"The Next Level of Training"
Michael Huerta, Orlando, Fla.
April 17, 2012

World Aviation Training Symposium


Thank you, Chris (Lehman), for that introduction. It’s great to be here today with all of you.

We are all here because we believe that training is fundamental to performing our jobs in a very safe and a very professional way.

The ability to fly is not genetic. We want every pilot and dispatcher, every flight attendant and every mechanic, to benefit from the experience of all those who have gone before. We train because we want to raise the safety bar every day with the accumulated learning of the entire aviation industry. We want to do everything we can to maintain the safest aviation system in the world that we possibly can.

My colleague, Dr. Doug Farrow, manager of the FAA’s Advanced Qualification Program, has a saying, that I think is wonderful and reflects what we are all about,

“To err is human. To recover indicates good training.”

Training is fundamental, but we must also recognize that we should voluntarily transfer experience from one pilot to another, from one generation to another, and that is why we are spending a lot of time talking about it today, to make sure our workforce is well prepared.

Mentoring is a tradition in aviation. Most of a pilot’s experience is gained by performing the job. Knowledge is transferred from captain to first officer on the line. Experience is transferred from a senior flight attendant to new flight attendants in the cabin. Experienced air traffic controllers train new air traffic controllers on position.

There is a code. And that code is professionalism. We are focused on fostering the kinds of behaviors that lead to professional conduct. We can address issues in a systematic way. And we did achieve a major milestone with the completion of the new flight and duty time rule for pilots that the FAA finalized in December of last year.

Combatting fatigue in the cockpit is the obligation of both airlines and pilots, working together. Every pilot has a personal responsibility to arrive at work fit for duty. The new rule gives pilots enough time to get the rest they really need.

And the rule is flexible. It accounts for differences in fatigue based on different types of operations – long haul, or short haul, day or night. It is not one size fits all.

We are using the latest fatigue science to set new requirements for pilots’ schedules. The rule addresses cumulative fatigue and how flight schedules affect the body’s 24-hour clock.

Now, this approach will take into account factors such as the time of day a pilot takes his or her first flight, the number of scheduled flight segments and the number of time zones crossed.

The FAA also is expanding the definition of a flight duty period to include more than just flying the plane. The flight duty period now includes training in an aircraft or simulator, standing by on-call for flights at an airport, and flying on company time to another city to start a flight. These duties, as we all know, are part of the workday and contribute to fatigue. So they will now be counted as flight duty time above the core job of flying the plane.

We are also requiring a minimum 10-hour rest period before a flight. That is a two-hour increase over the old rules. What this should do is allow enough time for a pilot to arrive at the hotel, eat and have an opportunity for eight hours of uninterrupted sleep.If there are delays or circumstances that cut into that eight hour sleep opportunity, the pilot should notify his or her carrier that he or she needs more time to rest.

Andthis rule will provide airlines the option to develop Fatigue Risk Management Systems based on fatigue science. This gives them the opportunity to create an alternative model for combatting fatigue. The systems use data to evaluate and mitigate the fatigue risk in a work schedule. Such systems allow flexibility and innovation in mitigating fatigue.

The traveling public expects an alert and rested flight crew when they board a plane. This rule benefits both pilots and passengers.

The FAA has also focused a lot of energy on enhancing both the certification and qualification for our airline crew members.

We are raising the baseline qualifications for first officers who fly for U.S. passenger and cargo airlines. The proposed rule, which we introduced in February, would require first officers to hold an ATP certificate.

Not only do we want to require that certificate, but we propose to greatly increase the training to achieve them. For example, we believe that it’s necessary to have both academic and flight training in critical operating skills. This includes learning more about high altitude aero-dynamics, handling stalls and handling upsets and knowing how to perform in multi-pilot operations.

We are also proposing to increase the experience to become the captain of a U.S. passenger or cargo airline. You would need at least 1000 hours in airline operations before upgrading to captain.

Once these crew members are hired, we also want to ensure that the baseline training they receive is updated and applicable to the types of environments they are going to face in their jobs.

We are working on a final rule for pilot and crew training that will improve safety. It would require pilots to demonstrate their skills in real scenarios – situations that they might encounter in the cockpit.

Of course, many of you are familiar with AQP, the Advanced Qualification Program. This is a voluntary, FAA crew member training program which incorporates many of the safety enhancements in this proposed rule. I know many of you have benefitted from this kind of training and we want everyone to do so.

The FAA has consistently issued strong training guidance to carriers. But this proposed rule does represent the most significant overhaul of crew training in the last 20 years.

This is a major effort to strengthen the performance of pilots, flight attendants and dispatchers through better training.

We want to give pilots more training and better training on how to recognize and recover from stalls and aircraft upsets.

We will be able to do this in the advanced flight simulators we have today.

But the difference is, rather than have a pilot execute a recovery in a highly choreographed event, the new training will be conducted as if they were actually on a flight.

We believe this kind of scenario-based training will enhance safety for the kind of emergencies – that, we all acknowledge, are extremely rare – but we want pilots to have sufficient knowledge, experience and confidence so they can appropriately handle any situation.

Flight attendants would be required to complete hands-on emergency drills every 12 months and to engage in more scenario based training that will better prepare them for emergencies.

Today’s operating environment is incredibly complex and we must ensure training and knowledge are being applied to real life situations. We just don’t want the flight crews to show us they have mastered individual skills. We want them to demonstrate that they can apply those skills in real world situations.

We want to make certain that all members of a flight crew are fully trained for the mission they are expected to fly.

We believe that the FAA’s voluntary reporting systems are a critical tool to help evolving training requirements. We are trying to prevent an incident or accident by collecting and analyzing real flight data to recognize precursors.

One program we use connects 46 separate safety databases across the industry. This umbrella program is called ASIAS (pronounced ah-sigh-as). It stands for the Aviation Safety Information and Analysis Sharing System.

One example you are well acquainted with is the Aviation Safety Action Program (or ASAP).

It permits individuals to report errors and safety-related information with reasonable protection from company discipline or FAA enforcement.

The result is an abundance of safety information that otherwise would probably not come to light.

Our goal is not to punish. We want to know about the behavior and we want to correct it.

ASAP works for flight, maintenance, dispatch, and cabin crews. There are nearly 250 ASAP programs currently in place. More than 200,000 ASAP reports have been completed since 2008. This data provides invaluable insight that is useful in development of training.

Airlines use this safety data to develop training objectives and scenarios. For example, one airline used Flight Operations Quality Assurance (FOQA) and ASAP data to see that flight crews were sometimes conducting unstabilized approaches.

The company changed its approach procedures and established clear guidelines for approach stabilization. The new procedures were emphasized in training and evaluated during line operational evaluations. The result was a 60 percent reduction in unstabilized approaches the very next year. That’s a huge benefit.

We know that in addition to the training we require, companies also develop and deliver thousands of hours of training that exceed regulatory minimums.

In many cases this training comes even before the regulations. Why? Because it makes economic sense and it ensures flight safety and employee safety. Safety is good for business.

The FAA supports development of training for maintenance technicians. For example, we have created a tool that helps airlines and MROs develop human factors training for mechanics.

This tool lets industry developers choose from a set of materials – power point slides, short videos and animation files.

It allows them to customize training for their companies on issues like communication, fatigue, human error, vision, hearing and worker safety. For more than five years, this FAA tool has become the de-facto standard for human factors training.

The FAA is also helping to deliver training through the Fatigue Awareness Training Program, developed by the Civil Aerospace Medical Institute and Flight Standards.

The two hour program was originally designed for maintenance personnel but since then, has evolved to a version for cabin crew. Numerous airlines here and abroad have loaded the two-hour fatigue training system on their servers. They deliver it to all maintenance and engineering personnel. It is also used in some airline flight departments.

During 2011, more than 16,000 mechanics and aviators went directly to the FAA web site and completed this two-hour fatigue course and passed the test.

You may have seen part of this training last year at WATS, when we played the video “Grounded.” It’s designed to make employees think more about their schedule and their sleeping habits.

Lastly, I want to talk about the impact of training.

We know it’s hard to measure whether training has been effective or contributed to the bottom line.

We know that training evaluation goes beyond an assessment of the individual learner. It should also improve the organization. The tough measurement is to show the safety and cost return on investment. I know that Captain John Cox, who is speaking later, will talk about that this morning.

I’d like to share an example of return on investment from the FAA’s Dr. Bill Johnson.

Last year, a large U.S.-based MRO targeted worker fatigue as a contributing factor in aircraft damage and employee injury. They delivered the FAA’s fatigue training to all of their maintenance workers and managers. The result was that they lowered the severity and cost of OSHA-reported injuries and also reduced aircraft damage. During 2011 they calculated a 300 percent return on their investment. That return is continuing to grow during 2012. Reduced injury and aircraft damage are exactly the kind of outcomes that contribute to enhanced safety.

And safety is the primary mission for all of us. We can make our machines as safe as possible. We are continually improving them. But without pilots who are trained, without controllers who are properly trained – without mechanics, flight attendants, and dispatchers who have the proper training – it won’t get us where we need to go. Human factors training is an important area where we can make very significant advances. If we have a workforce with the underlying skills, we are going to advance to the next level of safety.

So I want to thank you for your dedication and for your professionalism in doing the job right, every day and all the time, even when no one is looking. I also want to thank you for passing your knowledge on to the next generation and doing your utmost to help aviation –throughout the entire world—move to the next level of safety and efficiency.

Thank you.

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