Friday, 21 May 2010

Federal Aviation Administration Looking at More Incidences of Pilot Error on the Runway

The Wall Street Journal is reporting on investigations into two separate incidents in the last couple of months, in which pilots in twin engine planes failed to turn on their second engines before getting ready for takeoff. These investigations are likely to figure in discussions that the National Transportation Safety Board is having with airline safety officials, pilot unions and others at an aviation safety conference this week. The conference is focusing especially hard on cockpit distractions and unprofessional attitude of pilots.

Both of these factors are being linked to each of the two incidents which occurred over the past few months. The first incident involved in American Eagle Embraer plane. The pilot apparently became distracted while he was talking to air traffic controllers, and failed to turn on the second engine. What's worse, the pilot did not even realize that he had failed to turn the engine on, and assumed that it was a mechanical malfunction. It is only later that airline mechanics informed the pilot that he had never turned the second engine on. That incident occurred at Los Angeles International Airport.

The second incident occurred at Dulles International Airport in March, and involved a Trans States Airlines Embraer jet. In this instance, the pilots forgot to turn the second engine on, and didn't realize it until the plane was ready to take off and in full throttle. Trans States Airlines says it is investigating the incident.

Pilots typically turn only one engine on while taxiing in order to save fuel. However, the second engine should be turned on when the plane taxis around to the active runway. Checklists are meant to make sure that the second engine is turned on before the plane begins to accelerate. Obviously, these errors were very serious, and the fact that both were caused by distraction or lack of attention is a cause for concern.

One thing California plane crash lawyers, airline representatives and federal agency officials seem to agree on is that there is very little technology can do to make pilots more professional or more attentive to their jobs. The NTSB is advocating the establishment of a self regulating code of conduct that will encourage airline pilots as well as air traffic controllers to take greater responsibility for their actions.

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