Why Automation Should be Part of Your BizAv CRM Training?

Over a series of articles, Mario Pierobon explores Crew Resource Management (CRM) implementation in Business Aviation flight departments, here exploring the place of automation within CRM training...

Mario Pierobon  |  20th May 2024
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    Mario Pierobon
    Mario Pierobon

    Mario Pierobon holds a Master’s Degree in Air Transportation Management from City University London,...

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    Why should automation be a focus of BizAv CRM training

    Crew Resource Management training helps Business Aviation Flight Departments address the challenge of optimizing the human/machine interface.

    While it’s helpful in developing interpersonal activities in pilots and mechanics in areas such as information transfer, problem solving, decision-making and systems management, “Demonstrated mastery of CRM concepts cannot overcome a lack of proficiency,” warns ICAO’s online safety tool ‘Advisory Circular — Crew Resource Management Training Programme’.

    “Similarly, high technical proficiency cannot guarantee safe operations in the absence of effective crew coordination.”

    So how does CRM work, and how can it be best implemented in a Business Aviation Flight Department, particularly in relation to ‘Automation’?

    The Growing Need for CRM Automation Training in BizAv

    According to a 2018 conference paper entitled ‘Crew Resource Management for Automated Teammates (CRM-A)’1, CRM is the application of human factors knowledge and skills to ensure that teams use all resources effectively. 

    CRM was developed 40 years ago in response to a series of airline crashes in which the crew played a contributory role. The goal was to improve teamwork among airline cockpit crews.

    “With advances in machine intelligence, processing speed, and cheap and plentiful memory, automation has advanced to the point that it can and should be treated as a ‘teammate’ to fully take advantage of its capabilities and Contributions to the system”, according to the CRM-A paper.

    According to the paper, automation has made us more productive, but it is not perfect. In fact, it can significantly underperform when taken out of the ‘comfort zone’ it is designed for.

    Aviation has not been bypassed by the increase in automation - from relatively simple autopilots to sophisticated Flight Management Systems - and the development of automation as a tool to improve flight safety and efficiency has continued.

    Automation is moving from simple ‘tools’ to intelligent cognitive agents that can function as ‘teammates’ like human teammates.

    Innovations in AI and increases in the speed and memory of the underlying hardware have spurred this shift. “Aviation, with its very systematic approach to safety, may prove to be both a source of inspiration for developing better human-autonomy teaming, and an industry where its benefits might be most profitably exploited”, the CRM-A paper notes.

    Incorporating Automation in BizAv CRM Training: Best Practices

    Years of cultivating teamwork on the flight deck have contributed to the positive safety record of aviation, the paper adds.

    “In the cockpit, where the importance of teaming has long been understood, the skills necessary for good teaming and the training procedures for teaching those skills have been codified under the umbrella of Crew Resource Management.”

    According to EASA AIR OPS AMC1 ORO.FC.115 dealing with CRM training, an air operator should ensure that automation and philosophy on the use of automation are addressed as CRM training elements.

    CRM training should include training in the use and knowledge of automation, recognition of the systems, and human limitations associated with the use of automation.

    Therefore, an operator should ensure that the flight crew members receive training on the application of the operations policy concerning the use of automation stated in the operations manual. They should also receive training on system and human limitations associated with the use of automation.

    Special attention should be given to issues of mode awareness, automation surprises and over-reliance including a false sense of security and complacency. The objective of the training should ideally be to provide adequate knowledge, skills and attitudes for the management and operation of automated systems.

    Special attention should be given to how automation increases the need for crews to have a common understanding of how the system performs, and any features of automation that make this understanding difficult.

    If conducted in a Flight Simulation Training Device (FSTD), training should include different automation surprises (both system- and pilot-induced), according to EASA AIR OPS AMC1 ORO.FC.115.

    In Summary

    CRM has become deeply integrated into crew training. As automation advances, it is necessary for Flight Departments to review CRM training and incorporate this new more powerful automation paradigm as a critical component of its training.

    “The human-automation team should be developed in such a way that the human team member may eventually trust and interact with the automated team member in many of the same ways as they would with another human”, the CRM-A paper summarizes.

    Read more articles in this series including how to implement better Business Aviation Crew Resource Management into the Flight Department.

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