the factors influencing
effective airline crew communications and inflight decision-making.
Communication is so essential to all human endeavors. it
helps us to regulate the achievement or disappointment in accomplishing goals
as they are attached to high stakes. There is no doubt that operational in
today’s aviation industry is a high-risks profession since our lives and costly
assets are invested in the industry. As a simple, social-technical structures,
communication plays a vital part in achieving objectives, directing entities,
and participating responsibilities. Actual communication
is a significant procedure in daily life. People need be able to communicate efficiently
by each other on both an individual as well as occupational level. Failures in
the communication procedures can lead to misinterpretations, or worse, a major
disaster like Pan Am and KLM.
In this report I would like to focus on the
importance of communication in harmless and effective flight processes, drawing
previous aircraft collisions as result of communication errors. Throughout its short history, aviation
industry has proven to be a deadly invention due to aircraft failure, human
error, weather, sabotage, and others. As result, the industry invested heavily
in understanding and coping with the human factor which is the main cause of todays’
aircraft accidents (Alcorn,
2010). We understand that human error is something which cannot be eliminated,
but we can minimise through learning from previous experience and training
staff involved in the aviation. This will prevent future possible human error
and reduce accident rate down. The growth of commercial aviation has increased
since World War II. This
also increase the probability of aircraft accident pro
rata since 1970s. Following the Tenerife accident in 1977, the
aviation industry has recognized the need for the
development of Crew Resource management CRM (Goeters, K.-M. 2002). The airline passenger
numbers have extremely increased sine 1980s; however, the number recorded
accident per flight hours has reduced over this period. We can now
statistically assume that flying is safer than any time before. This because of
the development of Cockpit Resource management, now known as Crew Resource
Management. CRM is aimed to change
staff’s attitudes towards communication and decision making (ICAO, 1998). CRM
has been an overwhelming and widespread implementation to increase in today’s
aviation safety. Accidents occur for
variety reasons, with the most prominent ones being human error.
Error: Human factors play a vital
role in safety in the aviation segment. One minor fault triggered by poor
procedures or miscommunication can result in disastrous events as well as the
loss of life. As part of Human
error, captains sometimes make decision in the presence of an incomplete range
of data (Burdekin, S. 2004). This is due to an asymmetric data which may
construe different meaning according to the perception of the captain (Flin, R.
2006). This happens when captain is psychologically confronting with an
ambiguous situation (Kanki et al., 2010). Therefore, an effective training is
important to recognise early warning signs to avert any accident. This include
Situation awareness, communication, Team work and stress management, all of
which support for fast, accurate and efficient decision making (Davis, L.
Situation awareness: is to understand the environmental condition and forestall
possible danger that might occur. It is also essential that captain avoids
self-satisfaction as s/he watches the system and environmental changes by
communicating all staff member involved in the flight operation (Hormann, J.,
2001). An awareness to the situation is often influenced by the perception and
the stress one can find him/herself in, which is mainly referred to the concept
of ” Theory of the Situation” that developed by Dr. Lee Bolman, (1979). The
following phases are definitively referred to his theory.
Theory of the Situation
What one assumes to be true based on
his/her perception of the situation at any given time.
The situation as it is in reality
Theory in Use
One’s predictable behaviour in a given
situation that has been developed since birth.
An individual’s account or explanation of
Theory in Practice
The set of skills, knowledge, and
experience according to one’s theory of situation.
the reasons for self-disagreement between one’s perception and the reality is
that a vast
function of the human perceptual system reduces his/her decision to respond the
appropriately (Hagen, J.2013). This is because our perception of visual
information is consistent.
our perception of situations which we obtain through our senses is not
consistent. Bolman’s theory shows how other factors interact as we attempt to
gain an awareness of the situation. Therefore, effective communication skills are
vital (Kanki, B et al 2010).
having good skills that enable an open and active participation of all team
members. This is also to use clear and effective language when responding or
giving feedback particularly in the events of ambiguities (Klein, G. 2001). In
the Tenerife disaster, it was clearly evident that a communication ambiguity
occurred during the KLM preparation for take-off and even after releasing the
breaks. The flight engineer had strong suspicions that Pan America jet was
still taxiing on the active runway. He failed to communicate with the captain
and make his suspicions aware to the captain. One of the most important keys to
an effective cockpit management is communication among crew members.
Information must be offered and exchanged freely to support the captain to make
accurate and effective decisions (Alan, D. 1994). In recent CRM training
developed there are variety of elements are essential to effective
communication. One more
example of obstacles to actual communication can be initiate in the crew join
up process, and precisely the racial differences among crewmembers. In this
world of cultural variety, it is not unusual to have two pilots with a totally
different cultural background flying as a crew. Verbal and nonverbal
communications may be understood in a different way, and this may have consequences
during flight, particularly in high-workload conditions. The following
elements, but not limited to, are viewed to be important for airline crew
communication. These include:
Inquiry: seeking information and asking for clarifications are
the beginning step to decide.
Advocacy: is the need to state what you know or believe in a direct
Listening: Active listening which requires more than passive attention.
Conflict resolution: Conflicts are critical when the disagreement is
over how is accurate rather than what is right. Such conflicts can affect the
quality of decision making.
Team work: is to
rely on the authoritative response captain as sole skills can result a huge
accident as it was evident at time of the KLM flight engineer stresses his
suspicions that the Pan America jet was taxiing on the active run way. The
disaster occurred due to human error when the captain made a sole decision that
runway was clear for take-off without a clear permission from Air Traffic
Control. The consequence was a disastrous accident at speed of one B-747
accelerating down the run way collided another B-747 taxing. For this instance, a cooperation from all
members of cabin crew and the captain is necessary.
Decision making: is
to be effectively judgmental is often related to the mental process used by the
captain to decide based on the availability of relevant information and the
expected outcome (Kayes, 2004). With all the above elements in place, the
captain can make a reliable decision and avoid decision error. Decision faults can
rise within the two main mechanisms of the aviation decision model (Salas, E.et
al, 2006): (a) pilots might advance an incorrect clarification of the
situation, which can effect to an unfortunate result, or they might form an exact
picture of the situation, but indicate an unsuitable course of action. In
addition, they might not properly evaluate the risks inherent in the situation.
These aspects are all unignorably while making a decision which affects all.
Airline crew’s communication is viewed as vital when making decisions. The
Tenerife air disaster is found to be an example for failing to act upon when a
disaster is fairly predictable by communicating effectively. Airline accidents are
due to equipment failures by just three to five percent of its all causes. The
remaining accidents are linked with human error in which is mainly attributed
to poor human communication. Pilots and air traffic controllers must know the
limits of communications and work toward the common objective of making the
skies safer and easier to “understand!” Research studies continue to
develop ways to reduce the chances of another Tenerife disaster.
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Effective Cockpit Communication, CRM, CLR, Airliner Crashes, Airline Safety.
online Available at:
12 Dec. 2017.