Saturday, September 12, 2009

Airbus warns that pilot handling skills are under threat

If you fly commercially, this should worry you. Flight International reports:

Airbus is urging the aviation industry to confront the issue of how to ensure long-haul airline pilots maintain basic flying skills in the face of ever-increasing aircraft reliability and cockpit automation.

"We need to refocus on basic handling," Capt Jacques Drappier, Airbus vice-president training, told the APATS training conference at the show yesterday during a presentation on the manufacturer's training philosophy for its latest widebody programme, the A350 XWB.

"I think that at a certain point in time we need to bring back a little bit of handling," said Drappier, adding that he advocates more simulator time for pilots to hone their basic skills. Meanwhile, he says, there are some elements of training that could be moved from the simulator to the classroom.

According to Drappier, long-haul pilots typically log 800-900 flying hours a year, although this could include "less than 3h of stick time", the majority of which is accumulated on final approach and flare.

"We put people into our training today who have forgotten how to fly, basically," he says. "This is an issue that needs to be addressed by the industry."

There's more at the link. Paragraphs in bold print are my emphasis.

That's pretty worrying! When you think that a modern airline pilot actually spends very little time flying the aircraft - most of that's done by the autopilot and computers - one can understand that he or she might get more than a little out of practice at dealing with emergencies!

I hope Airbus can persuade airlines to increase their training for such contingencies.



Anonymous said...

The emergency angle is I think two parts: Actual aircraft upsets which require control inputs to correct, and systems failures which require checklist actions to manage.

I'm sure is at least one of your readers with a commercial license who can tell us how much time they spend in the sim working on system-type emergencies. If this guy from Airbus has it right about getting only a few hours of real stick time a year, then I think he has a point about reinforcing the training there.

Compare it to an engineer who can work in his favourite CAD application like a conductor before an orchestra, but couldn't unwrap the six sides of a box in his head anymore: Automation is great, but knowing the backup systems in case of failure is proving important.

I'm sure you've heard the story of the Gimli Glider? Its a fascinating and topical read.


Old NFO said...

Good points raised both by the article and Reflectoscope- Good friend of mine is a senior 777 captain, they do trainers that are primarily for emergency procedures, and the only "real" flying he gets is when he has a line check. His copilots get an average of 1 landing a month in the real airplane. He gets 4-6 depending on his trip schedules. He admitted he likes to take the autopilot off and hand fly an hour or so of each leg, just to "remember" what it's like...