I still remember the day when I climbed into the left seat of my trusty old ”NAG” (C-FNAG, a beautiful Piper Chieftain), getting ready for yet another day at work. Max, my copilot at the time, climbed in after me and we started our routine checks, filled up with the usual random chit-chat and small talk.
As we started our taxi for the runway in preparation for departure, one of the items that had to be checked were the altimeters. In order to get an accurate altitude reading, both altimeters in the cockpit have to be set correctly, to what is commonly known as the ”altimeter setting”, or ”baro setting’. As Max called the item on the checklist, I responded with the appropriate setting and proceeded to set my altimeter. However, instead of confirming that his altimeter was also set as prompted, Max answered, ”My altimeter is set to 00.00! Like Chuck Yeager, I never fly under pressure!!’‘
Needless to say, we had a good laugh about this all day long, and it became a recurent joke as we went along flying across the country. But under this funny quote lies a basic, fundamental pillar of aviation: Human Factors.
A lot has been said about this subject already, and yet, it seems like we have only started to scratch the surface. Human factors in aviation encompasses so much more than we usually think of right off the bat. Of course, there are the usual suspects: Stress, Fatigue, Intoxication (I’m talking about cafeine here!), Night flying, Hypoxia, and all the other fancy terms found in the regular paraphernalia . But we often forget about other, just as important factors. Crew Ressource Management is a form of dealing with human factors.
Antoine de Saint-Exupery once said, “The airplane has unveiled for us the true face of the earth”. The reality of this statement has changed. Aviation today has turned into an ever growing industry where man has had to learn to mix passion and professionalism in the day to day operations. More than just the earth, aviation has unveiled the true nature of man. In this constantly evolving, constantly changing environment, the human brain and body has been put under more stress than ever. And despite the advances in technology, there will always remain the human factor of the equation.
In the next two chapters of this subject, I’ll be covering important issues concerning CRM both inside and outside of the cockpit. You can find the next two chapters linked below 🙂