Despite the highly advanced technical standards in commercial aviation, the safety of airline operations is still heavily connected to human factors. Furthermore, the influence of cultural differences on pilot behaviour and attitudes has been widely reported.
During the last decade considerable emphasis has been placed on non-technical skills as one of the potential sources towards enhanced safety. The emergence of Crew Resource Management (CRM) courses is one of the most visible examples of this growing interest. New mandatory regulations have appeared, requiring the design and development of accompanying tools and methods. This is the case with the new set of CRM regulations calling for an evaluation of flight crews’ CRM skills. In this context the NOTECHS system (Evaluation of non-technical skills of multi-pilot aircrew in relation to the JAR FCL requirements) has been proposed.
The overall aim was to support the implementation of those Joint Aviation Requirements (JAR) codes that refer to human factors in commercial aviation.
The main objectives of JAR TEL were:
- to review and analyse cultural differences and their influence on air crews;
- to validate the use of the NOTECHS system, using an evaluation tool proposed for the evaluation of non-technical skills of multi-pilot air crew, based on a review of well understood non-technical skills of four primary categories related to social and cognitive skills, respectively, divided into the more specific elements: co-operation, leadership and managerial skills, situation awareness and decision-making;
- to perform an experimental evaluation of the NOTECHS system in order to improve its methodology framework and to clarify its application; and
- to bring up guidelines for the implementation of NOTECHS in accordance with JAR.
JAR TEL has:
- found that Crew Resource Management (CRM) behaviour varies with the national and organisational culture, and therefore influences evaluations of non-technical skills;
- confirmed the quasi-universal CRM elements covered by the NOTECHS system;
- developed an experimental protocol based on an empirical approach and a multiple-choice questionnaire addressing the three main hypotheses formulated by the NOTECHS system;
- held experimental sessions with a sample group of 105 instructor pilots from 14 different airlines across Europe which confirmed the robustness, usefulness and practicability of the NOTECHS concept;
- performed an operational validation of NOTECHS by means of some 50 simulator checks and more than 20 actual airline operations; and
- prepared implementation guidelines – that have been accepted by the European Cockpit Association (ECA), the international pilots union IFALPA and the Joint Aviation Authorities (JAA) – focussing on anonymous debriefing of cockpit crews to feed airline training databases in order to adapt future training programmes on non-technical skills.
The route map towards implementing the NOTECHS system is centred around the aforementioned political comprise among involved stakeholders, that helped to reduce anxieties and reservations related to possibly biased, subjective assessment criteria and unclear expectations of pilots and flight engineers in terms of non-technical skills.
The JAR TEL project is anticipated to have triggered a more adequately informed attitude towards the assessment of non-technical skills of cockpit crews.