NTSB Safety Recommendations for Omission in Pilot Training

Pilot Training Omission

There are a couple of recommendations made in response to industry-wide safety issues that involved the omission of pilot training on transport-category airplanes. The National Transportation Safety Board has found that many pilot training programs do not include information about structural certification requirements for the rudder and vertical stabilizer on transport-category airplanes. Even at speed below the design maneuvering speed, the NTSB found that sequential full opposite rudder inputs may result in structural loads exceeding what is addressed in the requirements. Some airplane pilots may think that the rudder limiter systems installed on most transport-category airplanes that limit rudder input from overloading the structure prevent sequential full opposite rudder deflections from damaging the structure. Structural certification requirements for transport-category airplanes do not take maneuvers into account and the sequential opposite rudder inputs can produce loads higher than required for certification and exceed the structural capabilities of the airplane.

November 12, 2001, an American Airlines flight was destroyed after crashing into a residential area following takeoff. Prior to the impact, the vertical stabilizer and rudder separated from the fuselage, leaving the 2 pilots, 7 flight attendants, 251 passengers, and 5 people on the ground dead.

  • Carefully review all existing and proposed guidance and training provided to pilots of transport-category airplanes concerning special maneuvers intended to address unusual or emergency situations and, if necessary, require modifications to ensure that flight crews are not trained to use the rudder in a way that could result in dangerous combinations of sideslip angle and rudder position or other flight parameters.
  • Require the manufacturers and operators of transport-category airplanes to establish and implement pilot training programs that: (1) explain the structural certification requirements for the rudder and vertical stabilizer on transport-category airplanes; (2) explain that a full or nearly full rudder deflection in one direction followed by a full or nearly full rudder deflection in the opposite direction, or certain combinations of sideslip angle and opposite rudder deflection can result in potentially dangerous loads on the vertical stabilizer, even at speeds below the design maneuvering speed; and (3) explain that, on some aircraft, as speed increases, the maximum available rudder deflection can be obtained with comparatively light pedal forces and small pedal deflections. The FAA should also require revisions to airplane and pilot operating manuals that reflect and reinforce this information. In addition, the FAA should ensure that this training does not compromise the substance or effectiveness of existing training regarding proper rudder use, such as during engine failure shortly after takeoff or during strong or gusty crosswind takeoffs or landings.

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