DOT Publishes Pilot Professional Development Rule

Rule aims at mitigating unprofessional behavior on the flight deck.

The U.S. Department of Transportation recently announced a new FAA rule in the Federal Register created to enhance the professional development of pilots operating at Part 121 and Part 135 commercial carriers. A DOT news release announcing the effort said, “All captains are now required to receive leadership and command training, as well as mentoring training, so that they may effectively mentor first officers. Newly-hired pilots will be required to observe flight operations and become familiar with company-specific procedures before operating an aircraft as a flight crew member.” The new rule becomes effective April 27, 2020, and “will mitigate incidents of unprofessional pilot behavior and reduce pilot errors that can lead to a catastrophic event.”

The rule is another response to a decade-old federal legislation, the Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act of 2010, as well as to recommendations from the National Transportation Safety Board. That sweeping pilot qualification and training legislation was enacted following the 2009 nighttime crash of a Colgan Air Dash 8-400 while on approach to Buffalo, New York, that cost the lives of all 49 people aboard.

The NTSB investigation into the Colgan accident later determined the probable cause to be the inappropriate actions of the pilots while on approach, including their “failure to monitor airspeed in relation to the rising position of the low-speed cue, the flight crew failure to adhere to sterile cockpit procedures, the captain’s failure to effectively manage the flight, and Colgan Air’s inadequate procedures for airspeed selection and management during approaches in icing conditions,” the Board’s final report said.

The FAA did not actually agree with all provisions of the new legislation, however, commenting in one segment, “The FAA does not agree that upgrade flight training should include mentoring training, because it cannot be incorporated into upgrade flight training effectively. An opportunity for mentoring would have to be artificially introduced during scenario-based 47 [sic] flight training, which would reduce the effectiveness of that training because the scenario would no longer be realistic.”

Robert Meder, Chairman of the National Association of Flight Instructors offered commentary to the upcoming rule in NAFI’s February 26 eMentor newsletter. Meder said, “There are some regulatory changes included that may be of dubious value, notably the changes in experience requirements for the Airline Transport Rating. However, this is what was mandated by law and the FAA changed the requirement accordingly. As I point out to many young CFIs who are using their instructor certificate to gain that experience, as well as to their mentors who are dedicated long-term instructors, this mandated experience is a great opportunity to learn what it means to be Pilot in Command with a crew, namely instructing their students.”

He added that, “What I see as the positive outcome are the changes to Parts 61, 91, 121, and 135 that mandate both initial and recurrent training in leadership and mentoring. Although mainly focused on Part 121 operations, these new regulations also affect certain operations in Parts 91 and 135, where they reference back to the appropriate paragraphs in Part 121.

“What is relevant to us as instructors,” he said, “is that this is something for which we can prepare our clients from the beginning of training. By instilling this in our training from the start, it will make it easier for our students who are bound for commercial aviation to make this part of their routine. The benefit for those pilots that are not interested in aviation as a career is that teaching these skills will undoubtably help them be better safer pilots.”

The final FAA rule incorporates the work of the Flight Crewmember Mentoring, Leadership, and Professional Development Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC), the Flightcrew Member Training Hours Requirement Review ARC, and the Air Carrier Safety and Pilot Training ARC. All three ARCs were comprised of labor, industry, and FAA experts who provided recommendations to the FAA.

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