Airline Safety Brought into Question As Pilots Might Have Turned ‘Rusty’ After Being Grounded for So Long

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You’ve probably heard the phrase “It’s like riding a bike”, meaning once you learn to do something, you’ll never forget it or lose that skill.

But have you ever tried riding a bicycle after years of not pedalling?

I recently tried to do just that and discovered that the taste of cement is not as bad as you think.

I might be an anomaly, of course. Most people would easily ride a bike after years of not doing so, as long as they previously learned that skill.

But what about flying an aircraft after months away from the cockpit?

Airline Safety Brought into Question As Pilots Might Have Turned ‘Rusty’ After Being Grounded for So Long

An incident involving an Indonesian flight has sparked concerns that pilots may be a little “rusty” when they return to their cockpits after an extended period of grounded flights.

On 15 Sep, a Lion Air aircraft ferrying 307 passengers and 11 crew to Medan momentarily veered off the runway after landing.

Thankfully, no one was injured in the incident.

It was later discovered that the pilot hadn’t flown at all since 1 Feb, and had flown less than three hours in the previous three months.

As you know, a multitude of airlines across the world have been forced to ground flights due to border restrictions, leaving pilots without any practice in the skies.

The Lion Air aircraft involved was an Airbus SE A330, which doesn’t have a simulator. That’s why pilots are typically trained at third-party facilities in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.

But with border restrictions in place, these facilities have been difficult to access.

And a lack of flight time can certainly affect one’s proficiency.

As one aviation safety consultant explained:

“Being away from flying for such a long time brings in some complacency. Add loss of income, uncertainty about jobs or the future of the airline, that brings in additional stress. With an increase in stress levels, proficiency drops.”

Lack of Flight Time Could Have Caused Karachi Crash 

Back in May, a Pakistan International Airlines Airbus jet crashed into the city of Karachi, killing all but two of the 99 people on board.


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Patrick Ky, a top aviation-safety official, believes pilot rustiness may have played a part in the crash.

“The pilots did not seem to be as fluent in the way they were conducting their flights as they should have,” he said. “If you haven’t flown for three months, six months, you need to be retrained in some way in order to come back.”

Moreover, Pakistan’s Minister for Aviation, Ghulam Sarwar Khan, said “overconfidence and lack of focus” on the part of the pilots may have been to blame for the crash.

The pilots were reportedly discussing how the coronavirus affected their families during the flight, and were not focused on their jobs.

According to Bloomberg, the Federal Aviation Administration has sent over 50 warnings to air carriers in May alone

Hopefully, this is something all airlines look into before their pilots take to the skies again.


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Featured Image: Komenton / Shutterstock.com

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