City Research Online

Flight crew teamwork and decision-making: the influence of roles and attitudes

Becker, T. (2024). Flight crew teamwork and decision-making: the influence of roles and attitudes. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City, University of London)


Using empirical data on serious safety relevant events in commercial aviation over the period 2000 - 2020 we found that most events occurred with the flight crew team setting with the Captain (Pilot-In-Command/PIC) as Pilot Flying (PF), the pilot acting on the controls, and the Co-Pilot (Second-In-Command/SIC) as Pilot Monitoring (PM), the pilot responsible for observing the aircraft flight path and the actions of the pilot flying. This role assignment effect was described by previous research in the 1990s and our research confirms that it is still present thirty years later in today’s aviation system, despite training pilots in crew resource management, a method developed to foster pilot teamwork and, in particular, to foster effective intervention behavior of the SIC. Further results revealed by online surveys support the conclusion from our field data analysis that the role assignment effect constitutes a latent systemic safety issue in the aviation system. We found that not only do negative effects of the status hierarchy between the pilots on a commercial flight deck still persist as a barrier for effective intervention, but also that pilots seem to be generally reluctant to use hard interventions such as taking away control. Furthermore, we found the more pilots see themselves as safety/risk managers rather than as aircraft operators/system managers and the more they value human factors, the more safety oriented and the more cautious they are in flight operations as well as the higher they view the status of the SIC. Additional findings from surveys of pilots including decision-making scenarios support the notion that pilots may be influenced in their safety relevant decision-making by business requirements and cognitive biases such as the framing effect. In combination with the fact that we also found in our analysis of field data that most of the events occurred in normal operation, meaning with technical airworthy aircraft and no emergency, and that we judged nearly all events as preventable by the pilots, led us to the conclusion that those events primarily originate from an operational syndrome due to a combination of the following factors: a salient (efficiency) goal, risky decision-making and missing or ineffective intervention. We discuss the implications of our research and propose, based on our research on the psychology underlying safety relevant events in aviation, fundamental organizational reforms regarding flight crew roles, their risk-management, and their team setting on commercial aircraft flight decks to mitigate the discovered safety risks.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
T Technology > TL Motor vehicles. Aeronautics. Astronautics
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
School of Health & Psychological Sciences > School of Health & Psychological Sciences Doctoral Theses
Doctoral Theses
[thumbnail of Becker thesis 2024.pdf]
Text - Accepted Version
Download (2MB) | Preview


Add to AnyAdd to TwitterAdd to FacebookAdd to LinkedinAdd to PinterestAdd to Email


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics

Actions (login required)

Admin Login Admin Login