Problems stemming from simulator training have been cited as contributing factors in airline accidents that caused more than half of the 522 fatalities over the last decade, according to a USA Today analysis published on Tuesday. Most recently, the NTSB cited deficient simulator training as a contributing factor in its final report on a December 2008 accident in Denver, in which six people were severely hurt when a Continental 737 ran off a Denver runway. Simulated crosswind training in the airline industry is "inadequate," the NTSB reported, due to "deficient simulator wind gust modeling" that fails to provide pilots with "realistic gusty crosswind training." USA Today noted that simulators also were cited in the NTSB reports on last year's fatal Colgan Air crash and the November 2001 crash of an American Airlines A300 in which 265 people died.
In its report on the Colgan Air crash, the NTSB said airline simulators needed to do a better job of helping train pilots to handle icing emergencies. In the A300 crash, the NTSB found that a simulator exercise had given pilots a false sense of how the rudder would respond to inputs. The investigators found that the rudder pedal motion in the simulator and the airplane produced by normal and high pilot input forces resulted in different pedal displacements. The differences were attributed to the software representation of the elastic cable stretch in the simulator, which was less stiff than the cable stretch on the A300-600 airplane. The NTSB voted earlier this year to urge federal regulators to create higher standards for simulator performance, USA Today said.