free essayWhat can be worse than an airplane accident? In various studies, it has been identified that accidents involving aircrafts are much fatal than any other except for nuclear plant accidents (Helmreich, & Merritt, 1996). The need for safety in various industries has pushed management to provide insurance covers against employee injuries, fire, damage to equipment, and medical checkups. The fact that insurances do not prevent the incidents from occurring is a consideration that many employers, managers, and supervisors of high-risk tasks try to prevent by employing safety measures aimed at reducing or eliminating the potential risks. However, among employees and employers who have embarked on the use of safety procedures, a number of them have sustained injuries and others have lost their lives as a result of errors made by their colleagues (Helmreich & Merritt, 1996). With concerns rising with regards to the level of risk a task or a profession is more caution, which is appraised through the application of higher levels of prevention is exercised. For example, the aircraft or the aviation industry is one of the industries in which caution is exercised from different levels. These include the training of crews to exercise high caution levels during flights and various other stages within the same, regular inspection of aircrafts before they fly and after they land, the health of pilots and engineers, and training of runway personnel. In this paper, Crew Resource Management is discussed as it applies to the safety of aircraft handlers and other persons within the proximity of disaster.

Crew Resource Management takes a couple of models to exercise and promote safe behavior within and outside the line of duty (Cooper, White & Lauber, 1980). Among the available models include the DECIDE Model. The DECIDE Model is a decision making, problem solving and preventing, and strategic model used to train and enlighten crew members on the number of problems, casualties, or accidents their errors can contribute to (Lauber, 2001). The use of the DECIDE Model in Crew Resource Management is a vital, basic, and high priority obligation requiring to be applied in various sectors besides the flight or aviation industry (Lauber, 2001).

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Background Information

A lot of lives, both situated on land and others floating on air, can be lost if an aircraft is involved in an accident (Barker et al., 1996). There are two types of aircraft accident that are popularly reported on: an accident that involves an airplane crashing and killing everyone; and an aircraft accident that happens but for some reasons related to the crash site, a few people are injured or numerous survivors are accounted for (Barker et al., 1996). On the other hand, there are incidents in which an aircraft is involved in crash-landing upon which injuries may be registered; however, this kind of an incident falls under the fatality prevention measures rather than accidents (Helmreich & Foushee, 1993). With regards to research on the survival rates of anyone involved in an aircraft accident, it is noted that on a count of 100 aircraft accidents, at least a death is accounted for regardless of where the aircraft crashes. On the other hand, in fatal accidents it has been documented that survivors have been below 5% in every 100 cases (Helmreich & Foushee, 1993).

On a level of research, it is shown that mechanical problems associated with aircraft accidents account for only 50% of the total accidents (Helmreich & Merritt, 1996). This is according to a report documenting 35,000 historical cases complied over a period of seven and a half years (Helmreich & Merritt, 1996). On the other hand, the report shows that human error is responsible for the remaining 50% of accident causing elements (Lauber, 2001). While the above figures are associated with crew members operating within an airborne aircraft, 35% of aircraft accidents have been documented to have been caused by human errors at the traffic controller level (Helmreich & Merritt, 1996). There are many reasons as to why an aircraft accident may happen regardless of whether human error or mechanical error is associated. Some of these reasons may be natural, coincidental, or supernatural (Bermuda Triangle cases) (Lauber, 2001).

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Evaluation Model

CRM has been widely used to improve the safety of aviation crews all around the world. The origin of the concept is based in NASA from the year 1979 as a response call to address the role that humans played in air crashes. The role of human error in high-stress and high-risk environments are the major concerns the CRM emphasizes on. The National Transportation Safety Board defines CRM as the use of available resources in terms of equipment, information, and human capital in order to achieve efficiently safe flights (Helmreich & Merritt, 1996). While various entities may appraise or think that CRM is exercised by being careful, CRM encompasses more than just care. During crisis points, members with the CRM knowledge need logic rather than care as factors originating from the situation, which have the potential to worsen the case.

A number of various issues related to the safety of flights define or dictate the level of performance or rather readiness that crews should have with regards to their duties. For example, an air hostess can be trained on how to keep passengers calm to prevent the occurrence of heart attack deaths, people jumping from one place to another or out of the plane, or from entering the cockpit. However, the same may not be relevant to a traffic controller based on the ground at a target airport or airstrip. In this case, the application of CRM is central and specific to the type and role various humans play on flight operations. For general flight-safety approach, the DECIDE Model is the best candidate in that it applies decision making with solution appraising. This combination is applicable in the prevention of flight accidents or incidents and in solving of trending issues (Helmreich & Foushee, 1993).

Application of the DECIDE Model

D: The CRM concept takes the DECIDE Model as a process through which safety can be achieved or negotiated with in crisis times (Helmreich & Foushee, 1993). Negotiating with a problem is the act of trying to reason out the best applicable solution to a problem that has already presented itself. In this case, the window of testing and applying solutions may be limited hence the need to develop an attitude with which problems can be defined. Through the DECIDE Model, the problem of the issue requires to be defined or understood before options on how to solve it can be resulted into. For this reason, the letter D as used at the beginning of this paragraph denotes the first requirement of the process of applying CRM. The application of CRM through DECIDE model requires a crew member to identify the problem and to define it. Various problems can be defined by estimating how dangerous they can get if fast and logical approach is not embraced (Wiener, Kanki & Helmreich, 1993).

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There are three ways through which problems or risks can be defined. By using their scope of consequence, problems can be described as life threatening, damage prone, and disturbance prone. For the case of life threatening risks, a number of variables that can escalate out of proportion can lead to the loss of lives. While dealing with the aviation industry, lives can be lost anywhere as planes and other mechanisms work hand in hand. For example, a plane may land safely and every one may be safe by the time the plane comes to a stop. However, alighting from the plane may be fatal for passengers. Alighting from a plane requires the use of a detachable staircase mostly brought to the door of the plane. A mistake at the time of alighting can sent a passenger crashing to the ground. In this case, a crew member dealing with such a task is required to be aware of his/her duty and the extent of caution he/she must exercise. For damage prone situations or problems, a crew member is required to understand that every equipment and tools used within the line of duty should be handled with care. Otherwise, the damaged tools and equipment can lead to much dreadful results. Disturbance prone situations are human errors that have the capability of inducing unwanted or unnecessary attention or loss of focus. For example, if an airplane attendant pushes the fire alarm button by mistake, there are chances that concerned pilots may lose focus putting the lives of passengers at risk (Wiener, Kanki & Helmreich, 1993).

E: Exploring the options or alternatives is one of the most important steps applied in CRM when dealing with risky situations. However, at the training level, exploring the options takes an assumptive notion to outline possible solutions that can be applied if a crisis strikes. On the other hand, exploring of options at the crisis point may take a different turn unlike in assumptive situation. At this point, the training of crew members on how to maintain their calm is a lesson that is aimed at controlling their imagination and forward thinking during crisis times. Attitude mending and appraising is a factor of consideration with which crews are taught how to apply logic in crisis times (Wiener, Kanki & Helmreich, 1993). The brain of a human being is at its best thinking abilities if it is calm and free of stress (Lauber, 2001). Mostly, crisis situations presenting themselves to members of a crew do not require exploring of options. The reason behind this is that some factors or situations escalate at a faster rate than the time needed for preparation. In this case, if assumptive reasoning is applied at the training level, the crew member or human faced with the situation would apply the best option before having to explore various options.

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However, for situations that are guaranteed to be fatal or life threatening, options can be explored and executed at the expense of other close options. Considering a real life situation like the sinking of the Titanic or the Costa Concordia; the captains had options, which in either way or manner of application had negative consequences. For example, the Costa Concordia case was an escalating situation, which threatened the lives of the people aboard. The captain, regardless of what he actually did, could have called for help or asked the ship crew to start the evacuation process at the moment the ship hit the shallow shore rocks. Given that the ship was not too far from the shore, this would have been a logical option; however, for the case of The Titanic, evacuation would result to deaths of the passengers due to the long distance to the nearest shore or the freezing Atlantic Ocean (Barker et al., 1996).

C: The fact that the Titanic or Costa Concordia were involved in accidents, the period between the actual accidents and escalation of the situations would have gave the captains some time to weigh the moral connection between their decisions and the effects the decisions would result on the passengers. Considering that, the same situation happened on an airborne airline, the pilots and the crew members would have had the time to think or weigh their options. However, the difference between aircraft and ship accidents is the fact that ships always have a grace period before they are completely destroyed by the condition they are suffering from. On the other hand, some aircrafts present the same grace period only that the results are mostly estimated in terms of near death or death terms. Fire inside a ship chamber is likely to be put off by water if a leakage results. On the other hand, fire inside an aircraft is likely to spread faster if it destroys the roof or side of the plane (result of oxygen and pressure) (Barker et al., 1996). In either case, the possibility that the condition can be controlled depends on the amount of logic and caution exercised within the few minutes or seconds the situation is estimated to remain within manageable limits. At this point, the application of the C on the DECIDE Model is applied.

In normal training sessions of the CRM, crews will be trained on how to handle crisis if a situation presents itself. This means that they are prepared to handle future problems that they have not been faced with yet. For a situation that is beyond control, a number of options can be weighed. For example, if a pilot is in charge of an out-of-control airplane, he can advise passengers to jump one by one if there are parachutes available onboard. On the other hand, the pilot may decide to crash-land the plane if conditions like water bodies, snowy plains, or sandy deserts are present. The same option may not be applicable if the only land that the plane can be crash-landed is a rocky topography or the top of the iceberg. By consideration of an alternative, the application of the DECIDE Model helps crews to be able to adjust their options with regards to other variables influencing the outcome of the situation (Barker et al., 1996).

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I: At the start of the CRM program, employees or crews are advised on how to take their positions seriously with regards to performance, exercising of caution, and control of their attitudes. Attitude towards work is one cause of human error and its consequence is nothing short of life threatening or damage prone. Employees with bad attitudes towards their jobs are likely to be much careless and underperforming. In addition, negligence related errors result to ignorance in responding to alarms. In this case, those responsible for the problem may not be involved in accidents of incidents that may occur as a result. For example, an aeronautical engineer may neglect his/her job to inspect a plane before it takes off, because he/she feels underpaid or underutilized. In such case, the engineer develops negative attitude, which is reflected on his performance and level of exercising caution. At the training level, such attitudes are repaired by reminding the crews that negative attitudes may not only cause injuries or deaths to their colleagues, but they also have the potential of affecting them correspondingly (Wiener, Kanki & Helmreich, 1993).

With positive attitudes, crews are appraised through their potential for handling crises as well as their personal performances. At this point of the CRM program, the letter I on the DECIDE Model is used for the identification of the best options to handle any given crisis situation. While settling on the solutions to adapt, a crew member is expected to consider his/her colleagues as well as other people who may be affected or targeted by the risk or dangerous situation. With regards to being observant, a crew member will not apply a solution that only considers his/her safety alone. He/she will measure the possible magnitude of effect his/her decision is likely to yield and adjust the decision to the option with the least negative outcome.

D: Decide and take action is the reminder set forward by the application of the DECIDE Model. In this case, if the CRM training program outlines all possible options that can be taken in any specific situation, one is required to make up his/her mind fast, logically, and execute the decision made. Fighter jets make part of the aviation industry regardless of whether they are flying over combat zones or not. In CRM, a fighter jet pilot will be trained on how to avoid flying into a high-risk enemy lines or zones. However, fighter jets are always in the danger zones if they must pursue and execute attacks. In a situation where the aircraft has been hit, the pilot can decide to crash-land regarding the topography of the combat zone. However, if the decision to inject his seat and abandon the plane is chosen, according to the DECIDE Model, one should inject immediately. Decision making is a process that should obey time and timing. This means that, at times the execution of a decision may be delayed, hence, resulting into a secondary level crisis. Timing, on the other hand, is a variable whose importance is showcased through safe execution regardless of whether there is plenty of time or very short time left (Wiener, Kanki & Helmreich, 1993).

E: CRM program requires crews to evaluate their options before applying them in the situations they may be faced with. While evaluating the solutions, they may be able to find errors or areas that require revision. The importance of this step, as the rest of the steps are, is to ensure that controllable uncertainties are avoided and managed by managing errors in the decision making process. If a pilot is capable of committing an error that may cost the lives of everyone aboard, crew members including the pilot can also commit errors when implementing a decision.


In flight safety, nothing is guaranteed as the number of variables that can contribute to fatal accidents range from mechanical defects of an aircraft to minor human errors. In this case, CRM programs have been introduced to train crews on how to exercise caution and prevent accidents or unanticipated incidents from happening. Through the use of the DECIDE Model, it is evident that safety of passengers, crew members, colleagues, and anyone else who may be affected by human errors, should be prioritized as it is a basic requirement in the aviation industry.