FAA Proposes “Significant Changes” to Airline Pilot Training

In light of recent air traffic incidents including sleeping air traffic controllers and near misses involving large passenger jets, the FAA proposed changes today that would require pilots and cabin crew members to be more prepared to handle emergency situations CNN reports.

Federal Aviation Administrator Randy Babbitt called the changes to pilot training, proposed Wednesday, “the most significant changes” to crew training in 20 years.

In the past, officials said, pilots were required to learn how to recognize and recover from problems such as aeronautic stalls or flight upsets. Under the proposed rule, they will also have to demonstrate their skills in flight simulators.

Additionally, flight crews, flight attendants and even ground-based airline dispatchers will have to train as a team on how to respond to emergencies.

The proposal includes suggestions from the National Transportation Safety Board as well as mandated rules passed by Congress and aims to address safety issues that result from improperly trained pilots and flight attendants.

The FAA estimates that improper training and incomplete procedures and manuals led to 492 fatalities between 1988 and 2009.

The United States has traditionally operated one of the safest air networks in the world but numerous close calls in recent years has caused the FAA to begin examining ways to utilize new technologies to improve air safety. One of those improvements is the current implementation by airlines and the FAA of GPS tracking devices on commercial planes in order to switch from a Radar-based system to one that utilizes GPS allowing more precise accuracy in tracking planes while they are in the sky. The FAA is calling the program “NextGen” and is touting it as a system that will greatly increase both safety and efficiency.

But NextGen won’t be fully operational for another decade and even when it is up and running, it will not be able to remove human error from the equation. Aside from the hole incident on a Southwest 737 last month, most of the recent safety concerns have revolved around people making mistakes or poor decisions and it appears the FAA is taking this very seriously and trying to fix it.

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