This is a post by guest author Carol Martin. Carol was asked to contribute to our business aviation blog because of her expertise as a flight attendant as it relates to business aircraft operations. Any thoughts expressed below are entirely Carol’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Universal Weather and Aviation, Inc.
The subject is usually doomed from the start for those of us who get it in safety training or any other aviation-related course. Often it is tucked in right after lunch to ease you into the afternoon, and few pay attention. Quick: What is crew resource management (CRM) anyway? CRM’s primary purpose is to make optimum use of ALL resources available to promote enhanced situational awareness, teamwork, and communication to enhance safe and efficient operations. Sounds great, right? Too bad it often stays right there in the classroom. Thankfully, most operations have discreetly built CRM into their daily standard operating procedure (SOPs) and checklists, but it can really fall apart when you have that “player to be named later” join you. I’m talking about the contract third crewmember, the wild card in the equation. Some operations have a well-oiled machine and handle this in stride as a daily occurrence. Others may not have the resources to do so. As with most situations in aviation, if you take a few minutes to prepare before it happens, chances are you’ll handle it in a way that enhances the entire mission’s safety and operation as a cohesive unit. This is an everyday occurrence cleverly disguised as a scientific principal. So let’s take a look at some simple ways we can all work together to make each trip safer, not to mention more pleasant!
1. Pre-trip communication allows for a smooth trip
Schedulers, Dispatchers, Brokers, and Flight Attendants are all gathering information about the trip from the client and importing it directly into a database. This is the basis for the trip sheet. An example of good communication among this group is when the aircraft owner or operator requests background information on the Flight Attendant that the client wishes to use. The Flight Attendant forwards her resume and qualifications to the Broker or Schedulers and Dispatchers, and they include this information with the trip sheet for the crew. Often, for legal reasons, the third crewmember must be listed on the trip sheet as a Cabin Attendant or simply “passenger.” This additional information gives the crew a more complete picture of who is working with them. It’s also beneficial for the PIC to send a quick e-mail to the new crewmember, time permitting, introducing the crew and advising of any details. This opens the door for communications and sets the stage for cooperation. As a third crewmember, I usually like to respond with my contact information in case things change at the last minute and a crew profile sheet (what they like to eat, what phase of flight they do or don’t like to eat, etc.) so I feel prepared to flow with their operation as smoothly as possible as though I always work with them.
2. Briefing on equipment onboard
Maybe there isn’t time for that much detail before the first meeting, so on the day of the trip, you have to make the most of that introduction. It may be beneficial during the first meet to get to know each other and gain insight on everyone’s background. If the company has been unable to pass information on to the crew, they have no idea whether the third crewmember is an egress-trained safety asset or a waitress. This is also a great time for the PIC or SIC to brief the new member. A contract crewmember flies on a different aircraft every time. Even if it were a GV every time, which is unlikely, every GV is configured differently in the cabin. Take a moment and start at one end and work to the other, pointing out the safety equipment. You have to check it every flight anyway, so just make it a tour. A moment now to go over how this entertainment system works will prevent questions during a phase of flight when you are focused on operational issues. It’s best to explain how you would like to manage an evacuation, preferred signals, and commands. Where do you want this person to sit for takeoff and landing? After a good briefing, you know you have a valuable asset behind you to assist you in the event of an emergency, and these are things difficult to explain when things get sporty.
3. Working together on the flight
Good communication can simply make the day go smoother for you as well. When the luggage is being stowed, it’s best to determine if the third crewmember is leaving with the clients, staying with the aircraft, or leaving by car. Once the aircraft takes off, that third crewmember goes back into your galley, uses all sorts of things, and goes through lots of dishes that are sent into the FBO upon landing, in many cases. The crew that stays with the aircraft is responsible, though. For this reason, I always travel with Dish Tag sheets and Galley Re-Stock sheets. Since I won’t be there when the dishes come back, I put a list of the dishes to be returned in the galley (and send one in with the dishes to the FBO) so they can easily be checked when the clean dishes come back and I’m not there. I also leave a list of items used in the galley, so when the aircraft gets to its restock point, it is easy to restock. These forms make everyone’s job easier and are simple to make up for your own aircraft to give to the third crewmember to use on your flights. You can also contact me for a template if you prefer. Third crewmembers, please remember: You are a guest in someone else’s home, so leave it as you found it, which communicates respect.
4. Combating breakdown of communication
The reality is, CRM can break down at any stage of the process. Break down can begin at any level. It’s not a perfect world. There, we have that out of the way, so let’s look at what to do when there is a breakdown. Aircraft operators are the first line of defense in obtaining complete information. They should know the qualifications of a person boarding their aircraft as a cabin attendant or flight attendant, then pass this information along to the crew. The crew needs to know who they are working with, not just weather stats. It’s best for the PICs to ask for more information if a briefing simply has “cabin attendant” listed. Crews also need complete information about passengers with medical issues so they are mentally prepared for possible in-flight emergencies and diversions. If there’s no information about the passenger boarding with supplemental oxygen, it’s best practice to ask why he or she uses it. And pets? Make sure the crew knows they are coming on too. It’s all well and good for the broker and the operator to iron this out, but what if the PIC is allergic to cats or afraid of large dogs? On the ramp is not the time for him to see the Doberman bounding up the steps. Third crewmember: If you aren’t comfortable with where everything is on an aircraft, wait for a good moment and ask for a quick briefing. Don’t just hope for the best; that’s how things start to compound and accidents happen.
5. Tips for a comprehensive briefing
For those who would like to have a more comprehensive brief, here’s a few points to get you started. It doesn’t have to be fancy, and maybe this could be a jumping-off point and you all could round this out for me with your all-time favorites. These are things I always like to know from the crew when I get on a flight.
- Location of exits and safety equipment
- Type/operation of oxygen system
- Preferred location to sit for takeoff/landing
- Ready signal for takeoff
- Evacuation signal
- Evacuation duty preferences
- Who briefs pax if necessary
- Who collects pax and crew documents (Time Permitting)
- Entertainment system rundown
- Galley rundown
- Seat/bed operations
- Tray table locations
- Aircraft manual location (for flight attendant reference)
- Aircraft idiosyncrasies
- Crew preferences (Extended sterile cockpit, individual preferences)
Now you can look at CRM in a more practical sense and apply it to your everyday activity. Good communication may not only make us safer on each mission, but make each trip a lot more enjoyable.
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Carol Martin is the Top Dog and CEO of Sit ‘n Stay Global, LLC, and developed the first set of standardized Pet Safety Protocols for pets flying in aircraft cabins. She began her career in aviation as a commercial flight attendant with Delta Air Lines where she founded the charitable foundation “Wings of Angels” to assist passengers who had to travel alone with special needs. Her Bachelor’s degree in Business and CPA allowed her to successfully build this program into a thriving system to help passengers navigate commercial travel with the help of airline volunteers. Upon making the transition to Corporate Flight Attendant in 2006, she saw the need to define the standard of care for pet passengers in General Aviation and developed clear, concise Pet Safety Protocols. She is an Instructor for the American Red Cross in Pet First Aid and CPR, has studied pet nutrition and behavior and is an advocate in the fight against K9 Cancer. Her company provides trained crew members who can provide world-class human and pet In-Flight service and she teaches In-Flight Pet Safety and First Aid to flight departments and aircraft owners who wish to learn these skills for their own operation. You may learn more about these services at: www.sitnstayglobal.com or e-mail Carol at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
This guest author’s views are entirely her own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Universal Weather and Aviation, Inc.
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