Pilot Experience? What Pilot Experience?

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I don't know what the normal NTSB response is to a fatality-free runway overrun in a foreign country but I' wouldn't be surprised if Canada's Transportation Safety Board will have to call in reserves just to make sure they have the numerical advantage at the soggy end of a runway at Ottawa's MacDonald-Cartier International Airport.

The NTSB sent at least five people to, uh, help out with the investigation of the overrun by a United Express Embraer 145 in Ottawa on Wednesday. I'm sure their Canadian counterparts are thrilled with the extra investigative horsepower to explore the nuances of a mishap where a pilot reportedly called the tower as he was heading down the wet runway for the opposite threshold and said he was standing on the brakes but had "no traction."

I have my own theories but I'm not a "flight operations specialist" or a "survival factors specialist" or even a "technical advisor" of the ilk dispatched to Canada's capital city.

Undoubtedly there will be some new knowledge gained but it would be dishonest to attribute the NTSB's spirited response to this relatively minor event to anything but the focus on regional airlines and the folks who fly their airplanes. At this writing, we don't know about crew rest (although the flight was an early-afternoon shuttle from Washington) but the pilots' ages (48 on the left, 31 on the right) might offer some insight. It might not, too, but I mention it because of a regional experience I had, that, thanks to AVweb's broad reach, allowed me to understand the circumstances that led to it.

I was on a typically-packed CRJ200 for a mid-day flight. Weather was good; calm winds, 20 percent cloud cover, density altitude about 6,000 if I was guessing. Taxi and lineup were normal and takeoff roll was right down the center. I fly a lot but I still take a window seat and love to watch everything.

One of my things is trying to predict the rotation and I'm usually a little early. It just feels ready to fly for me before someone up front makes that call. This time, my call and that of the pilot flying coincided and I remember a little flash of self congratulation.

It was short lived, though, because the packed little airliner rose briefly and then smacked back down, rolled for a half second and then fulfilled the flying pilot's original command, apparently without undue effort. It shocked me and I believe I said: "What the hell?"

Other than the occasional firm landing, which may or may not have been intentional, it's the first time I've ever noticed anything truly abnormal on an airline flight.

So, we have some contacts in the regional community and I sent out an email describing the incident and asking for impressions.

Within a day, one of our contacts had spoken with the captain of that flight, a check pilot for the airline who was watching the guy on the right do his very first takeoff in the RJ. The newbie was transitioning from turboprops and had done all the RJ sim time and had presumably gained the confidence of his instructors and examiners to the point where he was taking off a real plane with 51 innocent souls on board and it was his first time in the cockpit of an actual airplane of that type.

According to our contact, the check pilot told him the guy simply tried to yard the aircraft off the runway, which you can apparently do in straight-wing turboprops. Swept-wing jets need a smoother hand and others have told me that the result could have been a lot worse than a skip and jump back into the air.

So, as the NTSB measures and interviews and draws fuel samples and all those other things that crash investigators do in case the obvious didn't actually happen, maybe the folks back in Washington could consider a recommendation from here that seems so rudimentary that I'm surprised it didn't take five experts to come up with it.

How about we have a rule that requires pilots new to an aircraft type (particularly those transitioning from one class to another) to have some actual stick time in the airplane, a few trips around the patch, some takeoffs and landings, before they fly passengers? Yes, there was a check pilot on board my flight but he was as surprised as I was and had no chance to intervene. He did offer some rather enthusiastic direction after the fact, I've been told.

Now, I have "landed" a 767 thanks to the generosity of an airline instructor who gave me and a colleague four hours of amazing experience in a full motion simulator but I'm only ever so slightly more qualified to put a few hundred thousand pounds of actual airplane down now than I was before we had that incredible ride.

Modern training demands lots of sim time and I believe it makes better pilots. But there is nothing like the real thing to ensure that the skills learned safely on the ground actually translate to an airplane going 140 knots down the runway.

Comments (35)

Maybe this guy (lady?) just needed 'the occasional firm landing' that you mentioned, or even a jank of the elevator or a jab of aileron to break the hydroplaning. Perhaps retracting the flaps ? Although I am otherwise not reluctant to point fingers early on, I will hand this crew the benefit of the doubt until more info comes along. What I do find striking is the weather factor playing a big role again. Schools need to be in fair weather environments to make sense, but the real world offers snow, icing, and wet runways.

Posted by: Peter De Ceulaer | June 17, 2010 5:38 AM    Report this comment

Why don't Canadian airports groove their runways? Runway 7/25 at YOW is short enough as it is, and having something like half an inch of standing water on it surely wasn't helping matters. I can't think of a single US airport served by airlines that *doesn't* have a grooved runway, whereas I can't think of a single Canadian airport I've been to that *does*.

This may turn out to be something as simple as the crew failing to think about the fact that every other time they've landed in similar conditions -- and I'm sure they've done so multiple times -- they've had a grooved runway to land on. Thus their experience in this *particular* situation was, well, nil.


Posted by: Chris Lawson | June 17, 2010 7:35 AM    Report this comment

Hi Russ, that's a great suggestion and I agree, there is one regional carrier I know of that uses this practice and has ever since I can remember. I'm actually a Captain for that airline and whether its a turboprop or jet everypilot does takeoff and landing work with a checkairmen in an empty airplane after passing the sim and before being sent out for IOE on the line. As far as I'm aware they've used this pilot training technique for the 30+years they've been doing business

Posted by: Mason Peterson | June 17, 2010 7:49 AM    Report this comment

Hi Russ, that's a great suggestion and I agree, there is one regional carrier I know of that uses this practice and has ever since I can remember. I'm actually a Captain for that airline and whether its a turboprop or jet everypilot does takeoff and landing work with a checkairmen in an empty airplane after passing the sim and before being sent out for IOE on the line. As far as I'm aware they've used this pilot training technique for the 30+years they've been doing business

Posted by: Mason Peterson | June 17, 2010 7:52 AM    Report this comment

I couldn't agree more Russ, and am surprised that this was allowed. Airlines shouldn't let the cost of flying an empty airplane trump the experience gained flying the real thing, in real conditions. The airplane will be lighter, but there's nothing that beats the sound and feel of an actual takeoff in the equipment.

Posted by: Al Secen | June 17, 2010 8:25 AM    Report this comment

Just curious what the worst case scenario was that you eluded to with "that the result could have been a lot worse than a skip and jump back into the air"?? And was the problem that he rotated too rapidly or over rotated or what? I'll never fly an RJ so just curious to the nuance of an aircraft that rotates slightly slower than my cruise speed? Thanks much and I agree, a few TnG's in an empty plane couldn't hurt the bottom line that badly.

Posted by: Grant Carruthers | June 17, 2010 9:12 AM    Report this comment

As a retiree from a major domestic/international FAR121 carrier where I was a sim/line check airman, & APD (gave type ratings) I have two very distinct thoughts: 1. The check airman probably did an excellent job getting the a/p back on the runway to continue accelerating and prevent the usually fatal "Sabre dance" and 2. Why is it that with all the money the airlines have and are continuing to loose, some "expert" who probably spent 4 days on the internet to find the 49cent cheaper fair with 3 stops and a layover on the cheapest cut rate he can find suddenly tell an airline "I don't care how much it costs them, just do it". Sound a little hypocritical maybe.

Posted by: Burns Moore | June 17, 2010 10:46 AM    Report this comment

I knew a young pilot for a regional when I lived in St. Louis. He had the same experience -- transitioned to a new type with paying passengers in the back. It is a bad idea. I got to fly the 777 simulator, but I would not have tried my power-on stall if my life or passengers' lives were on the line. Simulator is different in the pilot's mind.

Posted by: Steve Brady | June 17, 2010 11:55 AM    Report this comment

In answer to your question, Grant Carruthers, it's the "sabre dance" referred to by Burns Moore. The stall characteristics of swept wing aircraft push the center of lift forward and can cause the aircraft to pitch up uncontrollably. That would have been very unpleasant, indeed. As for Burns' comments about cheapskate passengers combing the Internet for cheap fares, as is the case with many regional flights, this one was my only option to get to the out-of-the-way city to which I was headed and I paid whatever the posted fare was for that day.

Posted by: Russ Niles | June 17, 2010 12:16 PM    Report this comment

It is certainly encouraging that you wouldn't do power on stalls with pax onboard, but then your crew member nor the FAA would let you. I wont comment on RJ training requirements, simulator certification or IOE policies since I have no experience, but to state, carte blanch, that line training on revenue flights is inappropriate, is to display a lack of understanding of FAA simulator certification, LOFT (Line oriented flight training) syllabus transition training. The intensity and commitment of the flight crews involved probably can't be understood without undergoing the experience. This whole thread reminds me of the old cartoon where one states, "we have met the enemy, and he is us". Some journalist clown will read this and state pilots are against line training. If you are curious, you should ask to see the ASAP (NASA reports) data for this training practice. These types of flights are statistically safe and have fewer reported events than those with two qualified line crews This demonstrates why courts won't allow hearsay evidence. Maybe we shouldn't listen to it either.

Posted by: Burns Moore | June 17, 2010 12:19 PM    Report this comment

Of course my crew member wouldn't let me do power-on stalls with pax onboard -- that's not the point. Some pilots' reactions "tense up" for lack of a better term when they "know it's real". How about the Colgan air approach stall guy? I bet he knew better than to hold the stick back in the sim during an approach stall. But in the clouds, in the ice, in the cockpit, he knew the ground was "down there". The newbie on Russ' flight did something reasonable to his mind; something that would have been better un-learned without passengers along for the lesson.

Posted by: Steve Brady | June 17, 2010 12:41 PM    Report this comment

You just sunk your own boat, pardner. If you are going to use Colgan, they were both line qualified, so that would indicate that regionals are never safe unless an instructor is on board to follow your arguement. And if you're going to "freeze up" when the ground gets close, try crochet.

Posted by: Burns Moore | June 17, 2010 12:51 PM    Report this comment

I'm not entirely convinced that what the NTSB sent here is out of line with previous investigations. Reference the NTSB investigation for the overrun at Cleveland in Feb 07; the overrun at Traverse City in Apr 07; both similar accidents in that nobody was seriously hurt and the airplanes were damaged but repairable. Both of these accidents netted a full-on investigation and had several members for the initial response.

I also think it's a stretch to say that the recent focus on professionalism is the only catalyst for the response. Given that there are comparatively few accidents, it makes sense to me that the NTSB would sieze every opportunity to analyze this one.

And yes, I wholeheartedly agree that it's a poor idea to have a pilot's first time flyin an airplane be with paying pax in the back. There's an old joke in the sim community about a pilot who type rated in a King Air in the sim, and when he went out to the plane, he couldn't figure out how to open the door.

But given regional airline's razor thin margins, I guess expecting them to volunteer to spend several thousand dollars an hour to fly an empty plane around for pilot experience isn't very realistic.È

Posted by: Donald Harper | June 17, 2010 12:55 PM    Report this comment

Both those incidents happened within the NTSB's jurisdiction. Wednesday's mishap was in Canada, where its Transportation Safety Board would have the lead in the investigation.

Posted by: Russ Niles | June 17, 2010 1:27 PM    Report this comment

As a gen av pilot I have no experience base on which to draw to comment on the pros and cons of the current airline training practices. So will leave those comments to those of you qualified to make them.

But as an occasional paying passenger I do feel qualified to comment on Burns Moore's second point. I dont quite understand how we got to the point where cheap air fares are so critically important that we (the consumer) are willing to put up with being treated like cattle, charged for the first checked bag, charged for carry on, etc... So yes Burns, I agree with you, it is hypocritical of both the public and the media to demand these low air fares and then bitch about the quality of service, flight crews, etc... I'd prefer to pay a little more and see a return to the days of old where passengers were treated with a little respect. Unfortunately most of my travel these days is related to work, and traveling for the govt involves traveling on the low bidder airline.

Sorry for the off topic rant.

Posted by: Mike Wills | June 17, 2010 2:17 PM    Report this comment

As to Mike Wills point over paying a little more, try this on for size: The airline I recently retired from DID NOT charge for checked bags and yet charged the same price for tickets on competing routes. Our accountants determined that we were giving up between $50 and $100 million annually just on our domestic market to our competitors and yet our load factors had not increased. Well, you can well guess what happened next; start charging for checked bags. What's the right answer? I don't know, but that was an awful lot of money to give to another carrier with no increase in market share. So when people say "I'd pay extra for . . . " I know the truth. Maybe it's not just pilots who need a class in macro economics.

Posted by: Burns Moore | June 17, 2010 2:34 PM    Report this comment

Of the general public I speak to on the street - they assume pilots are extremely well-paid with generous amounts of time off. When I explain to them that a FO starting out makes about 15k a year with very little time off and a crappy schedule, they are appalled.
I'd like to see an airline advertise next to its fares the results of an anonymous survey of what it's pilots and mechanics think of the company - safety, management, job satisfaction, etc. I bet many people would pay the extra $25 or so per ticket to fly with a happy crew on a well-maintained, clean aircraft (although we won't be able to play the game "identify the type of corrosion on the wing" anymore!) Toyota made a killing selling themselves as the safest and smartest car company out there (until the gas pedal thing!) Why can't the airlines do that? Safety sells - know anyone who chooses their surgeon based upon his hourly rate? I don't think so!

Posted by: Josh Johnson | June 17, 2010 9:12 PM    Report this comment

Many of Burns Moore's comments here are enlightening, but there's one that I dispute.
He complains about people seeking cheapest airfares, and then complaining about pilot qualifications.
Since when does the paying passenger get that choice?
No, we get to pay extra for food, suitcases, or a better seat... but not for pilot qualifications.
What'd happen if you got to pay $50 more to have two ex-military pilots with >10,000 hours each running your flight? I think everyone would check that box.
(The very worst, sneering 'customer service' I've ever gotten was once when I was paying unrestricted full fare. So I don't buy that we have a choice of paying for polite service, either.)
In the case of beginning pilots in their first jobs at the regional airlines, is it not possible to require (a) full proficiency in stalls and stall recovery (none of this 'stall awareness' nonsense), (b) a day of aerobatic and upset attitude training, (c) a few months flying night freight in old piston twins, and (d) some CFI hours to make you think about flying as you attempt to teach it to someone dumber than yourself. I think all of this builds specific competencies into the pilot's soul, as well as teaching the pilot the inquisitiveness necessary to look out for himself for things that might not get formally taught (an example of which might be the difference between grooved and ungrooved runways -- or understanding the difference in how to rotate at takeoff when you have a swept wing).

Posted by: John Schubert | June 18, 2010 6:50 AM    Report this comment

$50 more per pax per flight would give an airline 10k of additional revenue per flight of 200 people. Right now, I avoid airline trips like the plague - it used to be enjoyable, but now the experience is more like riding on a dirty city bus. I fly myself or drive whenever possible.

Posted by: Josh Johnson | June 18, 2010 9:01 AM    Report this comment

This allows me to voice some of my frustrations after 40 yrs in aviation. As a Marine Aviator, I have a definite bias that I'll share here. I was involved with hiring at my former airline and would go thru the "stack" and review the mil apps, but they were becoming fewer and fewer as time progressed. It was very easy to get frustrated with the "entitlement babies" that come up through the regionals, as very many got into the field for the perceived hopes of very little work, lots of time off, and huge paychecks. I would argue that those are entirely the wrong reasons, but they were adept at hiding their true motivations. They would whine when asked to work weekends, holidays or super bowl. You should see the sick call rates on super bowl weekend, by the way. In many cases they would get hired in their early to mid twenties which would put them way senior to the military pilot who usually wouldn't get hired until their mid to late thirties. Then with the arcane "seniority" system the better educated, trained and usually better motivated military pilot would be junior for the rest of their career. Can you imagine going in for a quadruple bypass and having to accept the most senior doctor and not the best. With such a rigid union structure, there is no way to reward excellence

Posted by: Burns Moore | June 18, 2010 9:31 AM    Report this comment

I know I have made a bunch of generalizations and there are always exceptions, but think about this. Do most airline pilots talk about all their benefits, or the nearly flawless CAT III B or RNAV RNP SAAAR approaches to minimums, or the spectacular view as they went over the pole? Most of the arguments today about crew duty times and flight time limitations are about union featherbedding and increasing the membership. The FAA and academia have excellent studies on sleep patterns, circadian rhythms and their effects on the work place, but that gets lost in the effort to increase membership. Alfred Kahn, the stated author of the deregulation act stated the airline industry wouldn't be completely deregulated until cabotage was awarded to ALL carriers, which includes foreign. Think about that for a minute.

Posted by: Burns Moore | June 18, 2010 9:33 AM    Report this comment

Boy oh boy we are really beating a lot of dead horses here today. Had to go look up Cabotage. Good word. We invented flight and it looks like we could end it too. What is the NTSB doing in Canada? Our Friend to the North, where I now need a passport to walk to and endless paperwork to fly to. Our retired airline captains (Burns) tell us the youth no longer wants to work. Surprise? And lessons in Macro-Economics come from a generation that can't buy a house or pay a mortgage while the thief steals away in the night. I for one will sit around the hanger and listen to "the old guys" talks about "the nearly flawless CAT III B or RNAV RNP SAAAR approaches to minimums, or the spectacular view as they went over the pole". It's talk worth listening too, you should be here.

Posted by: Peter Zabriskie | June 18, 2010 11:17 AM    Report this comment

I agree that experience gained from time spent by yourself in an airplane flying all over is invaluable to a potential airline pilot and that upset training can build confidence. However I have to provide a bit of reality to a prior statement that called for some night freight experience and time as a CFI. First, to fly freight for any 135 operation you need a minimum of 1200 hours plus some other specific hour requirements. How can someone get that required experience without spending a lot of borrowed Money? Once they have that much experience and can get that job it will most likely pay better than an entry level position at a Regional. Second, not everyone can or should be a CFI, I know because I am one. Additionally, wouldn't it be a better idea to have new pilots trained by older more experienced pilots? Why would you want to continue the current pattern of the CFI teaching the aspiring young airline pilot as being someone who just finished their commercial certificate? I am a CFI who teaches in a program that specializes in training future airline pilots. I have more than enough hours to have my ATP and will soon be trying to get it. I easily make twice as much now as I would my first year at a regional and I am home every night. Why would I, a somewhat experienced pilot, want to go to an airline where I would make less money, my expenses would be higher, and my work schedule wouldn't be any better (due to commuting)?

Posted by: Whitney | June 20, 2010 7:09 AM    Report this comment

In an ideal world there would be a logical progression in training, experience, and pay as a pilot progresses. Unfortunately flight training isn't getting any cheaper, airlines keep trying to cut costs to undercut the competition, and it's getting harder to attract the caliber of person you want as a professional pilot to the industry. Why do other people who spend $100K+ on an education get to make $60K or better out of college and a well trained graduate of a collegiate level aviation program is told that they will make $15-18K when they graduate. If you want a professional pilot you have to pay a professional price. I'm not saying that they shouldn't be expected to work hard and that they should make $100K their first year but they need a live-able income that will allow them to get out of debt not wallow in it. Lastly, we shouldn't focus on the numbers so much now as the level of training and the qualities of the individual pilot. I have flown with CFI applicants that I wouldn't want flying an airliner and I have flown with student pilots that I can't wait to see what they do. It's attitude that matters now as much as experience.

Posted by: Whitney | June 20, 2010 7:09 AM    Report this comment

Whitney, you know much more about this than I do. What I based my comments on was the relatively few CFIs and freight dogs I've known. The challenge of flying piston-twin night freight seemed like a great way to learn a lot. And one occasional freight dog I know flew unpaid, right seat, for that learning experience (and watched his left seat pal make an awesome recovery from an engine failure on takeoff once). Perhaps making right seat freight dog time an expected part of an airline applicant's resume is the way to go.
I agree with you that a lot of people make poor CFIs. I was lucky to have some excellent CFIs, of both the career-in-piston-plane type and the aspiring airline pilot type.
In my own mind, I compare freight flying and instructing with a doctor's internship. A doctor spends a lot of time as an intern because they can't teach it all in medical school. I was once asking a young intern if he objected to the brutal schedule, and his answer was, basically, "I can't learn if I'm not in the hospital, and there's always more to learn." Pilots should know there's always more to learn.
You said it best -- "it's attitude that matters now as much as experience." The Colgan Air pilots had ample hours of experience, but they had an appalling valley girl attitude (plus a shocking lack of awareness of stall behavior). People like that need to be weeded out.

Posted by: John Schubert | June 20, 2010 9:29 AM    Report this comment

We have seem to have forgotten why the industry does the vast majority of flight training in simulators. Training for takeoffs and landings in the actual aircraft has few positives and many negatives. On the negative side, it is generally more expensive, and much more dangerous, than simulator training. It would be, over time, a lot more dangerous than training new pilots in the simulator followed with supervision by a check airman during actual line operations.

I flew and trained for FAR 121 Air Carriers who did all the training in the aircraft, because no simulators existed. When there is a choice, the simulator can, and should be, much more effective (and safer by far) than training pilots in the actual aircraft. The only real advantage to aircraft training vs. the current generation of simulators is that actual stall demonstration and training, as opposed to “approach to stall” training, can be better performed in the actual aircraft than in the current generation of simulators. Not that the current generation of training managers would consider such a step for the simple reason that it is not required.

Posted by: THOMAS OLSEN | June 21, 2010 8:53 AM    Report this comment

However, I don’t think the problem is training (or fine tuning) the landings of new pilots. I believe the problems we are seeing are that at least some modern pilots do not have the experience OR TRAINING to be “aware” of the problems and possibilities that can occur during flight operations. The question in this instance should have been, “Is there standing water on the runway? Is the runway length adequate for the conditions and circumstances? At their touchdown speed, could the aircraft hydroplane? Is there a significant crosswind? If so, what plan does the crew have to handle either or both contingencies?”

Awareness can be missing from a crew no matter the experience level. Very experienced pilots found themselves off the runway due to hydroplaning in much larger aircraft than a CRJ. This incident is not the first and will not be the last, unless crews are trained to be aware of, and how to handle the kinds of problems that may arise during normal (and unusual) flight operations. We used to at least partially solve these kinds of problems by riding the right seat watching operations for years and years. That luxury no longer exists in the Regionals, so the Regionals must do a lot better job training their pilots.

Posted by: THOMAS OLSEN | June 21, 2010 9:02 AM    Report this comment

My concern is that the perception is that training in many air carriers is a matter of “completing the minimum requirements.” Colgan 3407 showed their trainees the NTSB Ice Contaminated Tailplane Stall (ICTS) video, but did anyone contrast the symptoms of and ice contaminated tailplane stall against the symptoms of an aerodynamic stall? It is my understanding that the stick shaker is not normally associated with the initial onset of an ICTS.

Did anyone at Colgan ever instruct or test their crews on the additional speed and power required when operating in icing conditions, especially in the terminal area. Did anyone at Colgan or Empire ever tell their pilots that the NTSB, as a result of turboprop accidents in 1994 and again for a loss of control incident in January of 2006, that turboprop aircraft should be hand flown in icing conditions?

Posted by: THOMAS OLSEN | June 21, 2010 9:18 AM    Report this comment

There is no question that Air Carriers are responsible for the training and qualification of the crews. That is a fact that cannot be ignored or passed off onto the FAA or anyone else.

The perception of the typical Regional training department is a staff of very eager, young (and perhaps not very experienced) individuals, who are pressured to “comply with the requirements” to a standard that needs to be higher, more comprehensive and as complete as possible. There is often a lot of “turnover” in the trainers and check airmen in many regional carriers, because those trainers are the best qualified who will generally try to opt out to the majors or to other more lucrative careers. Trust me, continuing intense training will burn out the most dedicated trainer. That turnover puts additional pressure on the training department.

All this leads to what could be called in many cases “quick and dirty” training programs and that is no substitute for “comprehensive and complete”.

Then there is the question, how does anyone explain/justify the Turkish B-737 Accident in Amsterdam last February? Were they afraid to take the aircraft off the autopilot, or were their monitoring skills so poor that they ignored the aircraft speed for 100 seconds?

Posted by: THOMAS OLSEN | June 21, 2010 9:24 AM    Report this comment

Two things... 1. My first flight in a CRJ was a line flight, after 6 weeks of ground school and full-flight sim. That was a transition from the B737 on which I did do circuits prior to line-indoctrination. I believe it is still a Canadian requirement to do circuits in a new category aircraft. I did them in the Dash 8 as well.
2. Runway 07/25 YOW has been a problem for years. Westjet had an over-run there not too many years ago, and Embraers especially have reported poor to nil braking when it is wet, even though the friction tests come up with reasonable numbers. But what can we say about a western nation's capital airport that uses a Back-course as its primary approach? Typically with tailwinds down to a few hundred feet.

Posted by: Peter Buckley | June 22, 2010 9:25 PM    Report this comment

I am sorry to pop your bubble, but, the fidelity of simulators is so good that the FAA does not require any landings in a real aircraft to sign off a pilot new to the aircraft. Is this smart? Is this intelligent? The only reason I can think that this was approved by the FAA is because the airlines wanted to reduce costs. Guinea Pigs beware.

Posted by: DAVID HEBERLING | June 24, 2010 1:04 AM    Report this comment

Speaking of bursting your bubble, one of the reasons that simulators are used instead of the actual aircraft is that training in the simulators is safer! If there were a safety problem with the current practice of training in high fidelity simulators and then getting the first landing in line operations under the supervision of a check airman, don't you think that the practice would be stopped?

The only accident I can recall in such a situation is the Turkish Accident last February in Amsterdam, where the failure was the Check Airman's lack of monitoring and supervision of the aircraft, allowing a radar altimeter failure to lead to the loss of the aircraft.

Posted by: THOMAS OLSEN | June 24, 2010 9:17 AM    Report this comment

Concerning pay rates at major airlines, management will usually say "we have specific amount of money to spend on aircrews". Unions have great discretion on how it is allocated or divvied up. I'll let you fill in the blanks as to where to go from there.

Posted by: Burns Moore | June 24, 2010 9:40 PM    Report this comment

Thomas Olsen, my comment was only in reference to the "bounces" we used to have to do in the real aircraft in order to finish being checked out. Obviously, simulators are much safer for doing all of the engine out work, stalls, steep turns, emergency descents, loft, etc. Of course, those bounces were usually done in the wee hours of the morning when everyone was at their most alert.

I can think of one reason why the F/O prematurely rotated. When doing a reduced thrust (assumed temperature) takeoff, V1 and VR can be separated by many knots. He may have started rotating as soon as V1 was called out. Or possibly, the trim setting was wrong for the actual conditions. This does happen sometimes and you end up with a faster rotation than you intended. Other times, the nose is so heavy, you have to pull like crazy to get the nose off of the ground. In situations like these, the Airbus will re-trim itself immediately after liftoff.

Another accident somewhat similar is the TWA L1011 that crashed on the runway at KJFK. The F/O was doing the takeoff. When he lifted off, he got both an overspeed and a stall warning at the same time. He told the captain," It's yours". The captain made the decision to land on the remaining runway and planted it kind of hard. The airplane broke in half on the runway. I do not remember anymore of the details.

Posted by: DAVID HEBERLING | June 24, 2010 11:50 PM    Report this comment

The "bounces" you refer to David were probably required because of the level of simulator wherein the training was accomplished. When the industry started using C and D level simulators, the "bounces" pretty much disappeared. There may still be a requirement for "bounces" when training in less capable simulators or with crewmembers who lack the appropriate basic qualification.

In any case, "bounces" over the years have resulted aircraft losses and crews from a range of mistakes as simple as spoiler or brake management, or incorrect control inputs. Even such events as full stop landings combined with brake mismanagement can over heat brakes and cause tire failures or long waits hoping the fuse plugs don’t melt. Then there is the risk of mid-air collisions, even though the training may (but not always) have been conducted in the wee hours of the morning.

Aircraft in flight training is one of the most dangerous components of air carrier operations. The history of aircraft training, in an era of very capable simulators, forced the NTSB to consider a recommendation, not so many years ago, that an aircraft would not be certificated until there is sufficient simulator capacity to train the crews to fly the aircraft.

Posted by: THOMAS OLSEN | June 25, 2010 10:27 AM    Report this comment

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