Col. Rice
Photo of Col. Creig Rice, Director of Safety, boarding a T-38, Randolph AFB. (PHOTO BY TSGT SAMUEL BENDET)
TALK THE TALK



Commentary by Col. CREIG A. RICE
AETC director of safety


7/1/2011 - Air Education and Training Command -- In the last issue of Torch, I wrote about "walking the walk" and leading by example when it comes to risk management in your daily lives. Now I want to discuss "talking the talk" as it pertains to crew resource management (CRM) and flying airplanes. Military flying is inherently dangerous, and effective CRM can mean the difference between life and death ... or destroying a multi-million dollar jet.

Case in point: In October 2003, a T-38 from Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, crashed during initial takeoff. Thankfully, the instructor and student pilots both ejected safely; but the aircraft was destroyed, resulting in $3.9 million in damages!

So what happened?

According to the accident investigation board, the student pilot, because of inexperience, "likely over-controlled the roll of the mishap aircraft in response to an aerodynamic disturbance immediately after liftoff." The instructor took the controls and said, "I have the aircraft." However, the student did not hear the instructor and continued to make aileron inputs. The instructor never confirmed that the student relinquished control of the jet, leading to a situation where both pilots were on the controls and thinking they each had control of the aircraft. When the aircraft continued to roll, the instructor perceived that it was not responding to his flight control inputs, thought that the aircraft was uncontrollable, and he and the student ejected.

As mentioned before, military flying is a risky business and in the training environment, we make many of our missions "standard" or repeatable to increase learning opportunities. This can lead to complacency as we sometimes get numb to our training "routine" and act as if there is no risk associated with our somewhat "benign missions." That's why good CRM is so critical. On most of the missions we fly in AETC, there are two or more people in the aircraft. A good relationship in the cockpit that promotes information sharing can save your life ... especially when the pucker factor increases.

This communication starts in the crew/flight brief, and continues on to the flight line and then to the cockpit/formation. During the brief and debrief, CRM should be addressed to ensure the areas that went well and the areas where inter-cockpit comm might have broken down are covered. By paying careful attention to key mission tasks and crew interaction during these tasks, we will improve our effectiveness and mission success.

The bottom line is proper mission prep, communication and CRM increase the probability that an aircraft emergency will be handled successfully. So "talk the talk" on crew resource management and fly safe!