FAA revamps cockpit program for air traffic controllers

Posted: 1 August 2011 | FAA | No comments yet

Air traffic controllers will once again be able to ride in aircraft cockpits with commercial pilots…

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The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced that effective today air traffic controllers will once again be able to ride in aircraft cockpits with commercial pilots as part of a voluntary education program. The Flight Deck Training program is designed to improve safety by giving air traffic controllers a greater understanding of the pilots’ experience and workload in the cockpit.

“We’ve worked together to create a credible and secure flight training program that will enhance safety through increased education,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

“This program gives our new generation of air traffic controllers a chance to see and hear what the pilot is experiencing so they know exactly what is happening on the other end of the microphone,” said FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt. “As a pilot, I think this important training will give controllers a richer picture of the airspace system.”

The Flight Deck Training program replaces a previous program called Familiarization Training, or FAM trip, which was suspended in 2001. The FAA worked closely with the Transportation Security Administration and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) to develop the new program. Because it is designed to enhance the controller’s understanding of the air traffic system and specifically how air traffic specialists interact with the flight deck crew, controllers will always be on duty during training and cannot take the training in conjunction with any leave. Controllers will be limited to two training trips in a calendar year instead of the eight that were permitted under a FAM trip, and controllers will not be allowed to fly to the same airport on consecutive flights. A controller must have advance approval to participate and must also submit an itinerary, as well as medical and security information. Foreign travel is not permitted.

Once approved, the controller must present unique identification to access the cockpit. During the flight, the controller must complete pre-approved training objectives as he or she observes the flight crew. Examples include aircraft preparation procedures prior to the flight, taxi instructions and procedures, departure delays and ground stops, types of approaches, enroute weather and flow constraints.

Flight Deck Training is being introduced as a pilot program that the FAA will evaluate and monitor over the next six months.

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