Transport Airlines

FAA Issues New Pilot Training Rule to Fix Colgan Air Deficiencies

@denschaal

Nov 05, 2013 12:25 pm

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The FAA has been fairly rigorous in taking remedial steps to respond to the Colgan Air crash even if sometimes the bureaucracy moves very slowly.

— Dennis Schaal

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The FAA issued a new rule outlining enhanced pilot training measures in response to the shortcomings uncovered in the NTSB investigation of the 2009 crash of Colgan Air flight 3407.

Airlines will have five years to implement the rule’s provisions at an estimated cost to the industry of $274.1 million to $353.7 million.

Among its provisions, the rule requires commercial airlines to track remedial training for pilots when they fail to achieve certain training and performance milestones, and implements “training for more effective pilot monitoring,” the FAA said.

The new rule is a result of the 2010 Colgan Air crash investigation and the Airline Safety and FAA Extension Act of 2010. The FAA several months ago implemented more rigorous training requirements for pilots. The 2010 law also called for the establishment of an electronic database for pilot records to improve the pilot monitoring and hiring process, but implementation appears to be years away.

The NTSB investigation of Colgan Air flight 3407 found that captain Marvin Renslow acknowledged to Colgan Air during his hiring process that he had failed one proficiency test, or “check ride,” as it is called, and eventually passed it, but he did not reveal two other certificate disapprovals.

As part of that NTSB investigation, a Colgan Air official testified that the pilot would have been fired had the airline known about his lack of candor on the certificate failures.

Renslow and his co-pilot, two flight attendants, 45 passengers and one person on the ground died in the crash near Buffalo, New York.

The new rule also calls for enhanced pilot training to prevent and recover from flight stalls. The NTSB had found in its Colgan investigation that the pilots failed to respond properly to flight stall warnings.

Better training to deal with crosswinds, and better training on runway safety procedures are also part of the new pilot training rule.

Scott Maurer, an active member of the Colgan Air families and whose daughter Lorin Maurer died in the crash, said the group got a briefing today prior to the FAA announcement, and acknowledged that “three critical areas of concern to us were addressed.”

These include bringing training procedures in line with the sophistication of modern aircraft; identifying where remedial pilot training is required, and simulator training to recover from and otherwise handle stalls.

“These are significant,” Scott Maurer said, although he added some elements of the original proposal were omitted and since the rule is nearly 200 pages, “there will be much to review and digest.”

Representative Rick Larsen, the ranking member of the House Aviation subcommittee, applauded the work of the Colgan Air families in advocating for training and other reforms.

“When passengers board planes in the United States, they should have full confidence that the pilots in the cockpit have been trained to the highest standards,”  Larsen wrote in a letter about the rule to Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “The crash of Colgan Air flight 3407 exposed gaps in pilot training requirements that these rules will close. I appreciate the FAA’s continued focus on keeping the flying public safe.

The FAA has implemented several remedial measures related to pilot training, fatigue and hiring prior to today’s announcement.

Starting August 1, co-pilots are required to complete at least 1,500 hours of pilot training to fly commercially and obtain an Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) Certificate, up from the previous 250 hours of flight experience for a commercial pilot certificate.

The increased training requirements exacerbates an existing pilot shortage, particularly among regional airlines, just as several major airlines are beginning to do hiring for the first time in years.

In addition to announcing the new rule, FAA administrator Michael Huerta invited aviation safety leaders to a November 21 meeting in Washington, D.C., to discuss additional voluntary measures to improve pilot training and other safety measures.

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