Final Pilot Rule will require a lot of Work to be Implemented on a Practical Level

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FAA Issues Final Rule on Pilot Training

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The FAA issued a much awaited final rule which mandates a variety of training regimes for the men and women who fly commercial aircraft. The process to create these new regulations involved almost 10 years (the Aviation Rulemaking Committee was established May 3, 2004) of hard work by government and industry. The specific requirements are well considered and involve the most advanced thinking about how best to prepare the cockpit crew for the demands of operating today’s complex, highly automated aircraft.

The new curriculum is comprehensive and designed to hone the skills of these professionals who work in the front of today’s airliners; specifically, the amendments include:

• “ground and flight training that enables pilots to prevent and recover from aircraft stalls and upsets. These new training standards will impact future simulator standards as well;
• air carriers to use data to track remedial training for pilots with performance deficiencies, such as failing a proficiency check or unsatisfactory performance during flight training;
• training for more effective pilot monitoring;
• enhanced runway safety procedures; and
• expanded crosswind training, including training for wind gusts.”

Those are laudable and practical elements. The airlines will hopefully be able to quickly incorporate the concepts and the result should be a better performance by these individuals so critical to aviation safety.
Pilots and airlines involve unique skills and unusual environments. Those charged with implementing these amendments to Part 121 must be mindful of the important attributes, noted below. Management’s approach, in dealing with individual airmen (a statutory word, our apologies) and the unions, will be critical in avoiding potential resistance by each pilot and labor unions.

Chief pilots and Directors of Training should be mindful of the targets of their education. Individuals selected to fly all types of aircraft tend to have a high level of confidence. Like brain surgeons, you do not want the captains or seconds-in-command to have second thoughts about their competence at moments of crisis. Such personalities are not always the most receptive to criticism, even when constructively expressed. In bringing these professionals to these new classes, in which they will be challenged by what may be new situations and/or in which they must develop new skills, there may be some resistance. The introduction to this new instruction should explain that these are new subjects and new motor skills which were not identified when these pilots went through their initial training.

One of the most significant advances in aviation safety has been the systems in which aberrations from perfect execution are captured through voluntary submissions of those “errors”. Today’s methodology involves anonymity. One of the elements of the Final Rule is setting systems which track the need for pilot remedial training.

As noted above, the character strengths needed to operate an aircraft do not necessarily correlate to being receptive to being called for remedial training. Everyone associated with an airline is committed to constant enhancement of the collective performance of airplanes; some corporations and within each certificates some individuals are more wed to these critical concepts than others. Being identified through some tracking system, as one who is in need of additional training, will be a tricky test of a person’s safety culture pledge. The call or notice to come in to improve your skills must be carefully scripted.

On a broader scale, whatever methods of isolating pilots, who may need additional training, may weaken individuals’ support of ASAP and RVSM and might spread to doubts about these safety tools at the union level. Obviously, it would be wise for management to work with labor to integrate these new requirements; the success with depend largely on their acceptance of these more exacting standards.

New, improved pilot training regulations will get, have already received, strong positive responses from the general public. The reception by the women and men who fly airplanes will depend heavily on the words and ways in which the airlines introduce these new rules to the individuals who will be challenged by the FAA amendments. ALPA’s press release in support of the rule is an encouraging first step.

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