Updated

US airlines are going to have to train their pilots in more realistic upset and stall simulations under rule changes issued by America’s Federal Aviation Administration this week.

But will Australia follow suit? Possibly. The CASA response has been added to the end of this post. It is reasonable to suggest that just what it is that CASA is doing, and whether or not it will be as effective as the FAA changes, will give rise to some debate among pilots, training bodies, and in the airlines.

This could turn out to be a major issue for CASA and the Australian airlines for which it sets rules and is obliged to oversee for compliance.

The new US rules have been released only days after a comprehensive review by the ATSB of stall warnings in larger capacity Australian airliners over a five year period.

However that study by the ATSB dealt with the data where stall warnings occurred. It was not concerned with the wider issues as to whether or not there is over reliance on automation in modern airliners leading to risk in situations where pilots are not adequately prepared to manually intervene and save a situation where an unforseen loss of control occurs in a large jet.

The common element in the ATSB study, and the US pilot training rule changes, was the 2009 crash of a Continental turbo-prop operated by the now disgraced and defunk Colgan contractor, in which fatigued and inadequately trained pilots lost control of a Bombardier turbo-prop at low level on approach to Buffalo airport in icing conditions.  All 49 people on the flight and one person on the ground in a housing estate were killed in the crash.

The new FAA rules will when passed into law require airline pilots to undergo more realistic and expanded flight simulator training in what the agency called the most significant revision to US aviation safety regulations in 25 years.

The new training requirements focus on giving pilots more instruction on flight hazards such as recovering from aircraft stalls and upsets. There are also new provisions to expand training for more effective pilot monitoring and expanded crosswind training, including preparing pilots for flying within wind gusts.

This is CASA’s initial response to the new US rules.

We’re in middle of introducing new flying training rules – Parts 141 and 142 of the Civil Aviation Safety Regulations come into effect on 4 December 2013.  These go to the same standards the US are talking about.  But we always review our standards in the light of relevant international developments, so it will be part of the normal processes.

Info on new regs here:  http://www.casa.gov.au/scripts/nc.dll?WCMS:STANDARD::pc=PC_101716

The inherent difficulty for the Australian regulator and airlines is that whatever the merits and strengths of Australian rules and standards, they might not be expressed with the simplicity or unambiguity of the US rule changes, which always seem to be pack more meaning into a smaller number of words, and leave less wriggle room for ‘interpretation’ for want to a better term.

If, stress if  this means Australia goes with what is perceived to be a weaker, or less committed, or more convuluted set of rules to address the same requirements as the US rules,  there could be some very bad outcomes.

It is strongly in the interests of the flying public, and Australian airlines, and the Minister of the day, to avoid such outcomes.

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