Investigating non-technical skills in Scottish and English aircraft maintenance teams using a mixed methodology of interviews and a questionnaire

Amy Irwin* (Corresponding Author), Siouxsie Taylor, Erika Laugerud, Dave Roberts

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
15 Downloads (Pure)


Objective: The aim of this study was to identify the non-technical skills used by aircraft maintenance crews.

Background: Aircraft maintenance is a vital aspect of aviation, with failures in aircraft maintenance linked to one third of aircraft malfunctions. Research within other high-risk industries indicates the importance of non-technical skills in ensuring effective performance and reducing the risk of error.

Method: A mixed-methods approach was used: Aircraft maintenance workers from 2 locations (Scotland and England, n = 24) were interviewed using the critical incident technique. A short survey was then distributed (n = 31) to further explore worker perceptions of non-technical skill usage across different organizational locations.

Results: The interviews identified team-based non-technical skills as Situation awareness, decision making, leadership, teamwork and communication, and task management. Lone worker non-technical skills were identified as Situation awareness, decision making, and task management. The questionnaire study indicated that perception of task management was significantly more negative than for situation awareness, leadership, teamwork, and communication. Moreover, participants from Scottish units were significantly more positive about situation awareness and teamwork than their English counterparts.

Conclusion: The results indicate that non-technical skills are an important aspect of aircraft maintenance workers’ work performance and safety, mirroring the findings reported within other high-risk industries. Variance across organizational units suggests future training programs must be tailored to fit each team.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)105-119
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Journal of Aviation Psychology
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2016

Bibliographical note

The authors would like to thank all of the aircraft maintenance participants for giving up their time to take part in this study. This research did not receive any specific grant from funding agencies in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.


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