Last updated: 12:38 PM ET, Mon January 11 2016

Report: Transportation Department Says Airline Pilots Lack Vital Training

Impacting Travel | Amy Coyne Bredeson | January 10, 2016

Report: Transportation Department Says Airline Pilots Lack Vital Training

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Airline pilots aren’t receiving the training they need to operate the complicated control systems in cockpits, according to a report released Sunday by the Associated Press.

Since most airline pilots use automated systems to fly nowadays, they only use their manual flying skills for takeoffs and landings, which means they aren’t getting a lot of practice flying manually, the AP said. Manual flying skills are important in case the automated systems were to fail during a flight.

In an investigation into the matter, two of the nine airlines investigators visited discouraged pilots from flying manually under normal conditions, the AP said.

"The opportunities air carrier pilots have during live operations to maintain proficiency in manual flight are limited and likely to diminish," a report by the Transportation Department's internal watchdog said, which was obtained by the AP. "While the FAA has taken steps to emphasize the importance of pilots' manual flying and monitoring skills, the agency can and should do more to ensure that carriers are sufficiently training their pilots on these skills," the report added.

In January 2013, the Federal Aviation Administration alerted airlines that they should encourage pilots to practice manual flying in their daily operations and also in pilot training, according to the AP.

However, the FAA has not checked up on the airlines to ensure they are doing so, per the watchdog report.

The Transportation Department's Office of Inspector General said the FAA also is not ensuring that the training programs cover monitoring of the flight path, automated systems and the actions of other pilots, according to the AP.

In 2013, the agency said training programs needed to enhance pilot monitoring and manual flying skills; however, airlines aren’t required to do so until 2019, the AP said.

"Because FAA hasn't determined how carriers should implement the new requirements or evaluated whether pilots' manual flying time has increased, the agency is missing important opportunities to ensure that pilots maintain skills needed to safely fly and recover in the event of a failure with flight deck automation or an unexpected event," the report said.

A 2009 plane crash that left 50 people dead in Buffalo, NY was the catalyst for the new rules, the AP said.

A National Transportation Safety Board investigation showed that the pilots weren't monitoring the plane's airspeed closely, which led to the conclusion that more training is required.

Clay Foushee, the FAA's director of audits and evaluations, said the agency agrees that standards should be developed to ensure pilots have plenty of opportunities to practice manual flying. He said the agency will advise airlines on the issue by Jan. 31, 2017, according to the AP.


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