Single Pilot? Offset Risk in a BizAv Cockpit (Part 2)

Continuing his discussion of single pilot safety accountability, this month Mario Pierobon explores strategies for raising safety awareness, and getting the most out of single pilot Crew Resource Management training…

Mario Pierobon  |  31st March 2021
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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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Smiling pilot looks back at camera from airplane cockpit

Additional content could be embedded in the training programs of single pilots to raise their safety awareness – though Crew Resource Management (CRM), as Mario Pierobon highlights here... 

Training and human factors expert Thomas Fakoussa suggests the aviation authorities and the industry’s accident investigators don’t necessarily know how to do add more practical training on pilot awareness during flight.

“It is also not part of flight instructor-led training,” he adds, “but it would be necessary to include mental awareness training as a simple and practical tool to develop pilots in self-management.”

In general, as part of their initial training a pilot will learn basic human factors principles in decision-making, fatigue, hypoxia, and spatial disorientation.

“Although these are important to learn – especially as a single pilot – additional training in human behavior is extremely important”, says Kim Hutchings, Chief Executive Officer of Volo Mission. “Really understanding and learning to quickly recognize when we’re tired, stressed, distracted, pressured, etc., can help pilots detect when there’s more of a likelihood for error, or when they are taking more risks.

“Unfortunately, this is often recognized after something has already happened,” Hutchings reflects. “More education and training are needed to help people learn more about themselves. This can be done through training, coaching, and mentoring.”

CRM training could make a significant difference within small operations, says Alex Pollitt, a helicopter pilot and CRM trainer. This could help establish a culture that puts a genuine emphasis on the principles of single pilot CRM and operator safety.

“Too often, the quality of training is lacking – or the time and thought has not been taken to apply it effectively to the specific CRM challenges and risks of the operation in question,” Pollitt reveals.

Don’t assume that CRM has all the answers, he cautions, “but, if done well, it could –or should – be the best way to provoke genuine introspection in the minds of the single pilot, therefore raising single pilot safety awareness.”

And Pollitt believes that a good safety culture encourages habits such as pilots raising doubts and questions, and gives them the confidence to ask for a second opinion. “In fact, it should demand that pilots solicit a second opinion on flight preparation and decision-making, whenever possible,” he says.

Pilot stripes - over-shoulder photo of pilot in cockpit

Single Pilot CRM

Given its usefulness to single pilot operations, it’s unfortunate that the very title ‘Crew Resource Management’ implies the training is less relevant to pilots who don’t work in a crew.

“Of course, as CRM has developed through what is now six generations, the name has stuck,” Pollitt reflects. “But the training that it describes has broadened significantly.

“This unfortunate misnomer in the context of single pilot operations should actually be referred to as Non-Technical Skills,” he suggests, “an inherent and indivisible part of the art and science of being a pilot, regardless of whether you fly single-seat or aboard a widebody aircraft.”

From a regulatory point of view there’s no difference between single pilot CRM and multi-pilot CRM. “The entire syllabus applies, and even when something appears not to be relevant, it only takes a little thought as to how a concept might be applied in the single-pilot context to realize that this approach does make sense,” Pollitt explains.

“For example, leadership, teamwork, and communication (among other things) can all still be helpful in single crew operations, and should not be restricted to multi-crew CRM training.”

The applicability of human factors considerations is so widespread today that it is seen to encompass all of the external influences and agencies that you might deal with during the preparation, duration, and aftermath of a flight.

“Although you might assume that the lessons of effective communication and teamwork don’t apply to individuals sitting in the cockpit, the single pilot will still need to communicate and interact with many others throughout the course of their aviation activity,” Pollitt highlights. “In reality, aviation is never an activity that can be carried out alone.”

From CRM to PRM…

Many years ago, Fakoussa coined the term ‘Personal Resource Management’ (PRM). “This concept is the foundation of any crew composed of individuals,” he explains, adding that a PRM-trained pilot would have a good foundation for teamwork within a crew, as they would always have self-control to remain functional within the team.

“Retaining self-control at all times is ultimately the requirement for safe single-pilot operations, and having learnt – and been checked for – continuous self-control will make single-pilot operators accountable,” he concludes.

Did you miss Part 1 of this article? Find it here.

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