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TEM Countermeasures

by Darren Smith, CFII/MEI
General Aviation Human Factors, January, 2007

Navigation:  Fundamentals of CRM | Resolving Conflict | Workload Management Checklist Usage | Briefings & Callouts | Training CRM | Threats to Safety | Intro to TEM Error Management | Integrating Threat & Error Management | TEM Countermeasures | FOTA | What are you doing over there? | New Captain Series

TEM Series:  Threats to Safety | Unsafe Acts | Intro to TEM | Error Management | Integrating TEM | Countermeasures

To err is human -- there's a limit to our performance capabilities as a human.  As such, error is inevitable.  Pilots must deploy countermeasures to help resist and avoid threats and to resist or manage errors as part of normal flying duties. For years, Human Factors research has given us ways to increase safety margins. Things like checklists, briefings, procedures, and standards have gone a long way to improving safety in aviation.  Outcomes research has given us rules of thumb to keep us safe such as minimizing heads down activities while taxiing and briefing the approach prior to top of descent.  Add to that your own personal strategies, tactics, personal minimums (see Appendix A) and you have a well rounded personal safety program.  In fact, research indicates that pilots may well be managing and resisting threats 75% of the time.

As Human Factors research has progressed, we’ve learned that new “TEM countermeasures” are required to bolster the margin of safety, especially in today’s complex operating environment.  We're trying to get that remaining 25%.  TEM Countermeasures can be grouped into 4 primary categories:

1. Crew countermeasures—active Captain Leadership, communication, and crew participation.
Positive environment of open communication is established
Briefings:  FltOps Threat Analysis (FOTA), Departure, Takeoff, Approach
Captain shows leadership in workload management
Crew acts together as active threat managers

2. Planning countermeasures—briefings, planning, preparation, managing anticipated and unanticipated (unexpected) threats, contingency management.
     Techniques: An interactive and thorough briefing is conducted
Plans & decisions are communicated and acknowledged
Crew is using effective strategies to manage threats

3. Execution countermeasures—pilot monitoring, scanning, and cross-checking, workload management, automation management.
     Techniques: Crew actively monitors & cross-checks other crew
Tasks are prioritized, managed
Automation is properly deployed to manage flight operations and workload.
Crew is organized and prepared to handle threats.

4. Review countermeasures—evaluation of planning, inquiry, what-if planning.
     Techniques: Existing plans are reviewed, modified when necessary.
Crew members are able and willing to ask questions, investigate discrepancies, & clarify the plan of action.
Crew members consider “what-if” plans if the current plan is somehow derailed.

When pilots first hear of the TEM Countermeasures, the reaction is one of recognition.  These are common-sense techniques and strategies that feel right.  Simple awareness is implicit and therefore not sufficient to improve safety margins and resist threats.  An explicit approach is required, therefore an active TEM mindset makes the difference between a pilot who actively resists errors and those who don’t.

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