DOT Leaders Vow to Improve Pilots' Training

Secretary Ray LaHood and FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt joined representatives of pilots' unions and U.S. airlines to promise mentoring, a better system for checking pilots' records, and a review of existing training programs to see how to strengthen them.

Calling Monday a "call to action" day, Federal Aviation Administrator Randy Babbitt hosted a meeting with representatives of pilots' unions and U.S. airlines to discuss safety improvements that will restore passengers' confidence in flying regional airlines. Major air carriers also are included in the plans, according to FAA.

The group agreed on several major actions. "We must inspire confidence in every traveler, every time he or she steps onto an airplane," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. "We are acting now and acting together because safety is our highest priority." Best practices for pilot record checks are part of the plan, allowing for a deeper search for all records available from a pilot's career. Airlines and unions also will review existing pilot training programs, following FAA-issued guidance, to see how they can be strengthened.

"We want to make sure we're not just checking boxes," Babbitt said. "There's a real difference between the quantity of training and the quality of training." He also promised FAA will begin a rulemaking to revise the rules for pilots' hours of service to incorporate recent research about fatigue and said he will ask all airlines to operate safety reporting systems, such as Flight Operations Quality Assurance and the Aviation Safety Action Program to provide better data about safety issues.

"Training — good, effective training — has to be at the top of our list," Babbitt said during the meeting. "We need to take steps to make sure that we're meeting and exceeding the standards. There's a difference between quality and quantity of training. Training has got to be more than just checking the box. . . . There's a public perception out there right now that pilots can repeatedly fail check rides and still keep their job. We want passengers to have no doubts about the qualifications of the person flying their plane. We need to make sure that we are always looking for ways to improve how we operate — that is the foundation of public trust. So, over the next few hours, we're going to walk you through some lessons learned from past accidents and some of the challenges we've identified going forward. I know from experience that each one of you will come up with an idea or two that would have made a difference, and that will make a difference in the future. I know that some of you have well-established practices, developed over time that we need to start sharing. One of the quickest ways to spread excellence is to cross-pollinate. As an industry, we need to share so that we’re all at the highest level possible. These are the ideas and practices we need to get on the table and into the system so they can be adopted. Good ideas can't stay on the shelf. They need to get from concept to cockpit as quickly as we can get them there."

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