Communicative experiences of African American female pilots on the flight deck: an application of co-cultural theory and narrative nonfiction to inform crew resource management

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ABSTRACT

This study sought to inform the curriculum of crew resource management (CRM) for multi-pilot flight deck operations. The CRM curriculum requires continued reexamination to ensure safe flight in the changing

ABSTRACT

This study sought to inform the curriculum of crew resource management (CRM) for multi-pilot flight deck operations. The CRM curriculum requires continued reexamination to ensure safe flight in the changing demographic of flight decks in the US. The study calls attention to the CRM curriculum’s insufficient inclusion of robust training components to address intercultural communication skills and conflict management strategies.

Utilizing a phenomenological approach, the study examined the communicative experiences of African American female military and airline transport pilots on the flight deck and within the aviation industry. Co-cultural theory was used as a theoretical framework to investigate these co-researcher’s (pilots) experiences. A parallel goal of the investigation was to better understand raced and gendered communication as they occur in this specific context—the flight deck of US airlines and military aircraft.

The researcher conducted in-depth semi-structured interviews and shadowed two co-researchers (pilots) for a period of days and built a relationship with them over the course of one year. Eight years of preparation working in the airline industry situated the researcher for this study. The researcher collected stories and interviews during this time immersed in industry. The data collected offers initial insights into the experiences of non-dominant group members in this unique organizational environment.

The study’s findings are reported in the form of a creative
arrative nonfiction essay. This effort was twofold: (1) the narrative served to generate a record of experiences for continued examination and future research and (2) created useful data and information sets accessible to expert and non-expert audiences alike.

The data supports rationalization as a co-cultural communication strategy, a recent expansion of the theory. Data also suggests that another strategy—strategic alliance building—may be useful in expanding the scope of co-cultural theory. The proposed assertive assimilation orientation identifies the intentional construct of alliances and warrants further investigation.