Crew familiarity: operational experience, non-technical performance, and error management

Aviat Space Environ Med. 2006 Jan;77(1):41-5.


Introduction: Crew familiarity, in terms of having recent operational experience together as a crew, is seen as an important safety-related variable. However, little evidence exists to unpack the underlying processes with respect to familiarity. This study investigated the relationships between crew familiarity, non-technical performance, and error management.

Method: Data were collected during normal line operations at a commercial airline by observers using a methodology based on the Line Operations Safety Audit (LOSA). A total of 154 flights were analyzed, 31% of which were operated by an unfamiliar crew, with 69% operated by a familiar crew.

Results: The rate of error occurrence was found to be higher for unfamiliar crews, and these crews were found to make different types of errors when compared with familiar crews. However, with respect to the management of error events, no significant difference was found between unfamiliar and familiar crews. No significant effect of crew familiarity was found with respect to crews' non-technical performance. However, strong correlations were found between crews' non-technical performance and the management of errors.

Discussion: The findings indicate that crew familiarity, in terms of whether a crew has flown together recently or not, has little operational significance with respect to the management of error events during normal line operations. Accordingly, the suggestion that unfamiliar crews operate at a higher level of safety-related risk was not supported. Non-technical performance appears to be a stronger driver of effective error management than crew familiarity, and is highlighted as a focus for further investigation and intervention.

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Aviation / prevention & control*
  • Aviation*
  • Group Processes*
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Personnel Staffing and Scheduling*
  • Safety