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“Past years have demonstrated that "Loss of Control" (LoC) is still a major contributor to aviation accidents, including large transport aircraft accidents” EASA rightly states in the announcement of its Conference “Staying in Control” (Oct. 2011). And it is pilots who have to stay in control of of highly automated aircraft. But this basic fact apparently did not trigger EASA to inviting ECA’s safety experts to speak and share their operational experience. Instead, ECA will be there… to listen and learn why us, pilots, seem to be losing control.

ECA actually supports discussions on this important and complex safety issue. And as recent accidents highlighted again, pilot training and basic flying skills have shown to be key elements in this respect. The pilot community defined the need for more training of basic flying skills already a year ago when we co-organised the IFALPA Pilot Training Standards (IPTS) workshop in Paris in October 2010 (see IPTS position paper). As we reported in our May 2011 Cockpit News: Add to this the challenge to cope with the ever in-creasing automation on the flight deck. Key questions therefore arise: shall we train pilots to understand what the plane is doing and teach them to simply “manage” the airplane? Or shall we train pilots to be able to really fly the plane using the so-called “stick and rudder skills” used since the dawn of aviation? The answers will shape the future aviation safety level.”

What is it that makes a good pilot? What does the job require: aviators or system managers? The answer is that the job requires both skill sets and the ability to switch between the two as rapidly and frequently as the circumstances require. This of course means that core “stick and rudder” flying skills need to be better trained and IPTS also provides ways how this can be accomplished.

Is this the only solution on how to deal with loss of control? Probably not, but pilot training will have to be a big part of it. As will probably a fresh look at EASA’s proposal for new pilot licensing and training standards, to ensure pilot skills are strengthened rather than loosened.

As EASA says in its invitation “This Conference will enable the aviation community to meet and to share the most updated information related to this issue with highly knowledgeable aviation specialists in Aviation Safety from EASA, FAA, NASA, Industry and Investigation Boards.”. Isn’t it a pity that European professional pilots are not invited to share their daily, hands-on experience? It just might have brought something useful to the discussion.