FAA proposes sweeping update to pilot, flight attendant and dispatch training rules

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US regulators on Monday will publish a 689-page proposed rule that would require airlines to supply "safety-critical" training to pilots, flight attendants and dispatchers, an action the agency says will make "a significant contribution" to its accident reduction goal.

Included in FAA's notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) are "special hazard" flight simulator training requirements for pilots that include loss-of-control (LOC) and controlled flight into terrain (CFIT) scenarios. Also included is a requirement to perform line-oriented flight training (LOFT) in full-flight simulators as well as to demonstrate runway safety techniques such as ensuring the correct runway is selected for takeoff.

For flight attendants, the new rules include completing "hands on" performance drills using emergency equipment annually and qualifying for various aircraft types based on operating experience. The rule would require dispatchers to be re-qualified and dispatcher instructors to complete standardized training.

FAA plans to allow airlines five years from the date the rule becomes final, after a planned public comment phase for the preliminary rule, to put the new training programmes in place.

"This rulemaking is part of the FAA's efforts to reduce fatal accidents in which human error was a major contributing cause," the regulator writes. The agency cites NTSB statistics showing human error was a major contributing factor in "a large percentage" of the fatal accidents at US air carriers from 1987 through 1996.

Further, FAA says in that timeframe NTSB found that inadequate training was the probable cause of 169 airline industry accidents resulting in 988 fatalities, 250 serious injuries and "significant damage" or complete hull loss of the aircraft involved.

"We believe that many of these accidents could have been prevented if the proposed training initiatives were in place during that 20 year period," FAA states. The NPRM was developed in part with input from a government-industry aviation rulemaking committee established in 2004.