In the cockpit it is part of the routine to always start from the worst case scenario and act accordingly. About good crisis management and how it can help us these days. 

Pilots regularly and extensively train emergency situations of all kinds. The goal is always the safety and health of crew and passengers. I see many parallels to the current pandemic situation, which affects all of us in some way – and here too, ultimately, it is about the safety and health of all of us, as part of the community and as part of the economic system.

During these challenging times, crisis management receives special attention. I let my background as a pilot with over 6000 hours of flight experience flow into my work as a crisis management consultant. Today it seems more important than ever to me.

What does crisis management mean?

To operate crisis management means to find a strategic way of dealing with a crisis situation. This includes their identification and analysis as well as the development of strategies and countermeasures to cope with the situation. In the cockpit, great importance is attached to the strategic and organized processing of events. We pilots have the advantage that, for example, in the event of system failures, an aural and visual warning is displayed. Other industries don’t have this, but there’s nothing wrong with setting up an automatic alarm if predetermined triggers deviate from the norm. Every company must therefore ask itself when an extraordinary situation means a crisis to be taken seriously. Have all the factors been included in the decision-making process? How structured is the decision-making process? For this purpose, pilots use models that weigh up options with risks in a fact-oriented manner and provide the common thread in the cockpit. Health and safety-relevant aspects play just as much a role as organizational ones.

What is good crisis management?

The key points of effective and good crisis management – not only for airlines, but also for other companies – include:

  • Safety / Health first!
  • prepared procedures and checklists • functioning crisis teams and management work
  • transparent communication – internal and external
  • transparent cooperation with stakeholders and shareholders.

What goes without saying in the cockpit should also apply to companies: Thinking in worst-case scenarios and regularly practicing the reactions – including for a quick and coordinated return to normal operations after the crisis – with checklists and plans. That  is good crisis management. Let’s hope that it works in the current situation!