KNOWN: Commercial Pilots Standards need Upgrade
KNOWN: Many pilot health and proficiency checks have been deferred
KNOWN : returning pilots should be checked against improved criteria
“…As you all know, aviation is one of the most regulated industries, while its employees, especially flight crew, are among the most frequently trained and tested. It is all about safety.
For example, pilots are required to regularly take recurrent training, do licence or operator’s proficiency checks and maintain their recency to be able to carry out pilot’s duties. All these training and tests are strictly regulated.
Beginning from March 2020, each month a new group of flight crew members have their licences expired and mandatory training missed. With this, a number of critically important employees cannot perform operations and secure continuity of vital operations.
On the other side, not only pilots are unable to follow the procedures, but also, amid social distancing and safety measures, training facilities or relevant instructors, inspectors or examiners are unavailable to conduct required tests, checks, or observations.”
Nevertheless, keeping in mind the current situation and emerging difficulties with timely certification and testing of certain aviation professionals, such regulators as European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) have eased some of the requirements.
Mainly, temporary relief measures are aimed at pilots who have been unable to comply with certain training, recent experience, testing, and checking requirements because of the coronavirus pandemic.
…One of the retired captains with an impressive 37-year background in commercial aviation explains that now is the time which will retain in the industry only the strongest this way leaving enough space and for new entrants, who are just at the beginning of their pilot training.
Firstly, the industry will be left by the pilots who had doubts over their job and the dynamism that aviation is full of. These will choose to follow other career paths and leave the industry on their own by providing the vacant seats in the cockpit to their colleagues.
Secondly, pilots are also ageing; thus, retirements are inevitable. Periodically, some older pilots will pass their duties to younger professionals, correspondingly, allowing less experienced aviators to get promoted.
And finally, aviation will make a great comeback to growth. Sooner or later.”
These two articles harbinger a regulatory bottleneck when the COVID-19 pandemic is declared over. The normal regulatory checks that assure the competence of pilots have been deferred- medical checks, recurrent training, inline reviews, etc. When the exigencies of the coronavirus emergency are in hand, these ordinary safety assessments will come due.
Careful planning will allow the bow wave of compliance matters to smoothed out into a manageable timetable.
This impending regulatory hurdle includes as the two headlines indicate the redetermination of the cockpit crew competencies. Recent operating experiences have pointed out two important upgrades of the standards:
- new criteria more suited to the complexities of today’s automated systems,
- pedagogical approaches to upgrading “task-based” skills to “competency” level proficiency.
The second point is both the most needed enhancement to the ICAO standards and the more challenging to define. Getting the “task-to-competency” transition completed may be more time-consuming, but ICAO already has used its consensus process to decide the differences syllabus:
PILOT TRAINING IMPROVEMENTS TO ADDRESS AUTOMATION DEPENDENCY (click for full text)
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By Christopher A. Hart
…The two tragic MAX crashes were the latest in a series of accidents in which pilots encountered problems in operation that they had never seen before, even in training, and they responded inappropriately and crashed. Other examples of pilots responding inappropriately to untrained situations include the Asiana Airline crash on approach to San Francisco International Airport in 2013; the crash of Air France Flight 447 enroute from Rio de Janeiro to Paris in 2009; the Turkish Airline crash on approach to Schiphol International Airport in Amsterdam, Netherlands, in 2009; and the crash of an airliner being ferried with no passengers crash of an airliner being ferried with no passengers from Little Rock, AK, to Minneapolis, MN, in 2004, after the pilots tried unsuccessfully to climb to 41,000 feet, where they had not been trained to go.
…On the other hand, there are examples of pilots responding appropriately when they encountered previously untrained situations, including the landing in the Hudson River in 2009; the landing in the Azores in 2001 as a result of fuel exhaustion; the crash landing during an approach to Sioux City, Iowa, in 1989, after an uncontained engine failure resulted in the loss of all hydraulic systems; and the landing in Gimli, Canada, in 1983 as a result of fuel exhaustion.
Thus, history has shown that pilots sometimes respond appropriately to previously untrained situations, but all too often they do not. Moreover, the likelihood that pilots will respond inappropriately to untrained situations in the future will probably increase as a result of the combination of (a) increasingly complex and interconnected aircraft systems, (b) the loss of pilot skills that is occurring from the automation doing more of the flying and the pilots doing less, and (c) the reduced percentage of military-trained pilots and their comprehensive world-class training…
Acting NTSB Chair Hart Uses Real Cases To Show Need For Better Pilot Proficiency When Automation Fails
- As Hart reviewed the facts of the Asiana Flight 214 fatal crash at SFO, he was “amazed to learn that a 10,000-hour pilot was nervousabout doing an approach into San Francisco on a beautiful, clear, sunny day with negligible wind on an 11,000-foot runway because the glideslope was out of service and he was doing it manually.”
- On the Rio de Janeiro to Paris Air France 447 flight, “[They] froze not one, not two, but three pitot tubes, so when he lost his pitot tubes, he lost his airspeed information. When he lost his airspeed information he lost his autopilot and he lost his auto throttle, and he lost his alpha protection. [Alpha refers to angle of attack information needed to prevent aerodynamic stalls.] Here’s a situation where the automation was so complicated that these two pilots didn’t really understand it. Not only that, but they had never seen a failure of airspeed even in training.”
- “I want to go beyond skills and knowledge, which is a huge issue to be sure, and I want to look at attitude [and] in particular, professionalism.” He cited another example of a Northwest Airlines crew so distracted that they overflew their destination of Minneapolis by 150 miles in March 2010. “Here’s probably the worst example of lack of professionalism,” he said.
What a regulatory waste would it be to requalify the world’s global commercial pilot based on standards which are known to be deficient. With much of the necessary research and drafting already in hand, why not make the effort to update the criteria before the cockpit crews run through the world’s CAA processes?
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