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Commuter Airlines Improve Safety Reports FAA

Posted by Jane Akre
Wednesday, January 27, 2010 11:42 AM EST
Category: On The Road
Tags: FAA, Airlines, Delta, Pilot Rest, Continental, American Airlines, Boeing, Colgan Air

The FAA held a series of hearing after the disasterous commuter crash in February 2009 - this is their report.

Call To Action


IMAGE SOURCE: Colgan Air Q400 / Colgan Air, Inc.

Commuter airlines are safer today thanks to new government and industry initiatives, reports the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

In a report released Tuesday, the FAA says closer government oversight of pilot training and identifying of weak pilots has led to the improvements.

The “Call To Action Final Report” report follows 12 regional safety forums held last summer.

Colgan Commuter Air Crash

Safety gaps on commuter carriers were glaring following the February 12, 2009 crash of Colgan Air Bombardier Dash-8 near Buffalo.

50 people died as the two inexperienced pilots lost control of the plane while chatting about weather conditions and feeling sick. Colgan was under contract with Continental.

Commuter airlines account for half of all U.S. commercial flights.

The Colgan Air crash highlighted inadequate pilot training, low salaries, and lack of cockpit discipline, reports the Wall Street Journal. Colgan’s First Officer, 24-year-old Rebecca Lynne Shaw, was paid $16,254 a year, about $23 an hour.

Critics made disparaging remarks comparing a Captain Sullenberger, who skillfully piloted a downed jet into the Hudson saving everyone aboard, with Capt. Marvin Renslow, who was at the helm of the doomed Colgan.

Pilot Performance

The report gives generally high grade to most airlines which responded to an FAA call last June to step up commuter safety.

Specifically, the report says airlines are taking a more focused look at new pilot performance and have made improvements in collecting and analyzing data from problems and incidents.

90 percent of airlines reportedly have some procedures to track inexperienced and poor performing pilots and give them additional training.

The FAA campaign encourages qualifications, training, and a limit to the time flying. Eight carriers had no procedures to handle poor-performing pilots, but several of those have stopped flying or merged, says the FAA.

The Airline Pilots Association reports that many airlines have lowered their minimum hiring requirements because there are fewer experienced pilots available for hire. Historically, a new hire would have to rise through the ranks being mentored by senior pilots before being awarded a captain’s position.

Cockpit conversation, which led to the inattention before the Colgan crash, resulted in a failure to run through the checklist for safety. The FAA says it will continue to encourage the pilot unions to clearly articulate the importance of professional behavior on flight decks.

The FAA plans to update certain pilot training which could include flight simulators in training and specialized training when a plane stalls and during unusual maneuvers.

While safety measures in Europe encourage newly hired pilots to observe experienced crews, the U.S. currently does not require such a mentoring program but he FAA says it will ask participants at the 2010 gathering of pilot employee organizations to address the topic. #

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