Aviation Safety:

Enhanced Requirements Can Improve Commuter Pilot Training

RCED-88-218: Published: Sep 28, 1988. Publicly Released: Oct 5, 1988.

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Kenneth M. Mead
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) commuter airline pilot training regulations, specifically: (1) changes in the commuter airline industry; (2) commuter and major airline pilot training regulatory requirements; and (3) commuter airline accident reports and statistics.

GAO found that: (1) commuter airlines are flying more passengers, on more routes, in larger, more complex planes, but have been losing experienced pilots to major airlines; (2) copilots are often upgraded to captain more rapidly than in the past, allowing less time for them to accumulate experience; (3) commuter and major airline pilot training regulations are similar, except that the commuter regulations do not specify required minimum training hours or flight training requirements; (4) accident investigation statistics showed that pilots were a factor in 57 percent of commuter airline accidents between 1980 and 1984 and 95 percent in 1985; and (5) recent accident investigations cited problems with cockpit resource management, including crew coordination, standard operating procedures, and pilot decisionmaking, rather than the pilots' flying ability or equipment problems.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: An advanced qualification rule, signed September 26, 1990, requires cockpit management training and enhanced use of various types of training technology.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator, FAA, to include as part of the forthcoming rulemaking for commuter pilot training: (1) guidance describing minimum training program requirements using standards such as pilot performance criteria or required training hours; (2) guidance describing required flight training maneuvers and procedures; and (3) requirements for cockpit resource management training, including crew coordination, standard operating procedures, and pilot decisionmaking, and guidance describing acceptable training programs.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation


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