Pilot Training

This article in the NY Times just came out about the Ethiopian plane crash. Feel free to read it. Critical points of concern:

  • Overdependence on automation 
  • The most seasoned pilots are aging out of the profession — they are required to retire at age 65 in the United States — and many said their successors might not know how to handle the unexpected.
  • “We’ve seen insidious marketing of aircraft to accommodate less experienced and perhaps a lower grade of pilot,” he said.

Pretty scary. Now this come from Captain C.B. Sully Sullenberger FB page:

We do not yet know what caused the tragic crash of Ethiopian 302 that sadly claimed the lives of all passengers and crew, though there are many similarities between this flight and Lion Air 610, in which the design of the Boeing 737 MAX 8 is a factor. It has been obvious since the Lion Air crash that a redesign of the 737 MAX 8 has been urgently needed, yet has still not been done, and the announced proposed fixes do not go far enough. I feel sure that the Ethiopian crew would have tried to do everything they were able to do to avoid the accident. It has been reported that the first officer on that flight had only 200 hours of flight experience, a small fraction of the minimum in the U.S., and an absurdly low amount for someone in the cockpit of a jet airliner. We do not yet know what challenges the pilots faced or what they were able to do, but everyone who is entrusted with the lives of passengers and crew by being in a pilot seat of an airliner must be armed with the knowledge, skill, experience, and judgment to be able to handle the unexpected and be the absolute master of the aircraft and all its systems, and of the situation. A cockpit crew must be a team of experts, not a captain and an apprentice. In extreme emergencies, when there is not time for discussion or for the captain to direct every action of the first officer, pilots must be able to intuitively know what to do to work together. They must be able to collaborate wordlessly. Someone with only 200 hours would not know how to do that or even to do that. Someone with that low amount of time would have only flown in a closely supervised, sterile training environment, not the challenging and often ambiguous real world of operational flying, would likely never have experienced a serious aircraft malfunction, would have seen only one cycle of the seasons of the year as a pilot, one spring with gusty crosswinds, one summer of thunderstorms. If they had learned to fly in a fair-weather clime, they might not even have flown in a cloud. Airlines have a corporate obligation not to put pilots in that position of great responsibility before they are able to be fully ready. While we don’t know what role, if any, pilot experience played in this most recent tragedy, it should always remain a top priority at every airline. Everyone who flies depends upon it.

I wonder what other profession and industry is seeing the same thing happen? I wonder if they have the same worries? Or same training omissions? Or the same insidious marketing to accommodate the lesser experienced? Hmmmm.

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Douglas Farrago MD

Douglas Farrago MD is a full-time practicing family doc in Forest, Va. He started Forest Direct Primary Care where he takes no insurance and bills patients a monthly fee. He is board certified in the specialty of Family Practice. He is the inventor of a product called the Knee Saver which is currently in the Baseball Hall of Fame. The Knee Saver and its knock-offs are worn by many major league baseball catchers. He is also the inventor of the CryoHelmet used by athletes for head injuries as well as migraine sufferers. Dr. Farrago is the author of four books, two of which are the top two most popular DPC books. From 2001 – 2011, Dr. Farrago was the editor and creator of the Placebo Journal which ran for 10 full years. Described as the Mad Magazine for doctors, he and the Placebo Journal were featured in the Washington Post, US News and World Report, the AP, and the NY Times. Dr. Farrago is also the editor of the blog Authentic Medicine which was born out of concern about where the direction of healthcare is heading and the belief that the wrong people are in charge. This blog has been going daily for more than 15 years Article about Dr. Farrago in Doximity Email Dr. Farrago – [email protected] 

  3 comments for “Pilot Training

  1. PW
    March 18, 2019 at 11:58 am

    Along the same lines, someone wrote an article in KevinMD about “What is similar between the Challenger and medicine?” regarding safety issues.

    My answer: Both are disasters.

    • Kurt
      March 20, 2019 at 2:08 pm

      Did you perchance read “Truth, Lies and O Rings” by Allan J. McDonald and James R. Hansen ?

  2. Stephen Rockower, MD
    March 18, 2019 at 10:41 am

    What other industries are pushing minimally trained people on the unsuspecting public? Hahahahaha!!! Look at NPs and PAs who are passing themselves off as “doctors”!!! #DisasterWaitingToHappen

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