EASA plans training overhaul in the light of AF447 findings

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Recommendations arising from the investigation into the fatal June 2009 Air France flight 447 loss-of-control accident have prompted the European Aviation Safety Agency to prepare a radical rulemaking programme.

Confirming its plans, EASA says that when drafted, the proposed regulations - mostly on pilot training - will be subject to the statutory consultation process. Therefore, it may be a year or more before any resulting regulatory change sees the light of day.

EASA confirms that a mandate for "loss-of-control avoidance and recovery training" is already included in its rulemaking programme. The specific recommendation by French accident investigation agency BEA is that EASA should: "Review the content of check and training programmes and make mandatory, in particular, the setting up of specific and regular exercises dedicated to manual aircraft handling of approach to stall and stall recovery, including at high altitude."

EASA says it is also working within the international "Loss of Control Avoidance and Recovery Training" initiative, established by the International Civil Aviation Organisation in co-operation with the US Federal Aviation Administration. The effect of cockpit automation on pilot skills is another issue EASA is preparing to tackle. It has set up an internal group on the topic which recently conducted a survey. This concludes: "Basic manual and cognitive flying skills tend to decline because of lack of practice, and feel for the aircraft can deteriorate."

EASA notes this fundamentally affects the assumptions about pilot competency and expected flightcrew reactions upon which aircraft certification decisions are made. Either those assumptions have to change - affecting aircraft design - or training has to counter the effects of automation successfully, it says. It is also working on rules that will require flight simulators to provide greater handling and aircraft behavioural fidelity at the edges of the flight envelope. This would improve the value of simulator training for stall recovery and recovery from extreme attitudes.

The upset that led to the AF447 crash occurred while the captain was in the crew rest compartment and his place had been taken by a relief pilot. EASA says it has included in its rulemaking the task of defining "requirements for cruise relief copilots".