More up-to-date thinking has given us much improved facilities on the aircraft, and Crew Resource Management (CRM). At the very least, CRM is intended to ensure that the Pilot receives information and advice from not only the other crewmembers, but also from external sources such as ATC and FSS. A fundamental element will also be that wherever possible, adherence to SOPs will enhance safety.
CRM may also incorporate delegating the aircraft handling functions under many circumstances, as well as utilizing as much as possible of the aircraft avionics. However, this will often result in a conflict, because the SOPs say that handling should be done by the Pilot in Charge, but good CRM indicates it should be delegated to the other pilot as a lower priority task. A question which is often lacking in some CRM courses however is how to determine when the situation has become serious enough to warrant this delegation, i.e. when to abandon the basic SOP allocation of duties because it does not give the pilot-in- charge the opportunity to resolve the bigger problems. At the same time of course the CRM training emphasizes the need to stick to SOPs.
In many of the events used as examples for CRM training, a fairly dramatic event is used to illustrate the benefits of what is being advocated. However, in many real world accident and incident scenarios, it is evident that a gradual breakdown of ability to see the overall picture has occurred as successive minor events pile up. This frequently overwhelms the pilot s ability to determine that a break point has been reached where this transfer (and departure from the basic SOP) has really become essential.
To protect against this situation it would be necessary to have the delegation achieved before the degradation sequence starts, and the inevitable deterioration of judgement under pressure occurs. In fact, this is eminently logical if delegation provides a better way of managing situations which have become hazardous. Isn t it equally a better way of managing situations before they become hazardous? Incorporate it into the SOP, and there is no requirement to deviate from the SOP to achieve good CRM.
So in the standard modern two-person flight deck default SOPs, the Pilot, (usually in the left seat) handles the aircraft, receives inputs from ATC, from the company, and from the systems, and functions as the overall commander. The Co-pilot (usually in the right seat) handles communication and system operations. The Co-pilot has two basic functions: most of the time, to assist the Pilot in achieving his intentions, but also monitoring, correcting, and if necessary preventing the Pilot doing what he intends – a pretty standard basic airline allocation of duties.
This situation can be analyzed from two different perspectives. One is a mechanistic approach, looking at it from a system design perspective, in terms of crewmembers as components with interconnections and reliability criteria. The second could be called a humanistic approach, with a social interactions perspective, dealing with relationships and perceptions, society and culture. However, both approaches point to same conclusion: basic crew co-ordination SOP concepts must be changed to meet current challenges.