FAA Report: Commercial Pilot Deficencies; Lack Of Hands On Flying Skill!

January 11, 2016
The US FAA is failing to ensure that airline pilots maintain their flying skills so that they can safely take over control of an aircraft from automated systems during an unexpected event, according to a Transportation Department report.

The report by the department’s Office of the Inspector General concludes that the FAA cannot determine how often pilots fly manually and has not ensured that airline training adequately focuses on manual skills.

Airline pilots typically fly planes manually on landings and take-offs, leaving the aircraft under the control of automated technology 90 percent of the time. While automated systems have generally improved aviation safety, experts say the practice and the growing complexity of automated technology have raised concerns about flying skills.

The government watchdog also found that the US aviation regulatory agency lacks the ability to ensure that pilots are fully trained to use and monitor automated flight systems.

“The agency is missing important opportunities to ensure that pilots maintain skills needed to safely fly and recover in the event of a failure with flight deck automation or an unexpected event,” the report said.

An FAA spokesman declined to comment, but pointed to an FAA memorandum contained in the report, in which the agency shared the inspector general’s concerns and said it was developing training guidelines and discussing operations and training with industry stakeholders including airlines, pilots and flight attendants.

The National Transportation Safety Board in 2014 found that an Asiana Airlines Boeing 777 crashed and caught fire at San Francisco Airport in 2013 because the pilot lacked critical skills and the flight crew relied too heavily on an automated system it did not fully understand. Three people died and 49 others were seriously injured in the crash.

In a separate case, the NTSB said that 49 passengers and crew members aboard a Colgan Air Bombardier DHC-8-400 regional flight died in 2009 after the flight crew failed to monitor the plane’s slowing airspeed while on instrument approach to Buffalo-Niagara Airport in upstate New York. The crew responded incorrectly to an automated warning of an imminent stall.

The plane crashed into a residence, killing everyone on board and a man on the ground.

(Reuters)

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This topic is often discussed on the PPRUNE forums. A number of the older hands say that back in the 60’s and even as recent as the 80’s a number of the airlines (talking UK and ‘colonial’ (HK and SIngapore) had there own flying club and their main line pilots where encouraged to fly the GA aircraft and good rates in order to keep their basic skills up to date.

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Yea… No. There are good pilots and then there are bad ones. It’s just that simple. When you hear about crashes and they are human factor related it just crm weakness. Training is key as well as the job of the pilot to be alert even while on automation .

Automation helps the pilot tremendously by taking the load off so to speak, if you take that away you add so much more work on the pilots end.

I disagree with a lot of things the faa stands for, and this is one of them.

I read about an Air France A319 almost crashes due to the pilot not knowing how to operate the autopilot.

We have a similar problem in audio engineering, today’s engineers don’t know how to troubleshoot when encountering glitches because they are only trained on digital equipment, and they expect the ‘advanced equipment’ to do everything for them. You should see how they jump on to internal processors and effects to fix simple frequency issues. Old hands gained vast experience in analog equipment first before jumping to digital, many still prefer analog.

Back on the topic, I remember seeing an episode on air crash investigation and an Air France A321 crashed on the sea in 2009. The pilots did not realise the plane was climbing and it eventually stalled. They simply failed to increase throttle power and drop the nose to regain control of the plane and dropped from 33k feet. So I agree with the FAA

Know what you mean running a Anaoluge sound desk over a Digity one!

Back on topic, did you mean AF 447 ? The flight from Rio to Paris which crashed in the Atlantic in 2009?

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Technology sometimes might be a bad thing. But there is nothing we can do other than train our pilots better and not allow them to get complacent.

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Yep (filler)

Technology on its own is not a bad thing. It’s simply a tool - the difference is always in training. At the end of the day, the pilot needs to understand the basics of how to fly the airplane in the places they’re going to be flying them in - and the design of the cockpit and instrumentation should be such as to allow the pilot to do that (conversely, - help pilot make the right decisions rather than make the decisions for him. This is where I like Boeing’s approach to this problem more, even though I’d consider the overall Airbus vs Boeing argument moot and silly).

I do agree that over-reliance on automation is a recipe for disaster. With any technology, especially considering the aviation philosophy of ‘redundancy for critical components’, you need to think - how can I get out of a problem if the system I rely on to do so normally is not there? I suppose a lot of the issue lies in abandoning this safety check [in those cases where accidents do occur].

It’s only fair to say that each situation is unique, and faced with danger, requirement to make critical decisions in times that sometimes measure fractions of a second, it becomes an infinitely greater challenge to correctly assess and then remedy a situation. So the pilots still get my respect. One of the sayings I’ve heard over the years is “The pilot is the first person to arrive at any crash” - that alone is incentive enough to avoid such a case, right?

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