Are we pilots losing our basic flying skills?

A few days ago I came back from my every six months recurrent training in the Saab 340 Level D Simulator.  On this occasion, apart from the usual V1 cuts, some of the items also included in the training menu were recovery from unusual attitudes, loss of both generators with total EFIS blackout and fly the airplane on standby instruments.

The aviation industry is answering to the increasing concern that airline pilots are losing their basic flying skills.

A recent study from an FAA – Federal Aviation Administration – Pilot Training Committee has warned that an increasing number of accidents are to blame to pilots being unable to give an adequate response to a situation of loss of automation or even not recognize when it is has been lost.  During daily airline operations we pilots rely most of the flight on our autopilot, FMS, etc., in fact a number of safety regulations as well as airline operators, require that the autopilot stay connected at maximum possible extent, this situation added to the fact that most approaches are executed with a coupled ILS are weakening pilots skills and industry is suffering that called “Automation Addiction”.

During the past five years many accidents occurred from crews being unable take proper actions in a case of loss of automation like Air France 447, or not recognizing a malfunctioning element in a critical stage of approach, like the accident of   Turkish Airlines 1951.  All this crews were experienced pilots from important air carriers.

Actually, short distance regional airlines crews are able to keep more proficient than long haul operations crews, mainly because daily they have a higher number of take offs and landings and even some airports they operate don’t have ILS and they must rely on non-precision or visual approaches to complete the landing maneuver at small or secondary airports.

Recently retired US Airways Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger whose precision flying saved the lives of 155 people aboard an Airbus 320, said  If we only look at the pilots — the human factor — then we are ignoring other important  factors,” he said. “We have to look at how they work together.”

Paul Railsback, operations director at the Air Transport Association, which represents airlines, said, “We think the best way to handle this is through the policies and training of the airlines to ensure they stipulate that the pilots devote a fair amount of time to manually flying.

“We want to encourage pilots to do that and not rely 100 percent on the automation. I think many airlines are moving in that direction.”

 


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“if we professional pilots share our experiences, we are making a safer aviation”

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