Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Federal Aviation Administration Releases New Pilot-Training Rules: Regulations Prompted By Regional Carrier Lapses

The Wall Street Journal 

By  Andy Pasztor

Nov. 5, 2013 11:37 a.m. ET

Federal regulators on Tuesday issued more stringent training and proficiency requirements for airline pilots to handle stalls, other in-flight upsets and windy runways.

Describing the changes as the most sweeping rewrite of airline cockpit training in two decades, Federal Aviation Administration chief Michael Huerta said the goal is to harness advances in-flight simulators and other safety practices to ensure pilots can cope with "rare but potentially catastrophic" emergencies.

The rules, which become effective in five years, also enhance tracking of pilots with spotty training records; expand training to prevent using or crossing incorrect runways; and step up efforts to teach aviators how to more effectively monitor flight paths and instruments. The FAA estimates the cost to the industry could be as much as $350 million over 10 years.

Primarily aimed at upgrading training and flight procedures at some regional carriers, the changes complete the FAA's last big airline-safety initiative prompted by the high-profile 2009 crash of a Colgan Air Inc. turboprop near Buffalo, N.Y. The regulatory package had been in the works for years and should make fliers "feel safer than ever before," Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx told reporters at a briefing.

The FAA said it is drafting companion rules mandating higher minimum standards for makers of flight-simulators, aiming for more realistic training to help pilots cope with aerodynamic stalls, when airplanes lose lift. The final rules, however, left out increased emergency training for flight attendants and additional oversight of airline dispatchers, concepts included in the initial proposal two years ago.

The latest version was modified to reflect recent global hazards such as unreliable airspeed indicators, which played a central role in some major accidents and incidents in the past few years. With the changes, all pilots should "have the skills and the confidence" to react to airborne emergencies, Mr. Huerta said.

The biggest international killer in commercial aviation is loss of control by pilots, typically after they are startled when autopilots disconnect and lose awareness of aircraft systems or their surroundings.

Overall, the FAA adopted most of the steps long demanded by lawmakers, outside safety experts and families of crash victims, particularly those who died in the Colgan Air Flight 3407 accident. But many of the changes and enhancements already are in place, because mainline carriers typically have been relying on such training practices and commuter airlines increasingly have voluntarily adopted the same principles.

Roger Cohen, president of the association representing regional operators called it "a good example where rule making has moved to catch up to the continually improving safety practices in place today at many airlines."

The captain of the Colgan Bombardier Q400 turboprop mistakenly pulled back sharply on the controls as the airplane was flying dangerously slow approaching the airport, instead of pushing forward to lower the nose and increase airspeed. The result was an aerodynamic stall that killed all 49 aboard and one person on the ground. Federal crash investigators later determined that both the airline and the captain had significant training lapses.

The Colgan accident in February 2009 also highlighted other problems faced by commuter carriers, including low salaries, inadequate pilot experience behind the controls and lack of cockpit discipline.

Starting two years ago, the FAA began formally revising so-called stall recovery standards for pilots, training instructors and simulator providers. Since then, various global industry groups have issued separate guidelines to prevent airline pilots from flying too slowly or losing control of their aircraft. Tuesday's announcement mirrors those efforts, but it goes further by locking in tougher training requirements and subjecting airlines that don't comply to FAA enforcement.

Mr. Huerta stressed that "we're encouraging airlines, if they are ready, to implement sooner" than the five-year compliance deadlines. The FAA chief also disclosed he will host a meeting in Washington later this month with U.S. airline-safety leaders to discuss voluntary compliance.

Partly in response to congressional requirements prompted by the Colgan crash, the FAA previously issued revised rules intended to prevent pilot fatigue and increase the minimum experience of co-pilots and captains flying for scheduled carriers. Compared with the pilot-training rules, those regulations sparked greater controversy and industry criticism as being overly expensive.

Meanwhile, the FAA is working on proposed regulations to improve mentoring of new pilots, set up a reliable, nationwide database of pilot qualifications and require stepped-up training to ensure leadership and professionalism among all commercial aviators. But concerns over cost and other issues have delayed those proposals.

Both Messrs. Foxx and Huerta credit persistent lobbying efforts by families representing the victims of Flight 3407 in helping to get the rules issued. The group said the changes "take pilot training into the 21st century after nearly 15 years of fits and starts," and the families praised the FAA for embracing "a fresh approach to remedial training."

Source: http://online.wsj.com

NTSB Identification: DCA09MA027 
 Scheduled 14 CFR Part 121: Air Carrier operation of COLGAN AIR INC (D.B.A. Continental Connection)
Accident occurred Thursday, February 12, 2009 in Clarence Center, NY
Probable Cause Approval Date: 03/28/2010
Aircraft: BOMBARDIER INC DHC-8-402, registration: N200WQ
Injuries: 50 Fatal.

NTSB investigators traveled in support of this investigation and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

The Safety Board’s full report is available at http://www.ntsb.gov/publictn/A_Acc1.htm. The Aircraft Accident Report number is NTSB/AAR-10/01.

On February 12, 2009, about 2217 eastern standard time, a Colgan Air, Inc., Bombardier DHC-8-400, N200WQ, operating as Continental Connection flight 3407, was on an instrument approach to Buffalo-Niagara International Airport, Buffalo, New York, when it crashed into a residence in Clarence Center, New York, about 5 nautical miles northeast of the airport. The 2 pilots, 2 flight attendants, and 45 passengers aboard the airplane were killed, one person on the ground was killed, and the airplane was destroyed by impact forces and a postcrash fire. The flight was operating under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 121. Night visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
The captain’s inappropriate response to the activation of the stick shaker, which led to an aerodynamic stall from which the airplane did not recover. Contributing to the accident were (1) the flight crew’s failure to monitor airspeed in relation to the rising position of the low-speed cue, (2) the flight crew failure to adhere to sterile cockpit procedures, (3) the captain’s failure to effectively manage the flight, and (4) Colgan Air’s inadequate procedures for airspeed selection and management during approaches in icing conditions.


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