FAA-Proposed Improvements in Pilot Training Address Lingering Concerns from Deadly 2009 Colgan Air Crash

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced a series of proposals on Wednesday May 11, 2011, that would require commercial airline and cargo pilots to receive additional training in dangerous scenarios like stalls, cockpit-automation failures and other emergencies.

Authorities say the proposed enhanced training rules will help flight crews to better handle real-life emergencies through more realistic and rigid flight simulations. Other airlines around the world already use similar training simulations, but the most recent FAA proposals would make enhanced pilot training sessions mandatory for all United States commuter and cargo carriers.

Increased supervision over pilots would coincide with the proposed flight training programs. This will allow authorities to keep a watchful eye on pilots who perform poorly in training simulations, the FAA says. The new proposals would also mandate that pilots who perform poorly must complete remedial training programs.

In addition, the FAA also aims to require joint training sessions for pilots and co-pilots to train together every nine months. Pilots currently undergo recurrent training once every six months and co-pilots once every year.

The FAA's proposals address some safety requirements ordered by Congress in 2009 after Colgan Air Flight 3407 crashed near Buffalo, New York, killing 50 people.

John Greaves, Former Airline Captain
Some experts believe that enhancing FAA standards is not enough, and instead authorities should be focusing on the enforcement of existing rules and the shortcomings of airlines themselves. John Greaves, aviation attorney at Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman and former airline captain said, “The fallacy in this is that there was nothing wrong with the FAA’s training standards and proficiency regulations at the time of Colgan Flight 3407 crash. The problem was the standards used by Colgan fell woefully below FAA standards in place at the time. Regulations and training standards are only as good as they are enforced.”