UK CAA to study pilot monitoring techniques

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A new study of what pilots monitor on the flightdeck, how they do it and how they react to what they see has been commissioned by the UK Civil Aviation Authority, in a bid to reduce the number of loss of control accidents taking place in the global airline environment.

It has drafted a summary of results from the first phase, concerned with establishing facts rather than relying on theory, and will then set about designing training aids and an implementation plan, said the CAA's head of flight crew standards, David McCorquodale.

It is easy to theorise that loss of control is a result of pilots losing skills in a highly automated environment, said McCorquodale, but the CAA wanted to research pilots' monitoring techniques and their reactions to what they perceive.

This is not just an issue of establishing how pilots monitor the aircraft instruments, said McCorquodale, but also the mutual monitoring by crew members of each other.

As a result of a safety policy prioritisation reassessment that the CAA began almost two years ago, it has developed a list it calls "The Significant Seven", and loss of control tops it.

Understanding why pilots do what they do entails understanding how they gather their information before they make decisions, said McCorquodale, hence the "pilot monitoring research programme", which is being carried out by private consultancy ESE Associates.

When the CAA has had time to assess the draft results, it hopes to produce training videos demonstrating best practice in monitoring techniques.