Captain of Chaos - a critique

While the article feels correct on a gut level, one of the conclusions seem thin. Specifically, the author makes an appeal to authority to explain the difference between an expert and a pseudo-expert.

(For those who haven’t read it, an expert is an intellectual who spends more time reading about a subject in an echo chamber with other like-minded experts. A pseudo-expert is some ignorant sap who spent decades doing and who should have done less and read more. Or, at least, that’s what the article argues.)

For proof the author uses his opinion of experts and other like-minded experts’ opinions of what constitutes an expert to prove what an expert is. I’d like to contest his illogical argument except that I’m only a pseudo-expert so unqualified to contest his expert conclusion.


What article /post are you referring to? I am interested

That’s not what the article argues though.

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I going to have the reread the post but it looks like an argument similar to the one that Mario Vittone has made.

In this post I explain why Mario got it wrong and in comments Mario explains why my criticism misses the mark.

To be fair it doesn’t say one guy only reads and one guy only works, and the reader is the expert. I understood it to mean if both guys work, the one who keeps reading and learning while also doing is the expert.

I think this equates to the ONE Apus thread…(not to declare or suggest that parametric rolling was the cause, but for arguments sake lets say it was a factor) Not everyone learned about this phenomena in school. But of two captains, if one reads industry studies and one relies on years of experience, they both might come to know something about it. The one who reads studies might have a better understanding of why. He could site the physics behind it in relation to what he’s observed, versus just relying on observation and trying to turn those observations into written orders.

And what if the observationist captain had never experienced this rolling? Then his orders might not include it all. So who is the expert? I think the article is saying it’s the guy who knows this problem exists because he read about. And he probably read about other potential issues too that he can pass on to his Mates in addition to experience.

Continued education doesn’t trump experience on its own, but might be considered a one-up when added concurrently to experience.

For the Engineer you might equate it to Preventive vs Predictive RCM maintenance. Years of experience can make you great at maintaining and repairing equipment. But if you keep studying industry advances and diagnostics you can discover how to reduce the need to perform unnecessary scheduled preventive maintenance. If you choose just to rely on experience you’ll keep following the same old maintenance schedule ad infinitum, and it will cost the company money for reasons you don’t understand.


Well, I have not only one objection and we can easily reduce this argument ad absurdum with a conclusion that a good captain is „an unlucky expert without a practice”.
I do not understand how we can oppose actual regulations to academic studies or procedures to experiences. I would like to see some examples of these standing orders written by a perfect master - not too short but not too long and simple but not oversimplified.

The new approach to the BRM is as earthquake and I completely disagree with it.
The BRM training has been developed during academic studies and it is based on the industry standards and experience. We must not to confuse BRM with the ISM Code and/or Bridge Team Management with ship management or even fleet management. Moreover, the critics of the erroneous approach to the checklist and procedures probably do not know the rules of modern shipping and simply intend to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Of course, everyone can and should improve their qualifications. We can take advantage of lateral thinking, speed reading or other advanced processing techniques but please do not mix „Bridge Resource Management” with „Master-Apprentice relation” or even Hollywood history about “Maverick” :grinning:

(Good) Master Mariner has to be practical professional with adequate theoretical background. Normally he is still professionally active with valid CoC and all special training or courses. He should act according to all international regulations and strictly follow company policy. He has enough experiences in ship specific management and any his own bright ideas needed to be report according QMS. And of course he must be lucky and every his action should take into account the good of the company.

And that we are only human, it is normal that they could be better and worse, simple like that :wink:

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BRM, CRM = Crew Coordination, or that’s what it was called during my brief tour with the airlines. As I said before in another thread Crew Coordination was invented to stop the old style 50 mission hat Captains from telling First Officers (co-pilots) to “sit down, shut up, be quiet unless I speak to you, do what I tell you when I tell you.” When I came on the scene in the mid-eighties this old-style was long gone and Captain/FO worked as a team. Captain was still in command and responsible but the FO was required to be a part of the team that got the plane and passengers/ freight to the same place at the same time with no dents or scratches.

I , as a First Officer, was able to assist in two decisions that the Captain should have made since he was the pilot flying and I was pilot not flying the airplane. One was pretty low key in that airports in northwest Arkansas are bunched up faily close and at night when on the last leg of the day and both are tired (you know where this is headed, doncha?) easy to head for the wrong one. Ah…Skipper, it’s that one over there. Oh, crap! Yer right! Thanks! Before landing check list, please. Nearly a non-event.

The other one, Captain America started to unravel and get panicky. Not good for the guy with four stripes and a can full of people. Southern summer weather can be exciting with unexpected cu-nims and merging towering cu’s to spoil the schedule. We had left Memphis as both the clouds and the airport closed behind us. We were headed for Alexandria, LA which is about an hour and a half as I recall when about Jackson, MS we get a call on company that Alex was heavy rain lightning all quadrants. As we were considering Monroe, LA to wait it out, it closed right after one of our other ships just touched down in heavy rain, etc. That’s when Captain America started dissolving: what are we gonna do?! Memphis and Monroe closed, Jackson (was just closing) looks bad, we’re screwed! Hey, Mark! See that yellow brick road down there? (Interstate 20) Follow that to either Barksdale AFB or Shreveport, LA. Land there, get some fuel, check weather, wait it out. But, but, we don’t haveva station there! Mark, this thing will land somewhere in about 40 minutes all by itself. It’s our job to make it land where WE want it to land. Now tell dispatch we going to Shreveport for food, fuel and wait until Alex clears. Don’t ask permission! Just tell 'em. I’ll take her in. Then tell the people we gonna get a burger and wait.

All went well and a couple of hours we were in Alexandria and the people were so appreciative they practically asked for autographs! The point was we worked out a solution that the plane, passengers and the freight got to where it had paid for without dents or scratches. This would have never happened on any ship I was ever on. We kinda trained as a team but only sorta worked as a team. One exception was one Captain that was an experienced seaman who would listen to his juniors. He stayed far enough ahead of any situation so there were very few surprises. He let his officers practice playing with the ship by building enough time ahead of intended movement so we could play man overboard and pier docking with floating barrels. Now, he understood how to work as a team. He was still the Captain but he worked WITH all his people, we did not work FOR him.

I have no idea how you merchies do it but I will bet your teams change way more than the Navy.


Came across this while looking for something else.

The paper, entitled “CRM training fails because of what trainees already know; not because of what they don’t know”, makes the point that,

"In many training programs the learner may appear to be able to adopt the desired behaviours during the training session, e.g., “Crew members ask questions regarding crew actions” (one of Helmreich’s Crew Performance Markers) but when they get into the air much of what they apparently learned during training sometimes seems to disappear. This is especially noticeable when things get busy or in emergency situations. Under high work load and stressful conditions people invariable revert to their “own way” [i,e., prior training, poor or no training, ingrained error or misconception] and forget their new training. This is known as the, “transfer of training problem”.

“The transfer problem plagues most training efforts. For example, research from the University of Texas tells us that it can take up to 1,000 hours for an experienced pilot to become fully competent and comfortable with the flight management system. The transfer problem applies to all training and learning situations; not just flight training - it is universal and hence extremely important.”

“The traditional answer to the transfer problem is to make them practice - “just keep practicing and it will come, eventually”. While this is true and most will catch on soon and others will take longer, this time honoured remedy is very slow and expensive. The effects associated with the transfer problem, namely frustration, extra training time and cost, dropout rate, increased likelihood of error, incidents or accidents, all take their toll.”

“The transfer problem is the real bogey in CRM training (and in any other training) and it has to be addressed.” Read more.

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I know this site is a great place for telling sea stores but in several ways that story doesn’t quite pass the smell test.

If this was really an airline flight it would have been Part 135 (most likely in those days) or Part 121 and the flight would have been performed under instrument flight rules.

In real life what would have happened if for some nearly inconceivable situation where the filed alternate went down and the whole region suddenly went below forecast minimums the captain would declare a minimum fuel emergency and request vectors to the nearest airport with an approach and weather above minimums. If the weather was good enough to visually follow a highway from cruise altitude then the whole story really falls apart.

Smelt ok to me.

The point being, situation was getting difficult and the guy in charge was willing to listen to and accept a suggested solution.
The rest depends, I’ve certainly traveled on scheduled airlines who flew at relatively low altitude. Particularly commuter routes.

Can I recall all my individual stories, not right now.

BRM, CRM, closed loop, think aloud, terminology might be newer or more academic.

I learned most of it 40 years ago, From guys who had learned it 40 years earlier.
Nelson, most likely new a fair bit about it back in his day and age.

One of the very first lessons I learned was to speak up. Later it was to listen.
How many times listening to someone has saved my ass, I lost count decades ago.

Is it universal? No not even within our operation. Some guys yes. Other Guys have been there, done the course, can explain the whole concept. And just don’t get it.
I know dam fine nobody would dare speak up, they would get a negative reaction.

Trying to get old habits to change, requires more than a course.

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I recall that Monroe was the alternate. It was a “regional” airline by any previous term, commuter airline using BAE Jetstream 31 twin turboprop 18 pax aircraft. Mark Weinrich was an arrogant prick Army Reserve Major who went on to Conair in the midwest and got fired from there for incompetence. I got fired from Republic Express because I could not pass the Captain ride after the third try. Why? 'Cause I was an alcoholic and never gave God the credit for my skills. None of this has anything to do with the topic but serves to underscore the fact that YOU WERE NOT THERE. The major point of the sea-hangar story was that through CRM, Crew Coordination, whatever you want to call it, WE had a successful conclusion to our flight. You, obviously, have little experience with weather in the deep south. We, at the time had more than enough fuel for about another hour of flight and even had the options of smaller runways but with little or no services. We had no emergency other than Captain America dissolving in his own juices.

So I recommend you practice what I learned as new Third Class Petty Officer USN to ask questions before you accuse someone of telling a tall one. Another gift from God is a pretty fair memory…so far!


Sorry slick, but I have been there and done that and passed the captain check ride for years. The story is so far wrong in so many ways that it is an insult to those who fly regionals and readers who don’t know how the system works.

By the way, you might want to look up the libel laws before you post someone’s name like you did. Lay off the sauce man.

Been recovering from the booze for 33 years.
I invite a lawsuit from Mark Weinrich any day. I need to supplement my retirement.
I yield to your vast experience and beg fogiveness.


You guys under 135 back then? My 135 captain training included doing long run-ups by the RVR machine to blow the water off it and the fog away from it so we could “legally” take off :roll_eyes:
I am not sure if that same thing can happen that way in 2020 without dispatch being involved.

  • note to non-pilots. A Part 121 passenger airline has dispatchers that would help find alternate airports and generally keep an eye on the flights and the weather. The pilots would not generally be trying to find alternates on their own. If the El Faro had been a United Airlines flight instead of a ship the dispatch office would have been yelling at the pilot to quit flying into the hurricane.

Why must every thread on this forum devolve into an off topic old man fight.


Because it is the internet and people are going nuts from the plague. There does seem to be a new crop of whackjobs showing up though.

Notice that there is a pattern, new guy, sea story, has to respond to every post regardless of relevance, writes way too much off topic crap and when criticized or corrected responds with vitriol.

Except for one or two who have been around for years they usually go away.

There is a movie I really enjoyed. It was called “Grumpy Old Men” check it out. Jack and Walter nailed it.

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Well BRM evolved from CRM, so those of us that fly got subjected to it/benefited from it first.
Also the issue of the company wants you at X on time screw the weather is not only a boat thing :wink: