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Old 18th Jun 2017, 14:09   #1 (permalink)
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Join Date: Apr 2005
Location: Australia
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A question of CRM or simply Fly-by-Mouth

CRM or Fly-By-Mouth. I would appreciate readers experience on this subject.

As a simulator instructor I train pilots from many different airlines. Every operator has its own SOP’s usually based upon the aircraft manufacturers recommendations. They vary from airline to airline. A recent episode reminded me of that apocryphal story about two pilots talking about their work. One says what is your job in the airline? The other replies he is the captain’s sexual advisor.

“What do you mean by that?

“Every time I make a suggestion to the captain he says “if I want your advice, I’ll ask for it”. Maybe there is a slight element of truth about that.

I was operating the instructor panel for a hiring company charged with assessing several foreign 737 captains for contract work with a Japanese LLC. All spoke English with varying degrees of proficiency but had never met before being paired up on the day of the simulator session, which consisted of several circuits. The assessors were two senior captains from the airline. One spoke no English. The second assessor had very limited English language skills. On this occasion an Eastern European captain acting as support pilot, was continually advising, leading and prompting his colleague in the left seat from take off to touch down. It must have been most distracting to the pilot trying to gauge his distance abeam the runway while flying the 737 as best he could and saddled with a verbose stranger in the RH seat. Now I have been around for a long time and I can’t remember hearing such non-stop garbage.

At the end of the session we adjourned for a debrief and coffee. I whispered to the chief assessor that the fly-by-mouth pilot would need pulling into line. Perhaps because his own English was limited the assessor hadn’t a clue what the motor-mouth was saying. Instead he replied that he and his non-English speaking colleague were very impressed by the copilots excellent CRM in his support calls to the pilot flying. The fact they hadn’t understood a thing the co-pilot was saying meant nothing to them as long as the co-pilot was continually “advising” the captain.

I observed another crew in the simulator. The captain was undergoing his instrument rating renewal. It was soon apparent the co-pilot was leading the captain by changing important MCP selections without being asked as well as “advising” him when to turn inbound from a manually flown raw data holding pattern and ILS. “Looking good Jack – bring it around a few degrees and she’ll be right. Slightly high on glide slope – you need to get it down a bit. I’ll give you landing flap now. Speeds good. Watch the power.” Ad nauseum. Meanwhile the captain said nothing and did his own thing while staying commendably calm despite his copilot’s more or less constant chatter.

Half way into the ILS, I felt compelled to stop the simulator and told the co-pilot to stick to his company SOP calls applicable to the instrument approach and stop coaching the captain or the rules meant I would cancel the instrument rating test. The co-pilot protested that he was supporting the PF by good CRM. He could not see it was nothing more than back seat driving. Later I asked the captain how he felt about the steady commentary from the RH seat. The captain replied it was annoying but he was used to it since it was company policy to encourage copilots to help the captain and that included reading a checklist or a heading or a configuration without waiting for directions from the captain. In all fairness it is often the captain that is guilty of hammering a co-pilot with unwanted advice. The co-pilot becomes captive audience to seniority.

If that is supposed to represent good CRM then it has gone too far. Fly-by-mouth is a more apt term. Rather than a professional cockpit atmosphere where one pilot flies and the other monitors and carries out directions, the original concept of CRM has deteriorated into the farcical situation where some PM’s (whether a captain or first officer) lack the discipline needed to keep their mouth shut (unless safety dictates) while the other is flying. When company mandated SOP support calls become nothing more than an excuse for back seat driving, then the flight safety importance of a disciplined flight deck goes out the window.

Last edited by A37575; 18th Jun 2017 at 14:39.
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Old 18th Jun 2017, 14:15   #2 (permalink)
 
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Good post, valid arguments.
I'll shut up now....
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Old 18th Jun 2017, 16:55   #3 (permalink)
 
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The problem with coaching like this is that it relies on Motormouth to be correct. My experience is that the noisy ones are just as liable to bugger things up as the quiet ones. The verbiage in the flight deck, as described in SOPs, is there for a reason. Too much or too little is non-SOP, just stick with the plan. Besides me excess noise is a distraction that needs to be stopped.
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Old 18th Jun 2017, 20:59   #4 (permalink)
 
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Talking autopilots are a negative. They shift the balance between PF & PM. It becomes very easy, if PM is more dominant than PF for there to be a role reversal. The danger is that eventually PF waits for PM to advise/prompt him what to do. Then, when PM says nothing, noting happens. Not good.
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Old 20th Jun 2017, 12:10   #5 (permalink)
 
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That would be considered poor CRM where I come from. Communication is a big part of CRM but that doesn't mean lots of talking. The Comms have to be clear, correct, and timely.
Having flown in a few different parts of the world I have seen Airlines/countries misunderstand what CRM actually is. It sounds like the mob you were watching have misinterpreted CRM to be " flattening out the authority gradient and being helpful".
It is not that at all.
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Old 21st Jun 2017, 14:13   #6 (permalink)
 
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It's been my experience that the SOPs are a big part of CRM. They help the PF know what to expect from the PM, and the PM knows when to say something and what to say. Important attention-getting stuff like "sinkrate" or "low on glidepath" or "go-around".
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Old 21st Jun 2017, 16:50   #7 (permalink)
 
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A32575...... I agree, a very interesting post, and from the CRM point of veiw, inmy opinion, it was right to terminate the IR test on the grounds of CRM and operating outside of the SOPs, I'm not an IRE, but isn't covered in the IR renewal standards document. Of course what you could have done is to instruct the co-pilot by way of a note to be incapacitated. I presume a IR can include incapacitation of PNF, please enlighten us?

It must be diffucult to be a simulator examiner, with different SOPs and culturral aspects.

As to sidebar, quite right, SOPs are a big part of CRM, unless in the case of the A320 landing in the Hudson or the Sioux city DC10 where there was no SOP. I wonder how many airlines stress that SOPs are a big part of CRM, particulary where there may be cultural issues in CRM.

Last edited by Homsap; 21st Jun 2017 at 17:12.
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Old 21st Jun 2017, 20:20   #8 (permalink)
 
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Of course what you could have done is to instruct the co-pilot by way of a note to be incapacitated.

A telescopic pointer is a great tool with multiple uses. Point out scan deficineces with a tap and encourage PF to sharpen up, or a rap on the knuckles or shoulder of PM at an appropriate juncture to shut up.
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