Reduced Flight Ops Affecting Pilot Proficiency

 - May 21, 2021, 10:44 AM

Reduced flight time resulting from Covid-19 is degrading professional pilots’ performance, according to Paul Ransbury, CEO of training provider Aviation Performance Solutions. Ransbury made the observation Thursday in an online presentation, “Manual Flight Operations—Proficiency Fallout due to Covid-19,” at Bombardier’s Safety Standdown.

“It's really unprecedented for a large body of pilots to go this amount of time without flying or having an alternative way of staying current,” he said, citing operations declines ranging from 60 percent initially to today’s 40 to 48 percent. Meanwhile, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University research into pilot reports from the FAA’s Aviation Safety Reporting System filed during this period found “items identified most readily with a proficiency-currency issue increased by 1,000 percent—a tenfold increase” in the aftermath of operations reductions, Ransbury said. He identified manual flight control skills as those most affected.

Pilots with little experience “are the most vulnerable” to loss of this proficiency, while those with “a substantial amount of experience can get back up to a very high level of proficiency in a relatively short period of time,” Ransbury said. Mitigation strategies include improving awareness of the aircraft state, following the guidelines from ICAO’s 2014 Upset Prevention and Recovery Training manual, and “dedicated practice.”