Date of Award

Fall 2021

Access Type

Dissertation - Open Access

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Aviation


College of Aviation

Committee Chair

Andy Dattel


Past accidents have indicated that first officers (FO) are less likely to identify and correct captain errors than captains are to correct FO errors. Crew resource management (CRM) training was introduced in the late 1970s to improve captain teamwork skills to utilize the FO more effectively and to increase FO willingness to interject to preserve safety. Despite the effectiveness of CRM training programs, there continue to be incidences where subordinate pilots make weak or ineffective attempts to preserve safety.

This research investigated commercial and airline transport pilots’ perception of the impact cockpit organizational framework (COF) has on both flight safety and subordinate pilot behavior. Six research questions asked if the COF used in determining pilot positional assignments is perceived as having an impact on flight safety and subordinate pilot behavior. It was hypothesized that COF had an impact, and that pilots would perceive a flight deck where both crewmembers were qualified as captains, referred to as a captain-captain (CAPT-CAPT) COF, as improving both. This quantitative research employed an online survey and non-probability sampling techniques that targeted commercial and airline transport-rated pilots. The survey was posted on the SurveyMonkey website, which administered the survey and screened participants for suitability. To increase participation, participants were provided the opportunity to enter a random drawing for one of three participation rewards. An a priori analysis estimated a minimum of 251 respondents were needed. Four-hundred fifty respondents participated in the study; 261 respondents provided data that were used in the analysis.

Cockpit organizational framework, the independent variable, was introduced to describe the combination of choices made by an aircraft operator regarding how pilot positional assignments are made. It was operationalized at two levels: a CAPT-CAPT and captain-first officer (CAPT-FO) COF. Pilot perceptions were the dependent variable. The survey utilized 27 structured close-ended questions, 24 of which measured pilot perceptions of COF on an 11-point Likert scale, and three of which measured perceptions of COF via four categorical choices. Statistical analysis utilized multiple techniques, including (a) t-test, (b) ANOVA, (c) ANCOVA, and (d) Chi-square tests of independence.

The results indicated that pilots perceived COF’s impact on the three markers of safety, the first three research questions, as being statistically non-significant. However, results were statistically significant and with small to medium effect sizes for subordinate pilot behaviors, the second three research questions. Experience, as measured by total flight hours, was determined to have a statistically significant impact on pilot perceptions of COF. An additional and unplanned finding was that pilot perceptions of COF were strongly influenced by industry sector, with airline pilots favoring the CAPT-FO COF and business/corporate pilots the CAPT-CAPT COF. Airline pilot preference for the CAPT-FO COF was lower when asked about subordinate pilot behaviors, but business/corporate pilot preferences for the CAPT-CAPT COF increased for these questions. Based upon these results, it is recommended that pilot behavior in each of these two COFs be measured under experimental conditions to determine whether pilot perceptions of COF is consistent with actual subordinate pilot behaviors.