FAA issues DRAFT AC on Flightpath Management

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Pilot “Stick and Rudder” Skills have been an issue since 2014

An ARC wrote a well-researched, detailed set of Recommendations

FAA issued, on 02.03.2022,  DRAFT AC  120FPM Flight Path Management Advisory Circular.

The FAA has issued a DRAFT AC  120FPM Flight Path Management Advisory Circular. The introduction explains its history:

The Air Carrier Training Aviation Rulemaking Committee Steering Committee established the Flight Path Management Work Group in 2018 and has since submitted numerous recommendations to the FAA. The FAA developed this advisory circular (AC) based on those recommendations, and it contains guidance and recommended practices for flight path management that can be incorporated into training programs and operational procedures. Flight path management topics addressed in this advisory circular include manual flight operations, managing automated systems, pilot monitoring, and energy management.

The need to review and assess the cockpit competence was raised earlier by NTSB Chair (now retired) Chris Hart. He may not have been the first to raise the issue of deteriorating pilot proficiency in the time of increasing automation, but his speeches in 2014 and then again in 2016 established him as an early advocate on this issue. Pilots’ Stick and Rudder Skills were further exacerbated by the COVID pandemic’s decreased flight schedules.

Also, back in 2014, the Active Pilot Monitoring Working Group, composed many companies, organizations and individuals who made valuable contributions, issued its authoritative Report on Flight Path Monitoring (65 pages).  The WG started with the existing data, e.g., line operations safety audit (LOSA), aviation safety action program (ASAP), flight operational quality assurance (FOQA),flight data monitoring (FDM),

Flight Safety International Report

and U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS). The team members identified 6 Barriers to Effective Monitoring that needed to be addressed:

6 Barriers

The FAA  recently (02/03/2022) proposed an AC on Flightpath Management.

AC heading

It includes the following major topics

              • PILOT MONITORING
              • ENERGY MANAGEMENT

Sixty- three detailed draft pages produced since the WG issued its analyses and recommendations. Without a side-by-side  parsing of the two documents, it is not clear what was added in terms of substance.

The FAA frequently points to the need for precise language for texts that may be used in legal proceedings (i.e., “that sentence is subject to multiple interpretations and is not ‘enforceable’”). That’s not as true of an Advisory Circular which starts with the same precatory phrase—this AC “describes an acceptable means, but not the only means, for an operator to incorporate …”some of the AD points


FAA Urges More Stick Time For Airline, Charter Pilots

Russ Niles

February 6, 2022


Airline and charter pilots may be in for more stick and rudder time assuming a new proposed advisory circular makes it through the 30-day comment period. The FAA has issued a draft of the AC on Flightpath Management and it includes a host of measures the agency wants operators to include in training and operations to ensure pilots can get from A to B safely. The AC isn’t prescriptive. Rather, it “provides guidance and recommended practices for operators to implement operational procedures and training for the planning, execution, and assurance of the guidance and control of aircraft trajectory and energy.” Much of the document addresses monitoring and tweaking the automatic systems that do most of the work these days but there’s a big section on ensuring pilots literally keep their hands in when doing their jobs.

The AC suggests some operators demand pilots rely too much on the magic boxes and it wants them to make sure they remain current and proficient in hand flying the aircraft. In so many words, the AC says pilots may not be getting enough stick time and that “may contribute to a gap between proficiency in MFO and the ability of pilots to perform manual operations when various situations require immediate manual control,” and that operators “should ensure there are appropriate opportunities for pilots to exercise manual flying skills during line operations.”

pilots hand on




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1 Comment on "FAA issues DRAFT AC on Flightpath Management"

  1. Those Automation Addicts are going to grumble when this agenda reaches fruition. Having studied the issue of Pilot Automation Addiction for many years–including viewing videos of planes plunging out of cloud bases, or spinning out of same–it’s obvious to me that the FAA has taken notice of this phenomenon, and is implementing rules for more pilot stick and rudder proficiency. My guess is that they’ll (FAA) make Biennial Flight Reviews into Annual Flight Reviews, and the pilot candidates should be sweating during those rides.

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