Resource Management on the Flight Deck: The Workshop

The results of the NASA studies, and the renewed focus on flight crew human factors issues, led to a joint NASA and industry workshop in 1979 entitled Resource management on the flight deck} The workshop sought ways to improve safety through exploring strategies that might enhance individual and crew performance, and thus minimise human error.

The outcomes of this workshop echoed research findings of the 1970s, which suggested that the human factors issues involved in accident causation were characterised by failures in both cognitive and social skills, rather than a lack of technical ability of the flight crew. The synthesis of these research findings identified the main human factor causes of air crashes as the failures of communication, crew coordination, decision-making and leaderships These were to become the very focus of the first iterations of training and assessment of nontechnical skills in the form of cockpit resource management training.

The NASA workshop was the culmination of a decade of research exploring the role of pilot error in aviation accidents, and sought to lay out a framework for interventions to reduce the accident rate. The interventions focussed predominantly on training as a route towards wide-scale attitudinal and behavioural change.

Across three days in June 1979, a formidable program saw a series of presentations, first by those who had been involved in research exploring the theoretical underpinnings of human error as it manifested itself on the flight deck. Then, a series of presentations from industry champions, specifically training captains and training managers from across the globe, involved these leaders sharing their developments from the last decade. Finally, a series of interactive workshops took place mapping the potential future of applied human factors training.

At this workshop, the term cockpit resource management (CRM) was applied to the training of crews in making use of all available resources such that error could be avoided. The workshop was a watershed moment for the future development of programs of training and assessment of non-technical skills.

In the decade that followed, airlines continued to develop and refine their CRM training programs. The NASA workshop had clarified the focus on aspects of communication, leadership and decision-making, and airlines invested their efforts towards new ways of training in these areas.

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