarina Houston’s article about CRM. David Marquet mentions CRM in Leadership is Language and “Ponch” Rivera mentioned CRM in a recent Cynefin21 dialogue on safety. I hope to learn enough to start applying it.

Crew Resource Management is a cockpit teamwork concept that helps pilot’s work better together to improve safety. It’s part of how Sully managed to land a plane on the Hudson River. CRM concepts can help radio operators, too.

  1. Concepts
  2. Individuals, too
  3. History
  4. Learn More


  • Involve everyone in decision-making
  • Know risks to manage risks
  • Practice good leadership behaviours

Notes from Sarina’s piece:

  • Involve everyone in decision-making

All pilots are involved in decision-making during flights. Whether they make the right decision or not depends on how much information they have at their fingertips. CRM teaches pilots to seek out all available resources when making a decision, and not to do it alone. Pilots can utilize the help of other crew members, flight attendants, air traffic control, weather reports, and these days, they can even call their maintenance department over the phone or radio. CRM teaches pilots to act calmly and appropriately instead of out of fear or impulsiveness when decisions need to be made. Pilots should recognize their own hazardous attitudes that might interfere with good decision-making and manage risk appropriately.

  • Know risks to manage risks

Pilots are now being taught that the only way to prevent risks associated with flying is to manage them appropriately. This involves knowing the risks, to begin with. Pilots manage risk by knowing that they carry personal risk such as fatigue, illness or stress, to work with them. In addition, there are environmental risks, such as weather or operational policies. There are performance risks based on how heavy the aircraft is loaded, if the runway is wet, etc. Pilots can’t control these risks, but they can manage the outcome by knowing their own limitations, aircraft limitations, company limitations, etc.

  • Practice good leadership behaviours

A good leader is hard to find, but CRM can teach pilots to recognize good and bad leadership traits, which they can appropriately implement or avoid, respectively.

Individuals Benefit, Too

Single-pilot Resource Management emerged for pilots of light aircraft, providing particular boost to safety in single-pilot Instrument Flight Rules operations. Learn the 5 P’s to help manage workload, mitigate risk, correct errors, and make good decisions: SRM.

There are advantages and disadvantages to single-pilot operations. First, as the sole occupant of the cockpit, a single pilot has nobody to argue with. They also have nobody to bounce ideas off of and nobody to help in an emergency. Single pilots must look elsewhere for resources, and they need to know how to do it efficiently and without losing situational awareness, especially with the advancements in technology that have been abundant recently. These modern cockpit devices in technologically advanced aircraft (TAA) can be very helpful to single pilots in IFR conditions, but only if they learn how to use the equipment.


Emerging in the late 1970s to address NASA accident investigations, crew resource management focuses on the human-error involved in multiple-person crews. NASA researchers devised a program to improve teamwork and “resource management” through overcoming weaknesses in:

  • interpersonal communication
  • decision making
  • leadership

CRM began by focusing on the relationship between the senior and junior crew members. Crews needed to build an environment of equal respect, cooperation and teamwork. Some senior crew members thought very little of teammates and many junior crew members felt disrespectful standing up to senior crew members when they disagreed.

Later CRM incorporated error management concepts to help crews recognize potential errors and limit the impact from mistakes. CRM evolved to build skills in risk management (workload, hazardous attitudes, hazardous patterns, situational awareness, effective communication).

By 2019, all professional pilots learn CRM: decision-making, risk management, leadership, error management.

Learn More

Related: 6 Ideas, Values Workshop, Advice Process, Conflict Mechanism, Just Cause

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