ICAO convenes to examine Pilot Competence Standards

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Airbus : U.N. aviation agency to review global pilot training in shadow of 737 MAX crashes

ICAO meeting to consider revising its criteria for pilots

Not tied to the Max 8 crashes

Only four countries currently do not meet standards

In the wake of these horrific tragedies, there has been much debate about the cause(s). One assessment, based on analysis of the CVR[1], pointed to the cockpit crew and their struggle to control the aircraft. Oddly, one editorial perspective intimated that the questioning of the training of the Lion Air and Ethiopia Air was a racist attack.  Nonpartisan Captain Sullenberger said that pilots must be ‘fully armed’ to operate Boeing 737 Max, especially more time in a B-737 MAX 8 simulator.






On March 29,2019 the leaders of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and the Subcommittee on Aviation requested a federal investigation of international pilot training standards and training for commercial pilots operating outside of the United States, including training for the Boeing 737 MAX.

As a matter of transparency, it should be noted that the JDA Journal has expressed an opinion on this subject recently:

One MAX 8 Immediate Actionable Aviation Safety Lesson For International Aviation Safety

In that context of these recent reactions to the pilot competence question, it is VERY interesting that the international aviation safety organization, the International Civil Aviation Organization, has called a special meeting to discuss pilot training.






“MONTREAL – Global regulators will meet in Montreal next week to review pilot licensing requirements, the U.N.’s aviation agency said, as part of a discussion that has gained urgency following two fatal crashes of Boeing 737 Max aircraft in the past year.

It is the first time that the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), which sets global standards for 193 member countries, will undertake such a broad review on training requirements.

While the meeting was not called in response to the Max crashes in Indonesia last October and in Ethiopia in March, it coincides with a larger debate on whether increasingly automated commercial jets are compromising pilot skills.

The 737 Max has been grounded worldwide and could not be back in service for months yet.

Most attention surrounding the two 737 Max crashes that killed a total of 346 people focuses on suspected flaws in an automated stall-prevention system called MCAS, which Boeing implemented to make the Max perform like previous 737 models.






But the training given to pilots to allow them to handle such problems smoothly is also under scrutiny, expanding an industry debate over pilot skills that has been raging for years as crews spend less and less time flying aircraft manually.

“Recently, with current events, people are discussing whether the minimum requirements or experience are still valid, [or] should we review that?” ICAO’s chief of operational safety Miguel Marin told Reuters.

In addition to regulators, representatives of a global pilots group are expected to attend the July 8-12 meeting, Marin said. Marin called the meeting a “first step,” with any eventual change up to regulators.





Training hours

In the United States, the Federal Aviation Administration increased the number of required training hours for commercial pilots from 250 to 1,500 in 2013, a move that some players have criticized as excessive, particularly as the industry grapples with future pilot shortages.

At the Montreal meeting, regulators will discuss flying hours and competency-based training, where pilots demonstrate skills like landing an airplane, as opposed to focusing on learning to fly and accumulating hours regardless of aircraft type.

ICAO’s multi-crew pilot license created in 2006 focused on competency-based training, where pilots need 240 hours to become first officers on a single aircraft type.

‘What we’re seeing in highly automated aircraft, it’s not how to manage the airplane if things are OK. It’s those unexpected malfunctions that throw the airplane off,” Marin said. “We think that can only be addressed with a different type of approach to training rather than just saying, give them more hours.’”

The recent spate of accidents should cause all aviation safety professionals to pause and reassess his/her commitment to our her/his craft. It is significant that this multinational body has opened the question of whether ICAO’s standards have reflected the risks associated with crew competence, training, experience or other factors!!!

The FAA, EASA, IATA and ICAO engage in periodic reviews the competence of all civil aviation authorities around the world. The intention of this sovereign-to-sovereign audits is to assure that travelers flying on.

The globe’s airlines are being regulated by their respective CAAs, which are charged with enforcing the ICAO standards. A review of the FAA’s International Aviation Safety Assessment shows that only four countries do not meet this level of regulatory surveillance, That suggests that all of the CAAs reviewed met the minimum requirements for pilots?






Hopefully, this effort in Montreal will establish a more relevant set of criteria soon.




[1] See especially the statement of Ranking Minority Graves (R, M) and Rep. Graves (R. LA), both commercial pilots.

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1 Comment on "ICAO convenes to examine Pilot Competence Standards"

  1. Sandy Murdock | July 10, 2019 at 10:14 am | Reply

    From POLITICO:
    MAILBAG: Two top Republicans on the House Transportation Committee wrote to the FAA on Tuesday to ask U.S. officials attending a meeting of the International Civil Aviation Organization this week to “place particular emphasis on changes to airline pilot training requirements in the age of highly automated aircraft systems.” Reps. Sam Graves (R-Mo.) and Garret Graves (R-La.), who have focused much of their attention on pilot factors in the wake of the two recent 737 MAX crashes, also asked the FAA for a future briefing on the ICAO meetings in Montreal this week.

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