What Really Goes On in the Cockpit?

airplaneEvery day U.S. airlines and foreign carriers serving the U.S. conduct more than 27,000 flights. That’s a total of nearly ten million flights a year in which flight crews make decisions that literally mean the difference between life and death for themselves and their passengers. Today the safety performance of major American air carriers is unparalleled—not a single fatality in a decade. Compare that to 100,000 annual U.S. deaths due to medical error. That would be like having two fully loaded 737s smash into the ground every single day of the year. However, not long ago the airlines’ safety record was abysmal.

Now a new aviation thriller—The Captains’ Airline: Pushing Back from the Brink—provides an action-packed account of the horror and heroism that occurred on the far side of the cockpit door in the years preceding the current calm. This fast-paced new novel by Captain Art Samson, a 35-year Navy and Delta Airlines pilot and Bend resident, details the near collapse of mythical Omega Airlines, known throughout the industry as the captains’ airline because of its top-down cockpit management style.

When one pilot blunder after another catapults the company to the brink of extinction, protagonist and former Navy Blue Angel pilot Brad Morehouse is asked to serve on a blue ribbon committee of Omega’s most talented leaders to create a training regimen known as Crew Resource Management (CRM). The program, which in real life is reputed to have saved many lives and potentially kept an airline alive as well, will dramatically transform the airline’s entire culture along with the lives of Samson’s all too human characters.

The story unfolds in vivid detail as the committee examines actual accidents and authentic, bristling accounts of airplanes falling from the sky into the everglades and streets of San Diego. While the committee members delve into the gut-wrenching experience of surviving an accident, of individuals haunted by failure, and of teams narrowly conquering impending disaster, Samson’s characters also experience the price of aviation calamity firsthand.

As a gripping novel, The Captains’ Airline will have aviation buffs—or indeed everyone who travels by air—perched on the edge of their seats. But there is more. In actuality, the team culture and critical decision-making dynamics fostered by aviation’s CRM has provided airline crews of every major US carrier with the interactive skills necessary to respond to the challenges fostered by an increasingly complex work environment. It has opened the lines of communication, leveled the hierarchy, standardized operating procedures and engaged entire organizations in the safety equation. The whole world saw CRM in action when the team led by Captain Chesley Sullenberger worked together so perfectly during a water landing on the Hudson River which everyone on that USAIR flight survived. Without such teamwork, the outcome would likely have been catastrophic.

Captain Samson played a key role in developing and delivering CRM training at Delta. Now the former director of Delta’s pilot instructor school in Salt Lake City is frequently asked to speak about how CRM principles can create a seismic shift in fields ranging from medicine to manufacturing. or 541-222-0066,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *