Pilot, Controller Professionalism Must Improve, Agency Says
U.S. air-traffic controllers and pilots must improve their professionalism, the National Transportation Safety Board said in publishing its annual list of “most wanted” safety improvements.
The NTSB made professionalism a new focus area, containing 19 existing recommendations, because the agency “felt not enough attention was being given to them individually,” board member Robert L. Sumwalt said in an interview today after a news conference about the list.
Nine air-traffic controllers have been reported as sleeping on the job by the Federal Aviation Administration this year, and the NTSB has found that unnecessary conversations between pilots contributed to a crash near Buffalo, New York, in 2009. Southwest Airlines said yesterday it had suspended a pilot without pay after a profane rant was picked up by a cockpit microphone.
“When you look at them individually you think, ‘Well, that was a case of poor professionalism,’ but when we look at them all strung together, it truly is a systemic issue that needs to be addressed,” Sumwalt said.
The NTSB is an independent government agency responsible for investigating transportation accidents and making safety recommendations, which are not binding.
Professionalism was “a fair target” for the NTSB, given recent incidents, said David Ross, chairman for government affairs for the Coalition of Airline Pilots Associations. The group, based in Washington, represents about 28,000 commercial pilots. Ross and Carl Kuwitzky, president of the coalition, declined to comment further, saying they hadn’t read the specific recommendations.
The NTSB also listed a need for more improvement in combatting fatigue. “Humans were not designed to deal with round-the-clock operations,” board member Mark Rosekind said at the news conference.
Numerous fatal bus crashes early this year could have been prevented with mandatory safety standards, board Chairman Deborah A. P. Hersman said. “Without mandatory safety standards for motorcoaches operated in the U.S., we will continue to see serious injuries and needless fatalities,” Hersman said in a video announcement played at the news conference.
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