The FAA has released new pilot training guidelines to resolve manual flying shortcomings

The FAA has made guidelines to make sure pilots are prepared to operate highly automated aircraft safely and effectively without relying too much on technology.

Pilots; FAA report suggestions; automated aircraft
The FAA report makes suggestions to help pilots develop their manual flight operations skills and keep them from becoming overly reliant on automation

The report is an advisory circular that focuses on “flightpath management,” which is a general phrase for the planning, execution and assurance of proper aircraft trajectory and energy.

“Flightpath management is especially important in operating aeroplanes with highly automated systems. Even when an aeroplane is on autopilot, the flight crew should always be aware of the aircraft’s flightpath and be able to intervene if necessary.”

–FAA

The report includes no requirements. Instead, it offers advice and recommendations which will assist pilots in acquiring and maintaining manual flight operations abilities and preventing them from becoming unduly dependent on automation.

The document addresses four risk categories: manual flight operations, automation management, pilot-monitoring duties and aircraft energy management.

Additionally, airline operating procedures ought to encourage pilots to fly the plane manually, possibly for the duration of the flight and at least occasionally during the entire takeoff and landing phases.

FAA 4 main categories of guidelines
The FAA report’s 4 main categories include: Manual Flight Operations, Automation Management, Pilot-Monitoring Duties and Aircraft Energy Management

It is advised that airlines give special attention to instructing pilots on how to deal with automated systems, making sure they are aware of known system flaws and the particular flight circumstances in which such systems should not be employed due to the possibility of such failures.

“Training on failures should consider operationally relevant situations and should include failures of items that provide input to the automated systems. Examples include situations where assessment is difficult, situations where recovery is difficult if not properly recognised, and conditions that do not have a checklist.”

–FAA released document

Additionally, the statement exhorts airlines to guarantee that training effectively covers the crucial pilot task of flight path and flight-deck monitoring.

Pilots ought to receive training in “progressive intervention strategies,” or how to bring up issues with copilots. These tactics ought to include disclosing flightpath deviations, recommending fixes, and “then directly intervening,” like taking the controls.

Moreover, the FAA advises airlines to take steps to ensure that pilots are knowledgeable about and skilled in “energy management,” which includes planning and controlling speed, altitude, thrust, and trajectory. It states that such training should cover particular flight situations, such as light takeoffs, low-altitude level-offs, and flying at an aircraft’s maximum permissible altitude.

In response to the 737 Max crashes in 2018 and 2019, numerous regulations were introduced by the 2020 law with the goal of enhancing aviation safety. It featured provisions aimed at enhancing pilot training and proficiency and called for a review of the FAA’s certification programmes. 

Lion Air B737 Max aircraft
On 29 October 2018, the Boeing 737 MAX operating the route crashed into the Java Sea 13 minutes after takeoff, killing all 189 passengers and crew

After the two Max crashes, complaints about pilot performance surfaced. Investigators pointed out pilot errors while attributing the crashes to a malfunctioning flight-control system.

“Flight path management is at the core of the concern that I have.”

–Steve Dickson, former FAA administrator said in 2021

According to the FAA, the National Transportation Safety Board’s (NTSB) suggestion in reaction to the 2013 Asian crash in San Francisco, which claimed three lives, is also addressed in the revised training guidelines. 

The NTSB blamed the incident on crew errors, notably a pilot’s incorrect belief about how the jet’s auto-throttle worked. Thus, the FAA report is focused on managing flight paths and enhancing pilot training altogether.

(With inputs from Flight Global)

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