March 2008 Issue

The Problem With Flight Training

How modern flight instruction is training pilots to make fatal mistakes.

For a long time now, loss-of-control accidents in general aviation have been driven by relatively few but recurring causes pointing to fundamental problems in pilot training. These problems seem national in scope. The NTSB’s findings in two recent crashes illustrate the point. One was the fatal stall/spin of an American Champion Decathlon in Oroville, Calif., in October 2005; the other the much-reported crash of a Cirrus SR20 into a Manhattan apartment building in October 2006. In both accidents—the Decathlon involving a high-time ATP, the Cirrus an 88-hour major league baseball player new to aviation—there were common threads. Both reveal systemic errors and omissions in our standard flight training. Methodology, in my estimation. These two accidents vividly show that our training is deficient in teaching stall/spin awareness, cockpit resource management and risk analysis. Why can’t we figure this out?

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