Pilot Training Extensions May Lead to Loss of Proficiency


Pilot training extension and exemption effects being seen 

My boss is the kind of guy who notices everything. I mean EVERYTHING. Somehow he can see a tiny little warning light from the back row of a Falcon 2000. If he can see that, he can see me reaching down to disengage the parking brake after feeling the aircraft strain to move under its own power. My excuse? I hardly ever fly anymore! I’ve lost my flow! Am I rusty because of all the pilot training extensions and exemptions? Maybe.

But it doesn’t look like I’m alone with my rustiness. The Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS) has been bombarded with reports from pilots describing flight safety issues. More often than not, the pilots blame the lack of currency for their blunders and mishaps. The great thing about the ASRS, though, is the consequence-free system that allows for honesty without fear of punishment. It helps the FAA get a good snapshot of what’s going on out there.

Pilots blame Covid-19 for all kinds of errors, from missed clearances to unstabilized approaches, bad landings, and more. It’s not just stupid things like trying to taxi with the parking brake on. Recently, an Indonesian Airbus A330 carrying 307 passengers landed in stormy conditions. The Captain touched down near the left edge of the runway, actually veering off momentarily before regaining control. That could have been a HUGE disaster! 

Believe it or not, both airbus pilots had about 17,000 hours of flight time, but the Captain had only flown a couple of hours in the last 90 days and the F/O hadn’t flown at all in 6 months! It’s more challenging to maintain proficiency when we’re not flying like we used to. Not only that, travel restrictions have made it difficult for us to get to our training facilities, so training isn’t what it used to be either. 

If our lack of currency is doing visible damage to our flying skills, our mental state certainly isn’t helping the situation improve anytime soon. Financial concerns, job security, the health and safety of our loved ones all take a toll on how well we think, which is required to ensure a safe flight, so we have to get our head in the game BEFORE we get in our planes. I know the FAA and other aviation agencies worldwide are offering certain exemptions and extensions to currency rules because of the virus. Still, I’m not sure if that will help or hurt aviation safety in the long run. 

Yes, we can postpone pilot training and check rides, but then it has to be up to us to make sure we are proficient in our skills and knowledge for each flight until we can bring our training up-to-date. It’s going to be a bumpy ride until the skies are once again full of airplanes. We all need to do our part to keep our passengers safe and our licenses clear of incidents/accidents. Stay sharp out there!

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