A draft FAA study into the relationship of pilots with today’s airliner flightdecks – specifically the automated systems in the cockpits - provides the hard data to prove that pilots are not properly trained for modern cockpits. The result has been serious accidents that did not need to happen.
I have been arguing for ages that airline pilot recurrent training needs a serious review. Now, courtesy of Dr Kathy Abbott’s FAA team, it looks as if it might get one. This is good news.
At the same event - last week’s Flight Safety Foundation International Aviation Safety Seminar in Milan, Italy – at which Abbott outlined the initial results of her studies, three seriously big industry guns spoke at length on stall recovery, and one of similar calibre presented on go-arounds. Stall recovery was addressed by Boeing’s Dave Carbaugh, Airbus’s Claude LeLaie, and ALPA’s top human factors expert Capt David McKenney. Air France corporate safety manager Bertrand de Courville addressed the art of safe go-arounds.
These are two subjects so fundamental to basic pilot competence that the need to cover them in such detail is a symptom of the fact that current training is not addressing the basics. And Abbott, of course, has now revealed that today’s training is not covering advanced automation either.
So what is recurrent airline training achieving, then? It’s a bit of an oversimplification of the many things she said, but the hard evidence suggests that pilots concentrate on programming the automation at the expense of monitoring the flight path.
Is anyone actually surprised by this? Hadn’t you actually observed it yourself? Hasn’t there been sufficient anecdotal evidence of this for a while to make you worried? Well now Abbott’s team is on hand to provide the data to back up the anecdotes.
Don’t expect change tomorrow, but big changes will come. They must come.