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Crew Resource Management Essay

United Airlines Flight 173 was bound for Portland International Airport in Oregon. The plane left Denver on the 28th of December 1978. The plane had problems with its landing gear, which then, in turn, caused the crew to delay their landing in order to troubleshoot the problem. The plane circled on the surrounding airspace around the airport as the flight crew try to fix the problem. After a very long and uncalled for delay, the airplane ran out of fuel and crashed in residential area in Portland.

The crew’s obsession in fixing the glitch with the landing gear and over preparation for a crash landing scenario has resulted for the plane to empty its fuel load, and therefore, crash. A landing attempt with a wheel missing means that the landing attempt is almost like a crash landing which also mean that it is a dangerous maneuver and should only be attempted if and only if there are no alternatives. The risk of a disaster happening is very high. The plane’s unbalanced state would tip the plane on its unsupported side which can break the fuel tank and cause a fire.

The impact by itself can cause injuries or even fatalities and the

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addition of the fire extinguishes the passengers’ survival chances. It’s possible that the captain intended to deplete the planes fuel load to prevent, or at least reduce the chances of a fire starting but the recorded conversations shed no light on this issue. The flight crew by no means, failed to communicate with each other and the control tower concerning the plane’s fuel load. The crew failed in computing the plane’s fuel in relation to time and distance.

They were too concerned with the glitch in the landing gear and preparation for a crash landing. The crew also failed to foresee what the changes they did would result into. They knew that the fixing the landing gear would take time and so too would the preparation for a crash landing, more time equals more fuel consumed. The crew were too preoccupied with the gears that they did not have time to evaluate. The procedure is supposed to be simple: pilots discuss the problem, check the flight manual, and inform dispatch.

28 minutes of fuel is lost by the time the Air Traffic Control (ATC) and dispatch heard of the problem. The crew’s long delay before informing those concerned is questionable, gear checks were fast, weather was fine, and traffic, a non factor, and they haven’t encountered more problems. The crew still had a chance to land but the captain waited for the passengers to be ready. He was right in his decision but failed to emphasize the importance of time, and thus, the preparation took a while.

This accident is unfortunate but a perfect example of cockpit management failure, the captain did not assign specific jobs tasks for his crew and so, no one was focused solely on the fuel load. To some extent, there was a breakdown in communication within the cockpit, especially between the flight engineer and the captain. The first officer only mentioned his concern regarding the fuel state but failed to emphasize it. It was already too late when the first officer asserted himself. He was aware of the situation but failed to express his views on the right time.

It is the first officer’s job to oversee what the captain is doing but high ranking officials are often intimidating. The crash happened due to the crew’s failure to relate string of factors together because they were too concerned in fixing the un-cooperative landing gear. Ultimately, the big fuzz about the landing gear made the crew disorganized and caused the flight’s prolonged delay. The crew members, the first officer and the flight engineer in particular, did not assert themselves in expressing their opinion about the fuel state in time.

On a lighter note, the plane’s fuel exhaust prevented a fire from starting when it crash landed. The possibility of fire would have been high had the plane landed with a missing gear and fuel tank still loaded with fuel. References National Transportation Safety Board. (1979). Aircraft Accident Report. Washington DC. Aviation Safety Network. (2007, December 18). Accident Description. Retrieved December 9, 2008. from: http://aviation-safety. net/database/record. php? id=19781228-1 Pilot Friend (n. d). Flight 173. Retrieved December 9, 2008. from: http://www. pilotfriend. com/disasters/crash/united173. htm

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