"Better Experience, Better Training"
Michael Huerta, Washington, DC
April 17, 2012

ALPA Cargo Safety and Security Conference

Thank you, Sean (Cassidy, ALPA First Vice President), for that introduction. It’s great to be here today with all of you.

I want to thank ALPA for convening the symposium and bringing this group together. As you have heard today from all the presenters, we gain a lot when we gather in the same place and share our thoughts and differing perspectives. The FAA is happy to be a part of this process.

The American public expects the safe operation of our aircraft and aviation system 24 hours a day, seven days a week, year in and year out.

We expect professionalism, and while we cannot regulate professionalism, we can foster the kind of behaviors that lead to safe and appropriate conduct of everyone in the aviation system.

We achieved a major milestone in this area last year with the completion of the new flight and duty time rule for pilots.

Combating 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. This new rule gives pilots enough time to get the rest they really need.

This 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.

The approach takes 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.

And we’re also 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, or time spent standing by on-call for flights at an airport, or time spent flying on company time to another city to start a flight. These duties 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.

The rule increases the opportunity for rest – to a 10-hour rest period before a flight. That is a two-hour increase over the old rules. This allows enough time for a pilot to arrive at the hotel, eat and still have an opportunity for eight hours of uninterrupted sleep. If there are delays or circumstances that would cut into that, the pilot should notify the carrier that he or she needs more time to rest.

And this rule will provide airlines the option to develop Fatigue Risk Management Systems that are based on fatigue science. This gives airlines 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, allowing flexibility and innovation in dealing with fatigue. 

As everyone in this room is well aware, cargo operations are not covered by this rule. However, we are strongly encouraging cargo operators to voluntarily opt in and design flight schedules and fatigue risk management systems that take into account the body’s 24-hour clock and the latest in fatigue science.

The public expects an alert and rested flight crew, and this rule benefits both pilots and passengers. So we encourage cargo carriers to opt in, and opt in now.

Another area where the FAA has focused a lot of energy is enhancing both the certification and qualification for our airline crewmembers.

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 that is required to achieve it. 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 upsets and knowing how to perform in multi-pilot operations.

We are also proposing to increase the experience necessary 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 crewmembers are hired, we also want to ensure that the baseline training they receive is updated and applicable to the types of environments they will face. 

Whether you are flying a passenger plane or a cargo plane, training is fundamental to performing the job in a safe and professional way.

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 get that benefit as well.

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 that 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.

This training will be delivered as a scenario as it would unfold in real life and flight crews will be trained on how to use the proper response and techniques. It’ll be more life-like.

We believe this kind of scenario-based training will enhance safety for the kind of emergencies that, while  extremely rare, 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 engage in more scenario based training that will better prepare them for emergencies.

We also want to standardize and improve the training for the people who train and test the flight attendants and dispatchers.

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

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

Training is extremely important. And, finally, so is knowing what kind of cargo you are carrying and where it’s located.

As you discussed earlier today, ICAO has recommended that airlines apply dangerous goods safety standards to lithium battery shipments. ICAO is calling for stricter standards in labeling, training, inspection, and pilot notification of the shipments.

This is good news and a big step forward, thanks to a lot of hard work by many people in this room. The DOT and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration are working with the FAA. We are committed to doing what it takes to make sure all operations are conducted as safely as our technology and expertise can make them.

Knowing exactly what’s on the manifest means that you have a heads up in case of an emergency.  You know what’s on board and you know where it’s located, so you have a much better chance in trying to deal with it.

One key principle in raising the safety bar for U.S. cargo operators is to do the same for cargo operators around the world, so that our airlines are not at a competitive disadvantage. FAA is working through ICAO to make that happen.

We look forward to working with all of you to enhance the safety and security of all-cargo operations in a way that will not impede commerce while creating a level playing field for everyone.

Thank you for your attention this afternoon and I’ll be happy to take any questions.