Patt Morrison for May 19, 2010

NTSB panel explores why today’s pilots lack professionalism

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Pontus Lundahl/AFP/Getty Images

Future airline pilots may not be as responsible as passengers might like

Forget the allegedly minimal amounts of radiation you may be absorbing from those full-body airport scanners, we’ve got bigger fish to fry. Future pilots are likely to be less experienced, less ethical and in short supply, according to a panel of experts who testified in front of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) yesterday. Those long-term problems are thanks to the recession, fewer military pilots leaving for jobs with commercial airlines and an over-reliance on automated systems. The hearing continues today and tomorrow, in response to last year’s slew of high-profile aviation incidents, such as the crash of a regional airliner near Buffalo, N.Y. that killed 50 people, in which the conduct and judgment of pilots and controllers was called into question. The research since then has shown the major cause of most of those incidents was a general lack of professionalism in the industry. Experts from all areas of the field convene again today to figure out how to improve pilots’ code of conduct while flying on auto-pilot at 30,000 feet. In a somewhat out-of-character assessment, according the NTSB, it’s not all about more regulation. Patt checks in with some of the commissioners and their experts for a window into the future of flying.

Guests:

Debra Hersman, board member of National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB); she’s chairing this forum

Patrick Smith, commercial airline pilot and freelance journalist. He writes the weekly “Ask the Pilot” column for salon.com.


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