While there may be many causes of airline accidents, crew member errors are one of the most devastating. In the majority of cases, mistakes and miscommunications among crew members are entirely preventable—yet these errors continue to cause injuries to passengers every year. A communication breakdown between pilots, captains, first officers, and other flight crew members can be devastating, resulting in errors ranging from runway incursions to midair collisions.
How Crew Coordination Problems Lead to Plane Accident Injuries
Airlines have a duty to prevent mistakes made by their employees, as well as a responsibility to thoroughly investigate incidents that are caused by human error. For this reason, every commercial carrier has a Crew Resource Management (CRM) team that strives to learn from adverse events so that failures are not repeated. Unfortunately, passengers are seldom privy to these internal investigations, and airlines are not likely to admit liability when the conduct of one of their employees leads to injury.
An experienced aviation accident attorney can determine whether your injury was a direct result of poor crew resource management, including:
- Lack of adequate staff. It is not enough to have the minimum number of cabin crew and pilots aboard each flight. Each additional crew member offers another set of eyes to see potential defects or problems, and a different perspective on how potential hazards may be resolved. However, airlines may choose to operate flights with skeleton crews in order to save on labor costs—which in turn forces crew members to work longer hours with shorter turnaround time, increasing accidents due to fatigue.
- Disagreements. Some accidents are a result of one crew member “pulling rank” or failing to admit that he or she had made a mistake. A pilot may underestimate the opinions of the first officer, fail to take a safety warning from a co-pilot seriously, or believe that his opinion is unassailable. An inability to admit wrongdoing or hurt pride is no excuse for putting passengers at risk and could result in the loss of the pilot’s job or even his commercial pilot’s license.
- Improper training. Airlines are responsible for ensuring their pilots and crew have the skills needed to operate the aircraft, but also the skills to work together effectively. Regular training sessions on the impact of stress on decision-making, the reasons for multiple presences in the cockpit, and the importance of collaboration can help prevent conflicts before they arise.
- Intimidation. First officers and cabin crews may refrain from warning the pilot about potential problems because they feel their input will not be taken seriously, or could even earn them a reprimand. Airlines should encourage communication among all employees, regardless of job duty or position. Carriers should also respond quickly to any reports of intimidation from the pilot or captain, and ensure that no adverse actions are taken against employees who report potential safety issues in good faith.
- Infighting or grudges. Personal feelings between crew members should always be secondary to passenger safety. Unfortunately, any employees who work together in close quarters have the potential for personality conflicts, causing tension and an unproductive work environment. These conflicts may arise due to pay inequality, an employee being passed over for a raise or promotion, or a simple inability to work together amicably. The airline should have strict policies for these behaviors, as well as a human resource department to respond to reports of personal conflicts.
When you or someone you love is injured in an airplane accident, it is vital to speak to an attorney to determine who may be held liable. At GriffithLaw, we can advise you on your options and get you the compensation you need for an airline injury—and we do not collect any legal fees unless we recover for you. Simply fill out the short contact form on this page to set up your no-cost injury consultation, or learn more about your rights in our free guide, The 10 Worst Mistakes You Can Make With Your Tennessee Injury Case.