Simulator Training Flawed? True or False?
We have been discussing the articles published in USA Today by Alan Levin in which he maintains that a number of airline accidents have been caused, at least in part, by problems stemming from simulator training. But is this criticism valid?
Today it is rare for any pilot to not have been exposed to at least some minimal training in a simulator. For those who fly professionally as either charter or corporate pilots, simulator training on a regular basis is a requirement of the companies insuring these aircraft and operations.
In the August 31st article in USA Today the author states that “Problems stemming from simulator training have been cited as contributing factors in airline accidents that caused more than half of the 522 fatalities over the last decade, according to a USA Today analysis published on Tuesday.”
In the article the Continental 737 accident in Denver where the aircraft left the runway during takeoff in severely gusting crosswinds resulting in 6 injuries. The NTSB reported that simulated crosswind training in the airline industry is “inadequate”.
Simulators are mechanical devices programmed with computers and designed to replicate, as near as possible, conditions and aircraft responses to a set of parameters established by the training facility and the aircraft operator. Anyone who flies an aircraft will tell you that no matter how hard you try you will never be able to anticipate every possible event that may occur during the operation of an airplane.
It is not reasonable to expect that it is possible to design, build and operate a simulator that can cover ever eventuality a pilot may experience when operating his aircraft. If that were possible there would be no need for a pilot!
The author also cited the Q400 Colgan Air accident in Buffalo, NY as having been caused, in part, by inadequate training on icing emergencies. This accident was the result of the pilot in command improperly responding to the aircraft stalling, for which the total responsibility unfortunately falls upon the pilot.
The article also cites the A300 crash in 2001 where the rudder departed from the aircraft. It is assumed that improper rudder pressure caused the rudder to depart the aircraft, but I would question why the design was so flawed that any force applied by a pilot could cause this to happen.
In my humble opinion human error can not be eliminated completely regardless of the quality of simulators, or the training air crews receive. Captain A. G. Lamplugh, British Aviation Insurance Group stated back in the 1930s that “Aviation in itself is not inherently dangerous. But to an even greater degree than the sea, it is terribly unforgiving of any carelessness, incapacity or neglect.”
Captain Lamplugh’s observation remains as valid today as back then.
Until next time keep your wings straight and level Hersch!
There are no new types of aircrashes — only people with short memories. Every accident has its own forerunners, and every one happens either because somebody did not know where to draw the vital dividing line between the unforeseen and the unforeseeable or because well-meaning people deemed the risk acceptable.
If politics is the art of the possible, and flying is the art of the seemingly impossible, then air safety must be the art of the economically viable. At a time of crowded skies and sharpening competition, it is a daunting task not to let the art of the acceptable deteriorate into the dodgers’ art of what you can get away with.
— Stephen Barlay, ‘The Final Call: Why Airline Disasters Continue to Happen,’ March 1990.
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