Current issues faced by international aviation
What we know from the two Crashes
Hero ‘Miracle on the Hudson’ pilot blasts ‘absurd’ lack of training in wake of fatal Ethiopian Airlines crash
Strip away the politics and examine the facts presented at the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, Aviation Subcommittee hearing–“Status of the Boeing 737 MAX”—one thing is clear, the pilots who flew these aircraft , in particular the second-in-command of the Ethiopian Airlines, did not exhibit the same level of cockpit skilled as US crewmembers. The man in the right hand seat had a mere 200 hours of time.
This is not to blame these four professionals for these accidents; the investigation is not sufficiently developed to make such a determination. At this point, open questions include the experience standards of both countries, the sufficiency of the training provided by the two airlines, the adequacy of the training materials provided by Boeing, among a myriad of potential problems.
Captain Sullenberger focuses on the competence of the crew as noted in this quote:
Captain C.B. Sully Sullenberger
“We do not yet know what caused the tragic crash of Ethiopian 302 that sadly claimed the lives of all passengers and crew, though there are many similarities between this flight and Lion Air 610, in which the design of the Boeing 737 MAX 8 is a factor. It has been obvious since the Lion Air crash that a redesign of the 737 MAX 8 has been urgently needed, yet has still not been done, and the announced proposed fixes do not go far enough. I feel sure that the Ethiopian crew would have tried to do everything they were able to do to avoid the accident. It has been reported that the first officer on that flight had only 200 hours of flight experience, a small fraction of the minimum in the U.S., and an absurdly low amount for someone in the cockpit of a jet airliner. We do not yet know what challenges the pilots faced or what they were able to do, but everyone who is entrusted with the lives of passengers and crew by being in a pilot seat of an airliner must be armed with the knowledge, skill, experience, and judgment to be able to handle the unexpected and be the absolute master of the aircraft and all its systems, and of the situation. A cockpit crew must be a team of experts, not a captain and an apprentice…”
These comments do not reflect a cultural bias; rather the Captain expresses concerns about foreign Civil Aviation Authorities and the airlines to place someone so inexperienced in the cockpit of a complex aircraft.
ICAO’s Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme (USOAP), the FAA’s International Aviation Safety Assessment (IASA), IATA’s IOSA and EASA’s reviews all provide independent reviews of the world’s CAA’s. The audit standards measure the individual authority against the International Civil Aviation Authorities criteria. One would hope that the three auditing organizations would come to the same conclusion; they do not!
Here are the ICAO scores for Ethiopia and Indonesia; note that the operation category for Ethiopia is BELOW standards. Both CAAs were deemed in compliance by ICAO:
What cannot be divined from the ICAO public records is whether the low operational score reflect substandard pilot experience.
The FAA determined under IASA that both countries meet standards.
Perhaps the FAA’s final report on these two tragedies will acknowledge that its past assessments did not adequately interrogate the CAA’s crew standards, the airline training and other essential safety measures. Congress mandated IASA to protect America fliers. To be able to exercise expert judgment. Congress needs to dedicate adequate funds for this international travel. Great international relations skills are needed to effectively convey to a fellow sovereign that it is deficient in aviation safety compliance.
Ultimately, it may be best to consolidate the existing redundant audits, to authorize a joint and/or independent body to perform in-depth analyses and to require that the subject CAA be in FULL COMPLIANCE before granting a seal of approval from the international community.
There likely will be many lessons from the Max 8 crashes and well-considered recommendations will be proffered recommendations will be issued.
However, it is already self-evident, even if not an eventual probable cause, that uniformity in the qualifications of the cockpit crew, cabin crew and AMTs should be a priority for ICAO.
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