Let’s start by unravelling that jumble of acronyms:
EBT – Evidence Based Training
ATPQ – Alternative Training and Qualification Programme
CRM – Crew (Cockpit) (Complete) Resource Management
What is Evidence Based Training?
EBT is a shift in philosophy away from traditional, prescriptive training and checking methods in which, for example, you repeat the set requirements and training exercises of an LPC/OPC over and over again every six months. It emerged from a recognition that training and checking regulation was a product of long outdated evidence from accidents on a fleet of first generation jet aircraft that had little in common with the highly automated world that modern aircrew operate in today.
The size and scope of data sources on how we operate aircraft has increased exponentially over the past two decades. HUMS, flight data analysis, LOSA programmes, and the product of modern occurrence reporting systems and SMS have all contributed to a wealth of data about flight operations and safety. Tapping in to this data to provide information (evidence) about how we could be training more effectively and efficiently is what the EBT project is all about. For more about how the EBT movement came about see The EBD Foundation.
In depth studies of the data indicated the need for pilots to be exposed to the unexpected in a learning environment, and be more challenged with and immersed in complex situations, rather than being repetitively tested in the execution of manoeuvres.
Therefore, EBT does not aim to simply replace an outdated set of critical events with a new set, but to use the evidence from research as a vehicle for developing and assessing crew performance across a range of desirable competencies. For more detail see ICAO Manual on EBT.
It also moves the focus of the instructor cadre onto analysis of the root causes to correct inappropriate actions, rather than simply asking a flight crew member to repeat a manoeuvre with no real understanding as to why it was not successfully flown in the first instance.
What is the Alternative Training and Qualification Programme?
Using the same rationale as EBT, ATPQ allows operators to develop an alternative framework for the conduct of initial and recurrent training. This gives the opportunity for operators to create a more effective and more operation specific training and checking programme for their crews. ATPQ has been summed up by the CAA as “Train the way you operate, and operate the way you train” allowing training programmes to be targeted at areas pertinent to the operators type and theatre of operation. For more information see the CAA’s ATPQ Industry Guidance.
What is the impact of all this on how we teach and assess CRM?
As we have seen, EBT has been behind a paradigm shift in the philosophy of how we evaluate crew performance. It advocates assessment of performance according to a set of competencies, and these competencies do not necessarily distinguish between the “non-technical” (e.g. CRM) and the “technical”.
Under EBT any area of competence assessed not to meet the required level of performance shall also be associated with an observable behaviour that could lead to an unacceptable reduction in safety margin. This could be technical or non-technical, or both. Under this new way of thinking, it is not really possible to separate the technical from the non-technical skills as the are both intrinsically tied up with each other.
If there is no longer such a thing as ‘non-technical’ skills, where does that leave a CRM syllabus that specifically defines, and is mandated to cover such ‘non-technical’ topics as leadership and teamwork, communication, situational awareness, decision-making, personality and behaviour?
If there is no longer such a thing as ‘non-technical’ skills, where does that leave a CRM syllabus that specifically defines, and is mandated to cover such ‘non-technical’ topics?
Is it possible to teach and discuss CRM without separating the technical from the non-technical?
For years training and checking forms and pilot assessment have separated and required a separate assessment of the technical and non-technical skills in flight. However, once considered in the light of a competency-based philosophy such as EBT, it is difficult to contest the notion that the two are so completely intertwined, that separating them cannot produce any useful measure of either.
Where does that leave the CRM ground syllabus?
The key skill of a successful CRM ground trainer must be the ability to present and build on theoretical knowledge of the core topics in such a way as to draw a useful, relevant, and credible link between the material being presented and its application in the cockpit or operational line flying environment.
As the EASA CRM syllabus demonstrates, with recent additions to the core topics in the form of Resilience and Surprise and Startle, and an increasing focus on automation and monitoring, the drive is to raise the profile and levels of understanding behind those areas which must be readily applied when under stress in the cockpit. EBT creates line and simulator training which in turn facilitates learning in these areas, thus closing the circle between the theoretical and the practical elements of CRM.
Advocates of the EBT philosophy would argue that it bolsters the opportunity to put core non-technical aspects of piloting under the spotlight, through more effective training and exposure to rapidly developing and dynamic situations. Having to deal with unpredictable scenarios in the training and checking environment will allow a better assessment and examination of pilot decision-making processes for example. Rapidly changing demands on the flight plan are more likely to provoke challenges to and possible breakdown of situational awareness, and higher demands on the crew is likely to shine a spotlight on the effectiveness of teamwork and communication. Another important aspect of EBT is the notion of resilience. In aviation terms, resilience is the capability of an individual or crew to recover and “bounce back” from a challenging situation or serious threat.
Just as traditional training and checking philosophies have become outdated, an approach to churning out standard CRM mantra and learning objectives under a rigid set of syllabus topics will not keep pace with new approaches to training and learning such as EBT. CRM training philosophies need to grow with them, both on the Line and in the classroom.
CRM has suffered in the past – and still does in some quarters – from a stigma and disdain owing to it being too obtuse, theoretical, disconnected from the commercial and other realities of the flight line. It can only overcome these prejudices by innovating, adapting and remaining relevant to what aircrew understand that they do.
In CRM, the bottom line should always be, “Can you take the training into the aircraft?”