The FAA's Turn Back To Basics

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The FAA's acting administrator, Michael Huerta, Thursday promoted the agency's pursuit of more regulation regarding how pilots are trained. Huerta spoke at a meeting of the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) and his comments follow the July 5 release of the BEA's final report on the crash of Air France Flight 447. Huerta told ALPA members that the forthcoming rules will be designed "to give pilots more training on how to recognize and recover from stalls and aircraft upsets" and to better deal with the complications added when automation fails. The crash of Flight 447 killed 228 people after the pilots stalled their A330 and rode it from 38,000 feet to impact with the Atlantic -- apparently without ever recognizing the stall. That crash took place in June of 2009 and came just months after another widely publicized fatal stall and crash that took place in February.

Colgan Air Flight 3407 crashed in February 2009 near Buffalo after its crew reacted incorrectly to stall warnings and spun the aircraft in, killing all 49 aboard, plus one on the ground. In discussing the new regulations, Huerta emphasized the importance of basic training when pilots face a loss of automation. "We can't lose sight of the importance of training on the core aspects of flying," he said, "such as crew management, stall recovery or other events that could occur when there is a change or a loss in automation." The new rules are expected to go through a thorough development process and may arrive next year. The timing may not be soon enough for some safety advocates. In a USA Today article, Scott Maurer, who lost a daughter to the Colgan crash, offered his comments on the implications of the Air France Report. Maurer said it "underscores the dramatic need to better train our pilots to react to emergency situations, and in particular to not be so heavily reliant on the automation in the cockpit."