Captains Christian Popp and Christof Kemény outline their “OneTeamCockpit” concept.
Success of previous collaborative projects in the major airline world encouraged Captains Popp and Kemény to continue working together and led to the development of the “OneTeamCockpit” concept in a privately funded joint venture. The hallmark of the “OneTeamCockpit” is the holistic approach in the design of SOPs and the full engagement of the Pilot Flying and Pilot Supporting (aka Pilot Monitoring) in all phases of flight operations. In 2015, with the support of Halldale, Kemény and Popp presented the “OneTeamCockpit” concept worldwide at WATS, APATS, and EATS.
During these events, they conducted a survey in order to collect data and feedback from flight training experts around the globe. Overall, more than 140 professionals participated and provided a great amount of feedback that supports their argument. By statistical criteria, the survey data of the largest airline working group proved to be representative and relevant. A detailed analysis of all data will be available in a paper that will be published later this year.
Based on the feedback from these aviation training professionals, current cockpit procedures do not adequately take into consideration what we know about human limitations. The fact of the matter is that multi-tasking has been proven to be a myth. Humans are capable of task-switching at a fast pace, but actually processing and carrying out high cognitive tasks simultaneously is not possible.
This is the underlying reason why over 65 countries in the world and 19 US states banned talking on the phone while driving a car. According to research sponsored by AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety (https://www.aaafoundation.org/sites/default/files/MeasuringCognitiveDistractions.pdf), which involved scientific experiments carried out in an attempt to measure driver distraction, cognitive workload increased and driving performance decreased as more tasks were carried out by the test subjects while driving. Studies have proven that visual scanning behavior is impaired with increased cognitive workload. All in all, the final experiment that was carried out proved that any diversion of attention caused by in-vehicle activities threatened the active scanning of the driving environment.
This is also in line with experimental findings on pilots’ workload and the impact on human performance in the cockpit. Data strongly suggests that flight performance, subjective measurements, and brain-based physiological measures all reflect changes in mental workload as the primary task of piloting becomes more challenging and complex.
Executing a go-around procedure in real life is an example to further support this argument. Due to the element of surprise to perform this unexpected procedure, the Pilot Flying (PF) may experience extreme stress, which can easily lead to missing one or multiple steps in the procedure. This is a direct result of the PF being overwhelmed by the workload and cognitive demand, while the Pilot Monitoring (PM) as a mostly passive participant is underwhelmed. Looking at the breakout of tasks in common SOPs of a go-around, the PF is assigned to operate the aircraft, manage the automation, and to make all of the appropriate callouts. In contrast, the PM observes the situation with very little or no active participation.
It is noteworthy that recently the industry changed the nomenclature from Pilot-Non-Flying to Pilot Monitoring for the very reason to encourage greater participation. However, this name change was done without redesigning procedures and giving guidelines on the necessary skills to be an effective PM.
In order to further back up past research and push for a new concept for procedures in the cockpit, Captains Kemény and Popp conducted a survey regarding current workload management and balancing in the cockpit.
The overwhelming feedback from training specialists around the world indicated a great deficiency in SOP clarity as well as training to prepare pilots in effective workload management. While the duties of the PM were reported to be described in high detail (78%), respondents also indicated that tools and processes are lacking to balance workload in light of what we know about human factors and limitations.
When asked whether pilots are adequately trained to effectively manage and balance workload, only 37% answered yes, while 16% answered no, and 46% answered somewhat. Considering that almost half of the responses portray uncertainty, the preparation of pilots in terms of balancing workload arguably has room for improvement. In order to properly prepare pilots to collaborate in unusual situations or procedures, training must include an in-depth coverage of workload management and balance.
Another topic that was discussed was whether the commonly used SOPs sufficiently address the human limitations of multitasking when pilots face unusual operations or less frequently performed tasks. Of the survey participants, 39% answered with no and 44% believed it is only somewhat the case. In the comments section, multiple training specialists responded that they are interested in further research and practical applications.
Based on this background, the idea of the “OneTeamCockpit” was born with an emphasis on the proper use of language. Since language controls the way we think, how we perceive the world, and how we act, being precise in how and what words we use is important.
For example, the current term, “two-man cockpit” describes adequately the physical set-up of the flight deck, but does very little to describe the work environment we strive for. Because the real goal is to achieve a “OneTeamCockpit” rather than a flight deck occupied by two individuals, the use of precise language and nomenclature when writing procedures, describing tasks, and assigning duties is important.
Applying this philosophy replacing the term “Pilot Monitoring” with “Pilot Supporting”, seems to be more appropriate as it does encompass and encourage a more active involvement of the crewmember. This shift, along with the movement towards a “OneTeamCockpit” concept, may lay the foundation for better workload balancing through equal and active participation in flight procedures. The vast majority of training specialists consider it beneficial to further define the term “Pilot Monitoring” by including and introducing the element of a “Pilot Supporting” (68% yes, 16% somewhat).
Survey comments, especially at APATS, suggested that the term “Pilot Supporting” may assist in reducing power distance between Captains and First Officers and further enhance the collaboration amongst the crewmembers to achieve a “OneTeamCockpit”. Introducing this new term and its elements seems feasible and may be one first step in improving flight safety.
Popp and Kemény gave a practical example of how the concept of a “OneTeamCockpit” could improve approach briefings. While briefings are commonly done by the Pilot Flying, the Pilot Monitoring is often not very attentive or even missing parts of procedures. In contrast, in a “OneTeamCockpit”, the Pilot Supporting initiates a dialogue of standardized content while reviewing the setup of the PF. The main focus of this dialogue is on exceptions and specialties of the approach to be performed rather than a repeat litany of standard procedures and numbers. According to brain scientists, this information sharing through dialogue assures both pilots work “off the same sheet of music”, or as the science community calls it “higher level of gradual attention”. Therefore, the outcome will be a team working with a higher degree of active involvement.
A surprising finding of the survey showed a general interest by 70% to change procedures and policies based on the FAA, CAA and Flight Safety Foundation publications on Flight Path Management and Monitoring. However, two thirds find it difficult to implement any changes due to regulatory requirements to stick to aircraft manufacturers’ procedures. Furthermore, it was mentioned that discussions about monitoring at numerous training and flight safety conferences are appreciated, but that the practical implementation of those findings is difficult due to resource constraints within the training and flight ops departments.
Overall, the verbal feedback, as well as the numerous comments added to the surveys, shows great support of the “OneTeamCockpit” concept, to the alteration of verbiage and to build a cohesive team in the cockpit and thus enhance flight safety.