Rusty pilots admit they are making mistakes because of a lack of flying time

David Millward
·2 min read
"Rusty pilots" admit they are making mistakes because of lack of flying time - Michael H Stone
"Rusty pilots" admit they are making mistakes because of lack of flying time - Michael H Stone

Airline pilots are making mistakes because they have become rusty because of the lack of flying time during the coronavirus pandemic.

Dozens of pilots have told NASA’s Aviation Safety Reporting System that they have made errors since getting back into the cockpit.

On one occasion a pilot forgot to disengage the parking brake when pulling away from the gate.

Another pilot struggled to land a plane in heavy wind, only succeeding in doing so at the third attempt.

Other incidents included a first officer forgetting to turn on the de-icing system, which ensures that the altitude and speed sensors operate properly.

The coronavirus pandemic has wrought havoc on the aviation industry with thousands of flights being grounded as demand for air travel slumped.

Also, the Boeing 737 Max, which was grounded in March 2019 after two crashes, only returned to the skies last month.

According to the aviation analytics company Cirium, nearly a third of the world’s passenger jets have been parked either in central Australia or the Mojave Desert in California.

Rusty pilots admit they are making mistakes - Digital vision
Rusty pilots admit they are making mistakes - Digital vision

It has seen pilots being laid off as airlines try to weather the financial storm. American and United Airlines, two of the biggest carriers, has sent 32,000 staff on unpaid leave.

“It’s a real issue, there simply is not enough flying time for the number of pilots rostered,” aviation consultant, Bob Mann, told The Telegraph.

“That is particularly true of certain kinds of plane, like wide-bodied aircraft used for long-haul international flights.

“I think there is some complicity on the part of regulators.

“For example, pilots are expected to have conducted three take-offs and landings within 90 days.

“That is considered a minimum, but this has been waived during the pandemic.

“Regulators have also waived the period in which refresher training should be done because there is so little flying time and not enough pilots to conduct simulator training sessions.

“Normally you will want to avoid having an inexperienced pilot paired with an inexperienced first officer.”

That has proved difficult during the pandemic, Mr Mann added.

It’s like any skill, if you don’t practice regularly you are not likely to be as adept at it,” a pilot told the Telegraph.

“There is no question that people are worried what their performance is going to be like.”