Europe Tightens Pilot Training Rules

May 4, 2015

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European aviation safety regulator EASA has introduced new training requirements to help prevent accidents by pilots losing control of planes in-flight, such as during a stall or in bad weather.

IATA said that while these incidents were rare, they were deadly.

In one such accident, an Air France jet flying between Rio de Janeiro and Paris crashed into the Atlantic Ocean during a storm in June, 2009, killing all 228 people on board.

The new rules will include training on stall recovery, dealing with situations where the plane's nose is too low or too high, and also include more training on environmental hazards such as thunderstorms and weather zones such as the turbulent Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ).

The move by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) follows voluntary guidelines made by the ICAO last year, and prescribe training on both preventing and recovering from in-air incidents.

EASA said it expected the new requirements, which European airlines and commercial business jet operators have until May 2016 to implement, to result in a one-off cost of EUR€12.5 million (USD$14 million).

The new training should also cover the "startle" effect that pilots can experience when unexpected problems arise, as well as how to deal with other issues such as spatial disorientation.

The Air France flight was flying through the ITCZ when it crashed, as was an AirAsia A320 that crashed on December 28 into the Java Sea, though the final results of that investigation are still pending.

The investigation into the Air France disaster showed that despite repeated stall warnings, the confused co-pilot kept pulling backwards on the stick, rather than pushing the nose down to recover from the stall.

"A number of accidents in the recent years have demonstrated that Loss of Control remains a major area of concern for aviation safety and should be tackled with the highest priority," EASA Executive Director Patrick Ky said in a statement.

Pilot associations in Europe have been pushing for improved training standards and especially for more focus on basic flying skills, which many feel have been neglected due to increasing automation in cockpits and cost pressures.

The European Cockpit Association, which represents over 38,000 pilots in 37 European countries, said pilot training had been gradually slimmed down over the past decade, both by the EU regulator and by the airlines.

"What Europe needs is to stem this trend," said Philip von Schoeppenthau, the ECA secretary general. "EASA's focus on training for loss of control and upset recovery is very welcome."

(Reuters)