Sim Instructors Can Spot Design Flaws and Help Prevent Accidents

I read an accident report today, the one issued by the UAE authorities following the ditching of the AW139 with a failed oil cooler fan. This preliminary report, no doubt, as with many previous accident reports, will be followed by a final version and with it will come some recommendations.

These pearls of wisdom are, of course, after the event. They may help others to avoid a similar mishap, but they will do nothing to help those involved in the original accident.

After reading the report, I thought it might be a useful contribution to the cause of ‘flight safety’ to highlight the valuable input sim instructors can make when it comes to identifying what the experts call ‘latent failures.’ These are system faults that may one day lead to an incident or accident and are often known about but never viewed critically enough to warrant the expense of doing something about it. Surely it would be better to be wise before an event than wise after it.

For example, the cockpit of the AW139 has three push-buttons annotated with the abbreviation ‘NAV.’ Now I can’t speak for others but what I see during my work as a sim instructor is that this causes multiple cases of confusion in the multi-crew scheme of things. One such label is on the Guidance Control Panel, another on the FMS Control Panel and a third on the Display Control Panel.

If the regulatory system were tuned in to detecting latent failures that were missed at the initial certification phase then surely there would be a mechanism to harvest the experience of sim instructors who do nothing more than observe pilots at work in the cockpit all day every day?

The Pilot is The Key to a Successful Product

I was discussing the state of the training world with a colleague from another ATO last week, and he remarked how difficult it was convincing manufacturers that high-quality training adds to their product. They seemingly want to cut costs in training when any trainer will tell you that is a profoundly counterproductive move. He went one step further and suggested that rather like a beautifully crafted computer, a helicopter designed for war was about as useful as a trapdoor in a canoe if it relied on ineffective software.

The comparison seemed incomplete until he went on to explain that in the case of a complex military helicopter the software he was talking about wasn’t in the Flight Management System but in the pilot’s seat. “Where’s the point in building a machine that’s a work of art and perfect in every way if the end user cannot make it perform,” I replied that there quite a few holes in the ground in various parts of the world that certainly testified to some weaknesses in training delivery.

SFI’s – Are We Preparing Them For The Job To A High Enough Standard?

Has the world gone mad? We appear to have accepted that having the correct NUMBER of flight instructors is more important than ensuring that we have the right QUALITY of flight instructors. There are many, many TRI’s out there who have not had the benefit of a full FI training course (two weeks versus two months) but have managed to progress and become extremely effective members of any ATO team. Unfortunately, this is largely because they were able to learn on the job and become, by their own efforts, and despite the regulatory system, very good flight instructors. Wouldn’t it be cool if we set out to create very good flight instructors from the get-go?

It is a reality that the only people capable of interacting with the pilot workforce in a truly professional way are the cohorts of flight instructors employed to train and check them. Having made that point, we can observe that the number of aviation managers with extensive instructional experience is remarkably low. Does this mean that management will be handicapped in their attempts to modify or develop the philosophies they wish to be applied in the cockpit? Well, it certainly won’t help.