Was AF447 enough to cause a reaction at airline level?

Flightglobal has posted a study of the airline safety issues raised by the investigation into the loss-of-control crash of Air France flight 447 in June 2009. The review examines whether the serious systemic inadequacies the accident revealed will trigger industry action to correct them.

As the review demonstrates, the human factors issues associated with loss-of-control in flight (LOC-I) accidents were well known before AF447, but nothing was done. The question is, does the Air France A330 crash have the shock-value to produce action where previous LOC-I events have only produced industry hand-wringing?
The February 2009 Colgan Air crash at Buffalo, because it happened in America, looked as if it might have the potential to move the regulators. It demonstrated that there are legally licensed pilots flying fare paying passengers without having the knowledge or skills to cope even in unexceptional circumstances. 
ICAO, EASA and the FAA all know that radical change to the way in which airline pilots receive their airline type and recurrent training is required and, working with several specialist industry groups, they are slowly trying to define what those changes should be.
But the FAA will not have the mandate to change – especially to add – training requirements because, to produce a new regulation it has to demonstrate a cost-benefit based on the US value of a human life, and in statistical terms LOC-I accidents involving US carriers are too rare to enable them to make a case.
EASA, meanwhile, is drawing up new training requirements, and will eventually publish proposed regulation for comment and consultation. 
The consultation phase will be interesting. More training on top of what already exists would be very costly. Different training that replaces some of what exists will almost certainly add to present training costs. And the European carriers will bridle at being presented with potentially higher recurrent training costs than their US competitors, or indeed all non-European competitors.
ICAO is the only hope for creating a global level playing field in pilot training and licensing standards. But of course ICAO has to cajole and persuade, it does not have legislative power. This takes time.
So the two questions about the AF447 safety legacy are: will anything happen? And if it does, how long will it take?

One Response to Was AF447 enough to cause a reaction at airline level?

  1. Barry Moule 8 January, 2013 at 3:38 am #

    Hi David,
    Thoroughly enjoyed your commentary re FLT AF 447.
    What appeared to me was a simple oversight – reference to ground speed in the event of a pitot failure. Even if you hadn’t suspected a pitot failure, GPS calculated GS should have been referenced. Furthermore, referenced regularly in flight.
    I am merely a 400 hour pilot and have needed to land without the pitot working accurately by use of GS adjusted for wind – it works, I am still here!.
    I have a few friends who fly for the airlines. I believe the culture is so pathetically synthetic and apolitical that Pilots are becoming increasingly desensitised to the basics of flight. They are taught to fly by the book, read Plane Manufacturers Book – that’s fine, providing you can find the right page in time!
    What is lost in a POH, is that everything assumes the same priority. Without stating the obvious, flying is all about AIRSPEED. Quite simple, really – we have overly complicated the skills required to fly.
    Anyhow, my comments for what they are worth.
    Keep up the good work.

    Regards from Oz,
    Barry Moule