May 7, 2015
EASA introduces new training program to reduce accident risk through pilot error
European pilot associations, including the European Cockpit Association which represents 38,000 pilots across 37 European countries, have been pushing for increased pilot training in basic flying skills. They have been concerned that increased automation in flying procedures and the desire to reduce costs has seen skills training gradually reduced to an unacceptable level. “What Europe needs is to stem this trend,” said Philip von Schoeppenthau, the ECA Secretary General commented, continuing, “EASA’s focus on training for loss of control and upset recovery is very welcome.” This news now sees an improvement where the European aviation safety regulator EASA has introduced new training requirements in an attempt to prevent accidents resulting from pilots losing control of planes during a stall or in bad weather. Though rare, they confirmed that such incidents were also deadly, as was seen with the loss of Air France flight 447 flying from Rio de Janeiro to Paris killing all 228 on board. Investigations into the accident discovered that the co-pilot, who had become disoriented, was pulling back on the stick instead of pushing it forward to level the plane off, despite several stall warnings.
The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) is following voluntary guidelines produced by the ICAO last year regarding training on both preventing and recovering from in-flight incidents. In a statement, EASA Executive Director Patrick Ky said “A number of accidents in the recent years have demonstrated that Loss of Control remains a major area of concern for aviation safety and should be tackled with the highest priority.” The new rules will see the compulsory implementation of training on stall recovery, handling situations where the plane’s nose is either too low or too high, and will include additional training on environmental hazards including thunderstorms and flying in unpredictable weather zones such as the turbulent Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ). EASA believes the new requirements, which European airlines and commercial business jet operators must implement by May 2016, will see a one-off cost of EUR€12.5 million (USD$14 million). The training must also include incidents involving the “startle” effect, one where pilots can experience unexpected problems, as well as how to cope with other issues including spatial disorientation.