WASHINGTON, D.C. — Senior officials from U.S. airlines, pilot unions, and the FAA on Monday agreed on several major actions to improve safety programs and pilot training at the nation's airlines. U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood and FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt hosted the "Call to Action" to identify immediate steps to strengthen and improve pilot hiring, training and testing practices at airlines that provide regional service as well as at the country's major air carriers.
"We must inspire confidence in every traveler, every time he or she steps onto an airplane," said LaHood. "We are acting now and acting together because safety is our highest priority."
The participants agreed on best practices for pilot record checks that would result in a more expansive search for all records available from a pilot's career. The expanded search would include all the records the FAA maintains on pilots in addition to the records airlines already receive from past employers.
The airlines and unions will also review existing pilot training programs over the next several months, according to FAA-issued guidance, to see how they can be strengthened.
"We want to make sure we’re not just checking boxes," said Babbitt. "There's a real difference between the quantity of training and the quality of training."
Airline and union officials recommended developing pilot mentoring programs that will expose less experienced pilots to the safety culture and professional standards practiced by more senior pilots. The programs could pair experienced pilots from the major airlines with pilots from their regional airline partners.
To address concerns about pilot fatigue, Babbitt said the FAA will start rulemaking to rewrite the rules for pilot flight and duty time to incorporate recent scientific research about the factors that lead to fatigue.
Babbitt added that he will ask all of the airlines to operate safety reporting systems such as Flight Operations Quality Assurance (FOQA) and the Aviation Safety Action Program (ASAP) to provide better data about safety issues.
FAA and industry representatives agreed to hold as many as 10 similar meetings throughout the country to assure that every carrier and pilot union has the opportunity to commit to these actions and to identify additional best practices that can be shared. FAA inspectors will assist in the implementation of these actions over the next several months and evaluate their effectiveness.
Babbiit announces expedited review of flight and rest rules and called on U.S. airlines and unions to respond.
FAA inspectors ordered to check for compliance with federal regulations.
The FAA proposes to set a nine-hour minimum opportunity for rest prior to the duty period, a one-hour increase over the current rules.
In a 24/7 industry like aviation, fatigue is a fact of life.