FAA: Remedial training programs now in place

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US FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt says all 85 air carriers the agency inspected in the aftermath of the February 2009 Colgan Air Q400 crash now have remedial training in place, and programmes designed to "identify, track and manage low-time flight crew members and those who have failed evaluation events or demonstrated a repetitive need for additional training".

Testimony from a May public hearing held by the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) on the Colgan crash showed that the aircraft's captain had failed several flight tests while at Colgan, and other checks before he was employed there. The crash killed 49 passengers and crew on the aircraft and one person on the ground after the aircraft stalled at low altitude and impacted the ground on approach to Buffalo, New York at night.

The FAA in June launched a broad "Call to Action" review of the industry to investigate issues brought to light in the Colgan investigation, including pilot flight time, rest, fatigue, qualifications, training, records and professionalism.

As part of the review, FAA inspectors over a four month period in the latter half of 2009 conducted two-part "focused" reviews of flight crew training, qualification and management practices at 85 air carriers, including a check of whether carriers had put in place the voluntary remedial training programmes. Fourteen other air carriers were assumed to have remedial tracking in place as part of their advanced qualification programmes (AQP), a voluntary programme that lets carriers customise their training regimes with FAA oversight and certain reporting requirements.

In its latest update of the Call to Action programme, published 26 January, the FAA stated that eight carriers "lacked any component of a remedial training system and have received additional scrutiny". The agency did not provide the names of the airlines.

At a press conference today however, FAA administrator Randy Babbitt said all eight airlines had voluntarily put in place remedial training programmes.

Babbitt says the FAA would publish this spring a proposed pilot flight time, rest and fatigue rule and a supplement to a 2008 proposed rulemaking related to pilot training. Babbitt says the FAA decided to supplement the original document based on the 3,000 comments it received on the proposal.

Babbitt says the FAA will also publish an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking on minimum qualifications for pilot ratings, which he says will likely see a boost from the 250h minimum flight time experience needed to qualify for an FAA commercial pilot certificate. The 250h minimum is currently the requirement for first officers in an airline operations.

"What I've said before is that the commercial certificate maybe should be 750h instead of 250h, with exposure to a variety of commercial aircraft systems and operations," says Babbitt, adding that the hike would not immediately affect the supply of pilots needed by the industry.