January 9, 2007
Jet Engine Flaws, Inadequate Industry Training
Still a Concern
Pinnacle 3701 Sunshine Meeting Shows Progress Still Needed
WASHINGTON, D.C.— Capt. Wakefield Gordon, Chairman of the Pinnacle Master Executive Council of the Air Line Pilots Association, International, issued the following statement at the conclusion of the National Transportation Safety Board Sunshine Meeting on the Pinnacle Airlines Flight 3701 accident that took place on Oct. 14, 2004, in Jefferson City, Mo.
“First and foremost, we seek to honor our colleagues who lost their lives on that terrible day today by learning and applying every lesson we can from this accident. We are encouraged at the degree to which the Board explored the many complex factors leading to the loss of this aircraft.
“When the situation initially became hazardous, the pilots had every reason to believe that they would be able to restart the engines. If just one of the engines had restarted, this tragic accident would not have occurred.
“The pilots attempted to restart their engines utilizing the aircraft’s auxiliary power unit multiple times. The Board determined that both engines failed to restart because they had suffered ‘core lock,’ a safety risk previously known only to engine and aircraft manufacturers and about which the airline and the pilots knew nothing.
“While the FAA’s Special Airworthiness Information Bulletin, which was issued on June 2, 2005, instructs pilots about how to avoid the ‘core lock’ danger, it came far too late for our lost colleagues. Unfortunately, aircraft manufacturers have done woefully little since the accident to address the threat of core lock. The NTSB recommendations urging better information in flight manuals to help crews understand and cope with the core lock phenomenon are a solid step forward, as are recommendations addressing design and testing processes for engines. However, the FAA must act swiftly to ensure manufacturers and airline managements make the recommendations a reality.
“The Board’s deliberations made it clear that pilot training programs have not kept up with the realities of the marketplace. The same training methods are employed today as were used 15 years ago. Regional airlines are among the fastest growing segments of the airline industry and pilots often have less time to gain first-hand experience with an aircraft before assuming command. All carriers must provide comprehensive operational training to address this lack of hands-on experience and to better prepare their pilots for the transition to jet aircraft.
“Pinnacle Airlines has taken encouraging steps in instituting the non-punitive voluntary safety reporting programs that help identify aviation safety hazards before accidents occur. These programs will give airlines the ability to adjust training programs and focus more on areas where more detailed training is necessary. We look forward to working together to realize the potential of this important safety improvement.
“Other outstanding training issues exist. The Pinnacle Airlines 3701 accident provides proof that this aircraft will stall at 41,000 feet, yet some simulators do not accurately replicate that performance. In addition, effective high altitude stall recovery techniques are not fully trained. The crew performed the recovery exactly in the manner in which they were trained.
“Today’s meeting shows that we have not yet done all we can to resolve the core lock hazard and the training deficiencies that contributed to this accident. ALPA stands ready to work together with FAA and industry to help ensure a similar accident could not happen again.”
The Air Line Pilots Association, International is the largest airline pilot union in the world and represents 60,000 pilots who fly for 40 U.S. and Canadian airlines. Visit ALPA on the web at www.alpa.org.
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ALPA CONTACT: Linda Shotwell, (703) 481-4440