IG Report Emphasizes Importance of Developing Manual Flying Skills Throughout a Pilot’s Career

Flight 3407 Families: IG Report Emphasizes Importance of Developing Manual Flying Skills Throughout a Pilot’s Career

Experience Does Matter; Entry-Level Pilots Need More – Not Less – Hand Flying Prior to Being Hired by Regional Airlines

Buffalo, New York – January 21st, 2016

Responding to a Department of Transportation Inspector General report that raised concerns about the increased reliance on automation in the cockpit and its potential effect on the manual flying skills of our nation’s commercial airline pilots, the ‘Families of Continental Flight 3407’ reminded Congress of the importance of preserving recently-enacted requirements that call for young pilots to attain higher levels of experience prior to being hired by regional airlines.

“While this report certainly challenges the FAA, airlines, and all stakeholders to have a heightened awareness of the manual flying skills of the population of those pilots already employed by commercial airlines, it also should serve as a stark reminder to those who are pressuring Congress to rush young pilots into regional airline cockpits using any shortcut possible,” stated John Kausner of Clarence Center, New York, who lost his twenty-year-old daughter Ellyce as Flight 3407 crashed less than a mile from her family’s home.  “Recent crashes, including Flight 3407, show the importance of pilots being properly prepared to react to adverse situations without the benefit of autopilot.  This underlines the value of entry-level pilots gaining more, not less, hand-flying experience on the front end of their careers prior to jumping into the highly automated cockpit of a regional airliner.  It should also raise concerns about the initial concept of training that is being put forth at this time, which seemingly overemphasizes training focused on the use of automation at the expense of manual flying skills.  All in all, this report strengthens the argument in support of the more stringent entry-level experience requirements unanimously passed by Congress back in 2010.”

The Inspector General’s study, which admonished the FAA for not doing enough to “ensure that air carriers sufficiently address pilot monitoring and manual flying skills,” cited five recent studies by the Flight Safety Foundation, NASA, and two FAA-commissioned panels.  These studies called into question the ability of today’s commercial airline pilot to maintain manual hand-flying capabilities, and whether FAA and the airlines are doing enough to promote this consensus best practice.  The findings and recommendations in these studies were supported by the results of the IG auditing multiple commercial airlines and finding inconsistencies in how they promoted and tracked training opportunities geared towards both pilot monitoring and manual flying.

“Last week marked the seven year anniversary of the Miracle on the Hudson, and that only underscores the importance of manual flying skills being emphasized from Day One of a pilot’s development,” stated Susan Bourque of East Aurora, New York, who lost her sister Beverly Eckert, a prominent 9/11 widow and activist.  “What Captain Sullenberger and First Officer Skiles were able to accomplish is a testament to our mantra that ‘Experience Matters.’  As the House and Senate prepare to take up the FAA Reauthorization Bill in the upcoming weeks and months, we call on Senators Thune and Nelson, and Congressmen Shuster and DeFazio, to ensure that the higher safety standards for our nation’s regional carriers brought about by Flight 3407 and the regional airline tragedies that preceded it are preserved and strengthened by this bill.”

Contact:      Takla Boujaoude                       takla.3407@gmail.com         716-907-2425

Senate Passes FAA Reauthorization

Late yesterday, by a vote of 93-0, the Senate (finally) passed the FAA Air Transportation Modernization and Safety Improvement Act.  The FAA has been authorized by short-term extensions since 2007, it took a lot to get to this point.

Just this year:

WKBW News has a good summary of what the Senate passed.  The next step is to resolve differences with the House version.  Hopefully it won’t take three months, but yesterday, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) said, “we have our work cut out for us,” to reconcile (via @AvWeekScho).

For everyone (legislators, staff, interest groups, industry, concerned citizens) who worked toward this for the last four years, thank you!  Although there is satisfaction, I imagine (and have heard) there is also a bit of resentment.  Four years is a long time to be operating in a tentative framework.  For the goverment agencies, it is especially difficult to operate with no long-term directive.  So, may this be the beginning of something better.

Briefly, Jan 25

Ethiopian Air Flight 409

Sadly, last evening, Ethiopian Airlines Flight 409 caught fire (from early reports) and crashed shortly after takeoff from Beirut, Lebanon.  Airsafe.com has a good summary, as of Monday afternoon.  It appears as though none of the passengers or crew survived.  The investigation will be ongoing.

On the Hill This Week

As was the case last week, congressional committees continue to follow up on their understanding of the NW253 incident on Christmas Day.  But also, the confirmation process of a nominee to the FAA and the reauthorization process of the NTSB will be moving forward.  This week (via GovExec), they are:

  • Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee – Hearing [ 09:30 am, 01/26/2010 ]
    Full committee hearing on “Intelligence Reform: The Lessons and Implications of the Christmas Day Attack,” focusing on the attempted bombing incident on Flight 253 to Detroit on December 25. (Part Two)
  • House Homeland Security Committee – Hearing [ 10:00 am, 01/27/2010 ]
    Full committee hearing on “Flight 253: Learning Lessons from an Averted Tragedy.”
  • Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee – Hearing [ 02:30 pm, 01/26/2010 ]
    Full committee hearing on the nominations of Michael Huerta, to be deputy administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration; David Matsuda, to be administrator of the Maritime Administration; and Timothy McGee, to be an assistant secretary in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, with responsibility for environmental observation and prediction.
  • House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee – Hearing [ 10:00 am, 01/27/2010 ]
    Aviation Subcommittee hearing on “Reauthorization of the National Transportation Safety Board.”

Further Examination of NW253

Today and tomorrow on the Hill, there will be a few committee hearings so that legislators can better understand what went wrong leading up to the attempted bombing of NW253 on Christmas.  They are (from GovExec):

  • Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee – Hearing [ 09:30 am, 01/20/2010 ]
    Full committee hearing on “Intelligence Reform: The Lessons and Implications of the Christmas Day Attack,” focusing on the attempted bombing incident on Flight 253 to Detroit on December 25.
    Witness(es): Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano; Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair; and Michael Leiter, head of the National Counterterrorism Center, testify.  The chairman, Senator Joe Lieberman, spoke about this committee hearing on NPR this morning.
  • Senate Judiciary Committee – Hearing [ 10:00 am, 01/20/2010 ]
    Full committee hearing on “Securing America’s Safety: Improving the Effectiveness of Anti-Terrorism Tools and Inter-Agency Communication.”
    Witness(es): Robert Mueller, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; Undersecretary of State for Management Patrick Kennedy; Assistant Homeland Security Secretary for Policy David Heyman, testify
  • Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee – Hearing [ 02:30 pm, 01/20/2010 ]
    Full committee hearing on “The State of Aviation Security – Is Our Current System Capable of Meeting the Threat?” focusing on the attempted bombing incident on Flight 253 to Detroit on December 25.
    Witness(es): TBA
  • Senate (Select) Intelligence Committee – Briefing [ 02:30 pm, 01/21/2010 ]
    Full committee closed hearing on the attempted bombing incident on Flight 253 to Detroit on December 25.

We are proud that Rosemary Dillard was on the Hill today representing NADA/F!

TSA Administrator

Also, much attention was paid to the fact that there was no TSA Administrator in place when the attempted bombing of NW253 occurred.  While Senator DeMint has opposed the nomination of Erroll Southers based on perceived differences of labor policy.  It was actually Southers’ past abuse of power, in his position as chief of security with the LAX police, that caused wider doubt as to his suitability for the job.  He has withdrawn himself from consideration (via CongressDaily and GovExec).  I have to say this is a good move, since these recent questions only prevented an efficient confirmation process.  And, this position needs to be filled!

Outsourcing Maintenance

The Business of Airline Repairs

NPR News is running a wonderfully informative special series this week on the outsourcing of airplane maintenance.  With the U.S. airline industry struggling financially in the post-9/11/01 world, this has been a trend for some time.  NADA/F has been an outspoken opponent of outsourcing this crucial work.  But this series calls attention to a newer shift.  Not only is maintenance going outside the airlines, but more recently, outside the U.S.

FAA inspects and approves these facilities, but FAA does not require airlines to report exactly which of these repair stations they actually use (via NPR).  So the stories focus a bit on federal oversight, which is of concern.  But I hope it goes without saying that the airlines themselves have a more difficult time monitoring the work done to their equipment when the work isn’t done in their proximity.  Their oversight is just as, if not more, important.  Today’s segment identifies some mistakes with US Airways planes repaired in El Salvador.

Based on the volume of comments I’ve seen so far on the NPR website and on Facebook, I understand that this is resonating with listeners and readers.  But, I suggest taking further action if this bothers you.  Contact your representation in Congress.  Think twice about which airlines you support with ticket (or stock) purchase.  The public and airline employees can make their dissatisfaction known.  Safety should not be compromised. 

UPDATE!  Part three of the series has aired on All Things Considered.  I was happy they could end on a positive note and the example of American Airlines.  The airline is establishing a new model for managment/labor relations and centralizing maintenance and repairs in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  They believe it can be cost-effective, but they are asking that international facilities be subject to the same FAA scrutiny that they are.  Sounds good, AA!


Oversight is the topic of the day.  There are many articles out there, but here is a brief view of the topics.

USA Today ran a cover story yesterday on the weak federal oversight of the charter flight industry in recent years.  Crash numbers in the story reflect a higher number of crashes in charter flights, as compared to commercial airlines, in four of the last six years.

Wall Street Journal reports on FAA’s efforts to tighten safety compliance rules.  It is relevant given the too-friendly relations between inspectors and airlines’ maintenance in recent years.  David Evans, over at Aviation Safety Journal, has a critique of the handling of the latest Southwest violation.

I certainly believe that all federal entities that have some oversight role have been reminded lately about what the consequences can be, when there is lack of attention. Oversight is crucial.


A Cessna 208 crash landed in a Massachusetts soybean field this afternoon.  The pilot and five passengers escaped (via The Berkshire Eagle).