Airlines face up to $354 million price for new FAA training rule

Washington DC
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US airlines face up to $354 million in higher training costs to implement a new set of training rules imposed on all commercial airline pilots, according to the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

The final rule announced today by FAA administrator Michael Huerta raises standards on training for potentially catastrophic – albeit extremely rare – events, such as stalls, crosswind landings and wind gusts.

The pilot training rules are the latest batch of reforms imposed after the 2009 crash of Colgan Air 3407, in which the crew of a Bombardier Q400 inadvertently stalled on final approach to land in Buffalo, New York, in icing conditions. The crash killed 50 people.

“This pivotal rule will give our nation’s pilots the most advanced training available,” Huerta says in a media release.

Huerta also called on airline leaders to meet him on 21 November to discuss other, voluntary actions that can improve safety.

Huerta’s agency estimates the overall cost on airlines to implement the rule will range between $274-$354 million, while the estimated benefit is $689 million.

The enactment of the rule was hailed by the “Families of Continental Flight 3407”, which has lobbied the FAA to push through a series of rules since 2011 to raise standards for cockpit experience and crew rest.

But the group representing relatives of the victims also believes the new rule on pilot training does not go far enough.

The FAA dropped a provision in the rule to require the new training to be performed with a pilot and co-pilot together, allowing airlines to schedule the sessions separately. A statement released by the families of the victims notes their “disappointment”.

A Buffalo-based congressman, Brian Higgins, welcomed the rule, meanwhile, crediting the “persistence and tireless advocacy of the dedicated families of those aboard Flight 3407”.

Anthony Foxx, the newly-installed secretary of transportation, echoed Higgins’ praise of the group, saying one of his first meetings after taking office was with them.

“I am proud to announce that with their help, the FAA has now added improved pilot training to its many other efforts to strengthen aviation safety,” Foxx says.

The final rule requires pilots to complete training on how to prevent and recover from stalls and upsets, and expands training for responding to crosswinds and wind gusts, the FAA says.

Airlines also must closely track remedial training for pilots who fail check rides or perform below standards during training, the agency adds.