WATS 2016: FAA’s Huerta urges data-driven training

US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Administrator Michael Huerta, speaking as keynote at the World Aviation Training Conference & Trade Show (WATS) in Orlando, Florida, said one challenge of training today is that there are few aviation accidents.

“Today we have achieved a remarkable level of safety. Working with industry and sharing data has played a role in eliminating the leading causes of commercial accidents such as controlled flight into terrain. We have no choice but to move past the forensic approach of studying what went wrong after the fact.”

Huerta said, “To keep up the momentum, we have to continue to identify risks and address them before incidents or accidents can occur. That’s the idea behind safety management systems. These systems give airlines the structure to look at data from every aspect of their operations.”

The Administrator said the most critical transformation in aviation may not be readily apparent. “We are at the age of Big Data, where more information is generated more quickly and from more sources than we have ever received. What does this mean for training? Simply put, it means using data to make decisions based on risk: that is the future.”

Huerta added that safety management systems “also foster an environment and a culture where aviation professionals will voluntarily provide observations they see or problems they encounter. At the FAA, we believe that establishing trust with our stakeholders and having honest conversations about what’s working and what’s not, without fear of reprisal … that is what will bring us to the next level of safety.”

He also noted that the FAA published a rule on 30 March which sets updated standards for flight simulator evaluation. The new standards are designed to provide more realistic scenarios involving stalls, upset recognition and recovery, icing conditions, gusting crosswinds, and bounced landing recovery. Air carriers will be required to use simulators which meet the upgraded requirements as of 12 March 2019.

Earl Weener, US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) member, told the more than 1,000 WATS attendees that the NTSB’s updated Top 10 list includes several aviation issues, such as medical fitness for duty, fatigue, and impairment. He noted that a study two years ago of general aviation accidents showed 11% of pilots with a potentially impairing chemical in their blood stream. One of the common problem drugs used is diphenhydramine, found in over-the-counter antihistamines. Weener said the “dosing interval” of eight hours should be multiplied by a factor of five, meaning pilots who pop a diphenhydramine pill for allergies should not fly for 40 hours.

The major announcement at WATS was TRU Simulation + Training’s apparently non-competed coup to provide Boeing Flight Services with full-flight simulator and flat-panel trainer simulator suites for the new 777X widebody aircraft. TRU and Boeing have also been collaborating for two years on training devices for the new 737 MAX.

The deal solidifies the Textron Aviation business unit as a major competitor to simulation industry leader CAE in commercial, business aviation, and helicopter devices and services. The formation of TRU was announced two years ago at WATS via Textron’s acquisition of simulator manufacturers Opinicus, Mechtronix, and AAI Corporation’s former maintenance training unit.

Rick Adams, contributor, Low-Fare & Regional Airlines/laranews.net
Orlando, FL, USA

Photo of Michael Huerta speaking at WATS 2016 by Rick Adams.

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