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BBT March/April 2019 cover
March/April 2019

Airlines accused of keeping safety training ‘to a minimum’

Aeroplane taking off

The head of the UK’s Flight Safety Committee has claimed that airlines and aircraft manufacturers are doing the “absolute minimum” safety training to keep costs low.

Dai Whittingham told the BBC that “shareholders are squeezing airlines hard on costs. Spending on training fleets of captains and first officers is not necessarily welcome.”

He claims some carriers have to fight their finance departments in order to get funding for more training.

In addition, Whittingham said cost restrictions are also hitting aircraft manufacturers, who are under pressure to ensure their aeroplanes won’t incur “a big training bill for the airline”.

Safety and pilot training has come under scrutiny since the Boeing 737 Max was involved in two fatal crashes in the space of five months – Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 in which all 157 people on board were killed and Lion Air Flight 610 in which all 189 crew and passengers died.

While investigators say there are similarities between the two accidents, they claim there is no evidence that the Ethiopian Airlines pilots lacked proper training.

Pilots have added to the Flight Safety Committee’s claim, with one saying some pilots “are often required to teach themselves the aircraft systems... with no ground school”.

Another told the BBC it is down to airlines to decide how much training to give their pilots beyond the minimum requirements set by regulators.

The compulsory training set out by Boeing and the US Federal Aviation Administration for the 737 Max is online learning with no requirement to use a flight simulator, according to the BBC.

However, a spokesman for the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said “the UK has one of the world’s safest aviation industries” and that pilots for commercial airlines “undergo extensive training and testing and once qualified continue to be regularly checked and tested”.

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