Part 135 CRM may be mandatory

 - June 3, 2009, 7:28 AM

The FAA has released a proposal to require crew resource management (CRM) training for all Part 135 certificate holders’ pilots and flight attendants. The notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) was issued on May 1 and continues a precedent established by the 1995 CRM mandate for Part 121 airlines. The NPRM also seeks to respond to NTSB recommendations.

The FAA studied 268 accidents from 1997 through 2008 and found that 24 were “directly related to ineffective CRM,” accounting for 83 fatalities and 12 serious injuries. Of those, 14 involved single pilots and 10 dual-pilot crews, and the histories of these accidents “signify the critical need to require CRM training in both single- and dual-pilot Part 135 operations.”

The NPRM cites three accidents, “all the result of poor decision making, a loss of situational awareness, a lack of communication between multiple pilots or between pilots and other key operational personnel and inadequate leadership.”

The first accident was the October 2002 crash of a Beechcraft King Air carrying Senator Paul Wellstone, in which all six passengers and the two pilots died. The NTSB report noted the pilots’ inattention to decaying airspeed and the CDI during the approach. Effective CRM would have ensured that “at least one of the flight crewmembers should have been monitoring the instruments during the approach,” the FAA NPRM noted.

In another accident, the sole pilot and nine passengers in a Piper PA-31-350 were killed after crashing into the Mauna Loa volcano in Hawaii on Sept. 25, 1999. CRM training would have addressed the issues raised in this accident, including the pilot’s decision to continue flying into IMC while under VFR in cloud-covered mountainous terrain, failure to observe SOPs and failure to obtain a current weather briefing. The NPRM doesn’t address how a sole pilot would actually implement CRM procedures, however.

The third accident occurred on June 25, 1998, and involved a single pilot flying a helicopter tour in Hawaii. Three pilots each flying a helicopter communicated during the flight, but the lead pilot failed to warn the following pilots of deteriorating weather. “The accident pilot became disoriented, misjudged his location and, while cruising toward what he believed was the prescribed crater entranceway, inadvertently entered IMC and collided [with] the mountainside,” according to the NTSB report.

The FAA says the 10-year cost for compliance with the new rule would be $367,800 spread among the 1,625 entities that currently hold Part 135 certificates. This estimate includes the cost to develop and submit the training program and keep records, but it does not address the actual cost of providing initial and recurrent training.

The new rule would add Subpart H to Part 135.330, mandating initial and recurrent training covering PIC authority; communications processes; flight team building and maintenance; workload/time management; situational awareness; fatigue and stress; decision making and judgment training.

The NPRM is open for comment through July 30.