This paper will work to describe what crew resource management is, followed by a brief explanation of some of the evolving concepts of crew resource management in aviation. In so doing, it will indicate knowledge of the concepts and conceptions that have been reviewed throughout the course itself.
Crew Resource Management, also referred to as CRM, is the process by which knowledge of human factors, the skills necessary to conduct all flight operations efficiently, and the ability to utilize all resources in the most effective manner are combined for the sole purpose of working to ensure safe flight operation is achieved (Beaubien & Baker, 2002). CRM is particularly concerned with the combination of individual skills and the utilization of knowledge associated with human factors in order to ensure that all crew members have the ability to communicate effectively in order to ensure the overall health and safety of all parties involved (Beaubien & Baker, 2002). As technologies grow and change, however, so do the policies, practices, procedures, and training received by individuals in those fields.
CRM was first conceptualized in the late 1970s as a result of research completed by NASA into the different causes of air transport and air traffic accidents (Helmreich, Merritt, & Wilhelm, 1999). As changes within the industry occurred, as air traffic grew as a form of transportation, and as the methods by which crews worked to deal with the accommodating changes shifted, the term “evolution” started being utilized to describe the different changes that were being implemented within the field to meet those increasing pressures, shifting concerns, and practical applications (Helmreich, Merritt, & Wihelm, 1999, p. 19). Since the late 1970s, CRM has gone through four primary iterations, allowing the field to become what it is today (Helmreich, Merritt, & Wihelm, 1999).
The first iteration of CRM took place in the early 1980s, when the information determined by NASA during the course of their research was taken and applied to the field of aviation, focusing on the matter of cockpit resource management. CRM was, at this point, concerned with the application of knowledge by cockpit members and how they worked to affect the overall flight process (Helmreich, Merritt, & Wihelm, 1999). In addition to the application of policies and practices, generalized concepts and strategies for implementation by members of the cockpit, it was determined that CRM should occur as standard practice throughout the duration of the crew’s career in the cockpit, as opposed to simply a one time occurrence prior to their acceptance and performance of a job within that realm (Helmreich, Merritt, & Wihelm, 1999).
The second iteration of CRM took place in the mid-1980s when additional investigation by NASA into this area of concern led to the overall perception of crew resource management, as opposed to simply that of the cockpit (Helmreich, Merritt, & Wihelm, 1999). It was determined that it was not enough for individuals within the cockpit to be aware of the appropriate practices and dynamics of aviation travel, but for the entire crew to be aware of the appropriate policies and practices, and that just as many issues arose from a lack of understanding or practical application of concepts on the part of the crew as it did on the part of those within the cockpit (Helmreich, Merritt, & Wihelm, 1999).
The early 1990s saw the third iteration of CRM, a broadening of the scope of policies and practices within the aviation industry, arising as a result of the increased specialization and technical requirements that were present due to the advances in aviation technologies (Helmreich, Merritt, & Wihelm, 1999). As more and more specialization was required to complete the different jobs associated with the different technologies, CRM broke off into more specialized areas, each working in conjunction in order to ensure the overall safety of the aviation industry while working at the same time to ensure that all crew members with all specializations were not only able to work in conjunction with each other, but were able to function in tandem, as a well-oiled machine, if not quite as smooth in operation as the aircraft themselves, at least more smoothly than they had in the past, reducing overall error percentages (Helmreich, Merritt, & Wihelm, 1999).
The fourth, and currently final, iteration in the aviation industry likewise took place in the 1990s, working to more fully integrate the policies and practices of CRM within the aviation industry (Helmreich, Meritt, & Wihelm, 1999). These changes to the field of CRM worked to not only make CRM training and practices mandatory for application within the aviation industry, but required a full compliance with new FAA regulations (Helmreich, Meritt, & Wihelm, 1999). These practices and perceptions worked to ensure that all crew members no longer perceived these policies and practices as something separate from their job duties and descriptions, but perceived them as a necessary and integral part of their job duties and descriptions (Beaubien & Baker, 2002).
Individuals within the aviation industry have shown, on the whole, an immense positivity toward the application and integration of CRM policies and practices and have indicated a definite understanding for the requirement, while indicating that they themselves believe that such training is justifiably required, especially in light of the advances in aviation technology in today’s day and age (Beaubien & Baker, 2002). As the aviation industry continues to grow and change, and as technologies become more specialized, aircraft becomes more automated and streamlined, and the duties of crew become more specialized, the necessity for CRM continues to grow; it will be unsurprising to see the next iteration in the evolution within the field of CRM within the next few years.