"The Next Level of Training"
J. Randolph Babbitt, Emirate of Dubai, United Arab Emirates
November 14, 2011

Gulf Aviation Training Event

Good morning and thank you, Ed (Davidson, conference director) for that kind introduction.

It’s a pleasure to be here today at this first annual training event at the Dubai Air Show.  We all share a passion for aviation. And we are all working towards the next level of safety.   

I was impressed with the air show yesterday and I would like to wish the citizens of the United Arab Emirates a hearty congratulations on your 40th anniversary.  

Air traffic in the Gulf is some of the busiest and fastest growing in the world. Airlines here are rapidly expanding global routes. And they will be using new Boeing 777s and Airbus A-380s to transport those passengers globally.

Dubai International Airport is now 13th in the world in terms of passenger volume. In 2006, the airport was not in the top 30 worldwide. This airport has seen a 65 percent increase in just five years. That is truly impressive.

Safely managing rapid growth is a challenging balancing act. But it can be accomplished with the right tools and procedures.

Today I want to talk with you about flight crew training and enhancing safety by better addressing human factors.

I would like to share with you some of the steps we are taking in the United Statesto enhance safety for every air traveler.

The FAA is proposing to improve training requirements for commercial pilots and crews.

These new rules will require pilots to demonstrate their skills in real world scenarios – situations that they might encounter in the cockpit, instead of practicing maneuvers in a vacuum.

Crew training is undoubtedly one of the most important issues facing aviation safety professionals and regulators today.  It is also one of the most challenging. 

Advances in technology and today’s meticulous investigation of accidents have given us the means and the data we need to change aircraft design so that we remove many of yesterday’s mechanical malfunctions from the safety equation. 

However it is a much more complex undertaking to decrease the errors that people make. 

But there are certainly things we can do.  A key role for aviation regulators is to design policies, procedures, and regulations that will prevent as many errors as possible, and mitigate the impact of those errors that do occur. 

And, of course, we have to design and implement effective ways of training flight crews on all those procedures and regulations. 

The best procedures in the world are not worth much unless they are understood and implemented by flight crews.  So we have to constantly be alert to how we can improve procedures and training methods. 

Our proposed new rule for pilot and crew training represents 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 and enhanced training.

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

But the difference is, rather than have a pilot execute a recovery or another kind of skill in isolation, the new training will require a more realistic and coordinated effort by the crew – as if they were actually on a flight.

And they will be given a scenario or emergency as it would unfold in real life and then be trained on how to use the proper response and techniques.  It will be more life-like.

This rule requires enhanced training and evaluation in flight simulators.

We want pilots and crews to have more training in the kinds of rare emergency events that will test their skills.

We believe this real-life scenario training will enhance safety for the kind of emergencies that are extremely rare.  But if they do ever happen, we want pilots to have the full knowledge, confidence and training experience so they can appropriately handle the situation.

Flight attendants would be required to complete hands-on emergency drills every 12 months.

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.

Our new approach also represents a change in philosophy.  We don’t just 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 scenarios.

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

As I remember very well from my days as an airline pilot, there is no limit to the benefits from using simulation technology to train for events that we could never safely perform in the aircraft.

We support ICAO’s suggestions for flight simulation training. These principles and standards will lead to significant improvement in simulator training worldwide. The FAA is working to adopt them.

The timeframe for adoption is the challenge.  The magnitude of the changes recommended by ICAO in its manual for simulation training is significant. Many will require rulemaking. 

As you may know, a number of training and safety requirements were mandated by Congress in the Airline Safety and FAA Extension Act of 2010, and we are working on those. 

Since a number of these requirements are directly related to flight crew training and safety, let me offer a brief summary of our progress on some of our initiatives.

We are working diligently to change and improve our rules on pilot flight duty and rest. I’ve been pushing for this since I was president of the Air Line Pilots Association in the 1990s. Our proposed rule establishes a new method for measuring a pilot’s rest period, based on fatigue science.

We have analyzed the numerous public comments we received, and the rule is now in its final stages of executive review. We are working aggressively to get it out as soon as possible. And we are committed to ensuring that airline pilots are fit and rested when they report for duty.

In addition, we are also working on a rule that increases the amount of experience required to become an air carrier first officer.

And lastly, we formed an industry group to make recommendations to improve training for pilots for stall avoidance and adverse weather. We are using these recommendations to create better guidance for pilots.  

Safety is the FAA’s top priority. 

Addressing the human element in the chain of events that leads to an accident is one of the reasons I have focused so sharply on professionalism since Day One as FAA Administrator.  But I’ll say it again:  however much I wish it were possible, I cannot mandate professionalism.

There are some life lessons that are universal truths for all of us when it comes to bringing our best to the mission at hand, whether aboard the airplane or in every job or task that touches this vital industry. Incorporating the wisdom of these lessons and going back to basics will improve professionalism across the industry. It will do more than regulations alone can do.

One of the most basic things we can do, and what we’re talking about here today, is to train well.  It's essential when you're in a critical moment that you are prepared, vigilant, and disciplined.

Secondly, we need to remember to work together.  Teamwork is about listening, sharing your knowledge, and knowing when to lead and when to follow.  Consider the teamwork last November when the pilots on a Qantas A380 had an uncontained engine failure and subsequent multiple system failures. They landed safely at Singapore with no injuries.

Thirdly, leadership is important.  We all know the story of US Airways Flight 1549, which people have called the “Miracle on the Hudson.” It’s the flight where Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger and his team landed a planeload of 150 passengers safely in the Hudson Riverafter losing both engines due to bird strikes.  Captain Sully has been celebrated for his performance, his character and his swift, decisive leadership.

But I think using the term “miracle” to describe that event is actually incorrect.  That remarkable incident had a successful outcome because it involved well-trained flight crews, cabin crews and air traffic controllers, as well as an aircraft that was designed with numerous safety features so it could withstand ditching in the river.

The business of flying can seem repetitive and routine, but at any moment—as those Qantas pilots and US Airways pilots learned—the humdrum can quickly become the most challenging obstacle course, calling on every tool in your professional toolkit.

Today's safety challenges include integrating automation, fighting complacency, and managing distractions.  

Training, teamwork and leadership are still our best bets when responding to old or new safety threats.  Nothing is more important to maintaining professionalism than working side-by-side with professionals who model the right attitudes.

So to conclude, it's really up to all of us.  Mentor those who are following you.  We are the most powerful teachers.  Model professionalism through training, teamwork and leadership.  Pass it forward. 

There’s a great saying: "Each one, teach one."

That can be our legacy.  And, by each one of us—all of us collectively –doing this, we can become a passionate force for aviation safety to future generations of aviation professionals.

Thank you again for inviting me today, and I look forward to seeing many important ideas and recommendations come forward as a result of this Gulf Aviation Training Event.