Watchdog: FAA failing to ensure pilots are trained to fly manually

Watchdog: FAA failing to ensure pilots are trained to fly manually
© Wikimedia Commons

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is failing to make sure U.S. pilots are properly trained to fly commercial flights manually, according to report from the Department of Transportation's Inspector General. 

The watchdog agency said airline pilots are increasingly reliant on automated technology, which the group said causes problems in cockpits when they are forced to manually take control over flights. 

"Advances in aircraft automation have significantly contributed to safety and changed the way airline pilots perform their duties—from manually flying the aircraft to spending a majority of their time monitoring flight deck systems," the IG said in its report. 

ADVERTISEMENT
"While airlines have long used automation safely to improve efficiency and reduce pilot workload, several recent accidents, including the July 2013 crash of Asiana Airlines flight 214, have shown that pilots who typically fly with automation can make errors when confronted with an unexpected event or transitioning to manual flying," the report continued.  

"As a result, reliance on automation is a growing concern among industry experts, who have also questioned whether pilots are provided enough training and experience to maintain manual flying proficiency," the report concluded.  

The transportation watchdog said the FAA has taken steps to place limits on the flight conditions when pilots are allowed to use autopilot functions, but the report said the agency has been lax in ensuring pilots are up to speed on manual operation techniques when they have to take control of flights themselves. 

"FAA has established certain requirements governing the use of flight deck automation during commercial operations," the report said. "In particular, FAA has developed limitations regarding minimum altitudes at which autopilot can be engaged and how automated systems within the cockpit are configured to provide ease of use

"However, FAA does not have a process to ensure that air carrier pilots are trained to use and monitor automation systems while also maintaining proficiency in manual flight operations," the report continued. 

The watchdog agency recommended that the FAA "develop guidance defining pilot monitoring metrics that air carriers can use to train and evaluate pilots" and "develop standards to determine whether pilots receive sufficient training opportunities to develop, maintain, and demonstrate manual flying skills." 

The full report can be read here