Almost five years after a commuter plane crash in Upstate New York killed 50 people, the Federal Aviation Administration on Tuesday imposed stricter training requirements for commercial airline pilots.
Inexperience, ineptitude and fatigue were to blame for pilot errors that caused the crash of Colgan Air 3407 near Buffalo in February 2009, according to investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board. The NTSB concluded that the pilot and co-pilot did the exact opposite of what was needed to save the plane after it lost speed and stalled.
“This will give our pilots the most advanced training available to handle emergency events that they may experience,” FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said. “This is one of the most significant updates of air carrier pilot training in the last 20 years.”
Huerta said the complexity of implementing change explained why it took “a long time” to achieve.
“The important thing we’re trying to do is raise the bar on safety,” he said.
The rules announced Tuesday are among the actions mandated by Congress after the Colgan crash. They follow rule changes that require that pilots get a minimum of eight hours sleep and 10 hours off between flights. The crash came after one pilot slept in an airport lounge and the other flew cross-country to meet the flight in Newark.
The newly announced rules require additional pilot training on preventing and reacting to aircraft stalls, better tracking of pilot training and performance, and additional training on handling planes in crosswinds and gusty conditions.
Relatives of people who died in the crash have appealed to airlines and the government for changes in training and hours flown by pilots.
“I met with the Colgan families shortly after taking this office,” Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said Tuesday. “I looked them in the eye and promised that we would deliver on this rule, and I’m very pleased that we were able to do that today.”
The proliferation of commuter flights in the past 20 years has pilots hopscotching from major hub airports to several destinations in a single day. It’s estimated that about half of all domestic flights are by commuter aircraft.
Huerta said he would invite airline officials and safety experts to Washington this month to discuss additional steps to improve safety and pilot training.