Pilots need more training, less dependance on automation, expected report says

(CBS News) The FAA is expected to release a new report this week that finds commercial airline pilots need more training and rely too much on automation.

Pilot error is suspected in three high-profile crashes in the last several years; the Air France disaster in 2009, the Asiana crash landing at San Francisco airport in July and an accident in Russia just this week, where 50 people died when the jet lost speed and plunged to the ground in a nose dive.

CBS News aviation and safety expert Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger told the "CBS This Morning" co-hosts that this is a "growing concern worldwide."

"Just last week, I had a meeting with Transportation Secretary Anthony Fox - the first question he asked me was about automation," said Sullenberger. "This report is a wake-up call for the industry. It's an indictment of the inadequacies of pilot training in many areas."

Sullenberger told the co-hosts that currently, the airlines "only provide the FAA mandated amount" of training and that it is "not enough."

"The pilots are also not getting enough in-depth training about the increasingly complex technology and automation in our cockpits," he said. "Instead, they get a more fundamental understanding on their own through on-the-job training. They have to pick up the more in-depth knowledge over a period of time."

He said that it's also important to recognize that pilots do not get enough "manual flying practice."

Sullenberger recommended that there be more training and less dependence on automation because he said the report specifically explains that "pilots have to not only have the skill, but the confidence and realistic skills to be able to quickly and effectively intervene when automation goes wrong."

Also, Sullenberger talked about a new FAA policy that focuses on pilot fatigue and plans to test overweight pilots. He said that this is important because there is a connection between certain neck sizes, BMIs and sleep concerns.

"Sleep issues are very important to pilots and air traffic controllers," Sullenberger said. "Undiagnosed, untreated, they can lead to a decrease in performance and alertness."

  • Shoshana Davis

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