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Thu, Sep 24, 2009

Babbitt Testifies Before House Transportation Subcommittee

Outlines Call To Action On Airline Safety And Pilot Training

FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt testified Wednesday before the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Subcommittee on Aviation, to explain the agency's "Call to Action" on airline safety and pilot training.

Babbitt said the Call to Action came June 15, and was designed to encourage the aviation industry in the U.S. to come together to share their best practices across the board and implement actions known to improve safety. The FAA received a wealth of information from the Call to Action, he said, and is taking several steps to use that information to make the industry and traveling public safer.

FAA made the creation of a new flight and rest rule based on fatigue science a high priority, Babbitt said, with an aggressive timeline.  FAA chartered an aviation rulemaking committee (ARC), which began meeting in July 2009.  The ARC, which consisted of representatives from FAA, industry, and labor organizations, was charged with producing recommendations for a science-based approach to fatigue management by September 1, 2009. "I am pleased to report to you that the ARC met its charge and that we are currently reviewing its recommendations," Babbitt told the committee. "Although our review is ongoing, I would also like to share with you how pleased I am with the work that we accomplished in the ARC.  While some details remain unresolved, the ARC gave us a broad philosophical framework that will form the basis for our NPRM."

FAA Administrator Babbitt

He also discussed in depth a two part "Focused Inspection Initiative" which required FAA inspectors to meet with the carrier’s director of operations, director of safety, and company officials responsible for flight crewmember training and qualification programs. The purpose of these meetings was to determine the carrier’s ability to identify, track, and manage low-time flight crewmembers and those who have failed evaluation events or demonstrated a repetitive need for additional training. Inspectors also looked at whether the carrier adopted the suggestions in Safety Alert for Operators (SAFO) 06015 to voluntarily implement remedial training for pilots with persistent performance deficiencies.

The second part of the initiative, which is currently underway, has inspectors conducting additional inspections to validate that the carrier’s training and qualification programs meet regulatory standards in accordance with FAA guidance materials, including, among other items:

  • Review the entire performance history of any pilot in question;
  • Provide remedial training as necessary; and
  • Provide additional oversight by the certificate holder to ensure that performance deficiencies are effectively addressed and corrected.

Babbitt said he expects the second part of the focused inspection initiative to be completed by September 30.

Other items in the "Call to Action" included training program review guidance and mentoring. Babbitt reiterated the call for air carriers to require pilots to disclose all FAA records, and for labor organizations to foster a climate of professionalism. Babbitt also outlined a series of regional safety forums which have already held around the country to discuss the Call to Action initiatives, listen to stakeholder comments, and seek ideas for and commitments to additional actions in the areas in which FAA is already taking specific action.

Babbitt said a final report is due out December 31st based on the Call to Action meeting, regional safety forums, results of the focused inspection initiative, and other actions. The report will include performance metrics for auditing and assessing progress. But, he said the biggest factor affecting safety:  professionalism in the workplace. "Safety begins at the top, but whether one has a wrench in his or her hand, sits at a yoke or carries a clipboard, wears a headset or works in the galley, safety is everyone’s responsibility," Babbitt told the committee. "In spite of this, we have not seen the required level of professionalism consistently from the aviation industry across the board.   Although professionalism prevails in the vast majority of the aviation workforce, it is not uniform throughout the industry. The standards are the same, the training is the same, but the mentality is not the same, and this is what we have to change."

FMI: www.faa.gov

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