AA09: Pilot handling skills under threat, says Airbus

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Airbus is urging the aviation industry to confront the issue of how to ensure long-haul airline pilots maintain basic flying skills in the face of ever-increasing aircraft reliability and cockpit automation.

"We need to refocus on basic handling," Capt Jacques Drappier, Airbus vice-president training, told the APATS training conference at the show yesterday during a presentation on the manufacturer's training philosophy for its latest widebody programme, the A350 XWB.

"I think that at a certain point in time we need to bring back a little bit of handling," said Drappier, adding that he advocates more simulator time for pilots to hone their basic skills. Meanwhile, he says, there are some elements of training that could be moved from the simulator to the classroom.

According to Drappier, long-haul pilots typically log 800-900 flying hours a year, although this could include "less than 3h of stick time", the majority of which is accumulated on final approach and flare.

"We put people into our training today who have forgotten how to fly, basically," he says. "This is an issue that needs to be addressed by the industry."

Pilot training for the A350 will be broadly similar to that for the A380, despite the technical advances being incorporated into the new twinjet, according to Drappier.

"It's all new technology, but it's new technology in the structure, engines and systems. Most of it is transparent to the pilots. The training experience from the A380 is fully applicable."

Airbus expects pilot type conversion training to take five days between the A380 and the A350, compared with 10 days from the A330/A340 family to the A350 and 11 days from the A320.