06 September 2010

Chill Out Everyone on Ryanair's FA/Pilot Idea...

OK so read on...

There is a huge hue and cry over the proposal from Mr O'Leary on replacing the second pilot in a 737.

So let's analyze the issue and be sure we all understand it.

Let's deal with the current regulations. Cockpit distraction is a problem. So there is indeed a regulation that covers this. In 1981 the FAA enacted FAR 121.542 and FAR 135.100 to help curb the number of accidents related to cockpit distraction or interference. Commonly known as the "sterile cockpit rule," these regulations specifically prohibit crew member performance of non-essential duties or activities while the aircraft is involved in taxi, takeoff, landing, and all other flight operations conducted below 10,000 feet MSL, except cruise flight. NASA has some interesting details on this.

The issue of cockpit distraction achieved a lot of attention after the two Northwest Pilots overflew their destination which chatting about non-flying issues. In the past few years other examples of distraction of a different sort has emerged with a video of 2 pilots on board a French Airliner interacting with a Stewardess. If you want to find it - go look at the Sun UK news paper.

The Ryanair's CEO perspective is that on short flights the need for the second pilot is not great and during the critical moments when a second pilot is required a flight attendant can perform that function.

In all hoopla people have not dealt with the issue which is that there is nothing to prevent this. IF.... the Flight Attendant is a fully qualified person to engage in cockpit activity and then is able to fulfill other functions - why not?

Of course it is a little silly as which pilot qualified and current rated person would ever want to be hired as a FA? However stranger things have happened, Just this past June such an incident happened when a pilot on board an AA flight became incapacitated. Just by chance a pilot trained (but not current) Flight Attendant was among the crew. 61 year old Patti De Luna assisted in the process of landing an AA 767 in Chicago O'Hare - not one of the easiest airports in the world.

The simplest an easiest way to view it - is that as long as safety is not compromised then there should be no commercial reason as to why this could not be the case.

But since that is neither practical nor commercially viable - the idea is not going anywhere. So people - just chill out!



Andrew said...

The few times I was able to sit in the flight-deck jump seat during landing (sterile) not only was I prohibited from Doing anything, I was prohibited from Saying anything. Of course that was a DC9-30 and there was plenty for them to do.

Professor Sabena said...

Before the sterile cockpit became an issue - I was allowed in Airline cockpits riding jump seat if there was space as an airline employee. Actually since I actually did the flight attendant training I was qualified to help evac airliners. This included quite a few times on KL733 and 310s. But the best was a LOT TU134 landing at LHR at night. A BA 757 was more comfortable and the view in many cases just as great.

Sadly those days are gone. But it was a lot of fun.