GAO Cites Commercial Pilot Training Weaknesses

 - March 23, 2012, 11:00 AM
Airline pilot training must improve

The training requirements for a commercial pilot certificate in the U.S. don’t prepare aviators for the real world of airline operations, according to a report released in March by the GAO. Flight training also does not emphasize the skills required of young aviators hired by the regional airlines, often their first airline job.

The GAO began its study of commercial pilot training requirements because most fatal airline accidents in recent years have befallen regional carriers, private companies that often contract with major carriers to supply passenger feed to airline hubs. Most new pilots hired at the regionals arrive with only a commercial pilot certificate in hand.

Specifically, the report said commercial pilot “requirements do not emphasize training in [the process of] decision making, although this is essential to the airline pilot profession.” Training today normally focuses on developing motor skills to master maneuvers. “Requirements also do not emphasize training in using modern technologies.” Most regional aircraft are jets operating in the same high-altitude environment as the major airlines. “Pilots in today’s newer aircraft have to manage automation, advanced avionics and systems and information displays.”

The GAO further found that commercial pilot applicant testing does not adequately examine a candidate’s aptitude for situational awareness or understanding the aircraft’s automation systems.