Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Simulators Not To Blame For Airline Safety


simulatorCaters_450x375 According to a USA TODAY analysis of federal accident analysis, flaws in flight simulator training help trigger some of the worst airline accidents in the past decade.

I beg to differ.




Except for severe mechanical failures most aircraft accidents are caused by lack of good pilot judgment. Simulators can only teach skill sets not good judgment. Good judgment comes from applying one's experience for which there is no substitute. Anyone can master flying a simulator but be a dummy when it comes to real life experiences.


FSX-box-artwork-Deluxe Just purchase a Microsoft Flight Simulator for $39.99 at Target and in six easy lessons you can become a pilot. Unfortunately, this is the approach the FAA, ALPA (Professional Pilot Union) and some airlines have taken in the past.

Airlines under the oversight of the FAA have allowed pilots with only 250 hours of flying experience to operate jet aircraft.




Prior to this reduction in pilot hiring experience most airlines would not offer employment to pilots with at least 1500 hours of experience. A huge difference in experience level when it comes to operating an aircraft.


Picture 1489 As usual the FAA and NTSB places the blame where it hardly belongs. In the Colgan Air crash that killed 50 people near Buffalo on February 12, 2009 in an ice storm, one of the pilots had never flown in ice.

Lack of pilot experience.



The other pilot had failed several performance test during his career but remained employed as an airline captain. Poor employer judgment.

A December 20, 2008 Continental Airlines crash in Denver that injured six and destroyed an airplane, the NTSB in part blamed deficient simulator training. However, again no amount of simulator training can replace experience and good judgment.


Snoop Each pilot should be aware of his personal and aircraft limitations.

Good judgment and experience allow you to respect those limits. If a pilot cannot control an aircraft that has not had a severe mechanical failure then hat pilot has exceeded both limitations.


Airplanes are not designed to take off in any conditions. Safety requires that pilots use good judgment when operating an aircraft. You can simulate certain conditions all day long but it will never substitute for experience and good judgment.

As USA TODAY noted simulator training is credited with saving thousands of lives. However, I would suggest this happens because of pilots being able to apply real life experiences to what they learn during simulator training. Most pilots acquire their experience outside of flying simulators and are only required to have simulator training once a year. Once a year simulator training can only begin to touch the surface of the problems USA TODAY suggest in it's report.

A better way to address the problem is to make sure airlines hire pilots with an ample amount of experience who also demonstrate good judgment. Basic to being a safe pilot, from day one, pilots are taught and required to know their aircraft limitations. Over time experience teaches your personal limitations.

Combining the two with good judgment and you increase the chances of becoming not only a safe pilot but a retired one. No simulator required.


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