Is it all about the mission? Comparing non-technical skills across offshore transport and search and rescue helicopter pilots

Oliver Edwin Daniel Hamlet*, Amy Irwin, Molly McGregor

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: The research objective of the current study was to examine and compare the non-technical skills utilized by search and rescue and offshore transport helicopter pilots. Background: Non-technical skills encompass the interpersonal and cognitive skills necessary for safe and efficient team performance in high-risk environments. There is a lack of research investigating non-technical skill use during helicopter flight or assessing differences in skills according to mission parameters. Method: The current study comprised 28 semi-structured qualitative interviews based upon the critical incident technique (16 offshore transport pilots, 12 search and rescue pilots). Interviews were thematically coded to identify, and compare, non-technical skills. Results: All key non-technical skills were reported across both pilot groups. Differences were identified at the element level of skills across the groups (e.g., while both groups reported utilizing situational awareness, elemental sub-components were based upon different attentional factors). A category for cognitive readiness was identified specific to search and rescue—this category encapsulated the elements necessary for a swift, effective response to emergencies. Conclusion: The results indicate helicopter pilots’ non-technical skills vary according to mission parameters, suggesting specific flight goals require different nuances of non-technical skills for mission achievement. We suggest that non-technical skills training should be tailored to the mission focus of helicopter pilots in order to further error mitigation strategies, enrich training relevance, and enhance effectiveness.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)215-235
Number of pages21
JournalThe International Journal of Aerospace Psychology
Issue number3-4
Early online date2 Sep 2020
Publication statusPublished - 2 Sep 2020


  • situation awareness
  • decision making
  • Crew Resource Management
  • qualitative methods
  • team training


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