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FAA Faults Delta Pilots, Cites Lapses of Discipline in Cockpit

September 19, 1987|From the Washington Post

WASHINGTON — The Federal Aviation Administration criticized Delta Air Lines pilots Friday for frequent lapses of crew discipline, breakdowns in communications and poor crew coordination.

Ten FAA inspectors who rode in the cockpits of 116 Delta flights during a five-week inspection said that they observed a variety of pilot lapses, including:

--Arriving at the cockpit without enough time to perform preflight duties in an orderly manner.

--Confirming instructions from air traffic controllers when the co-pilot was not listening.

--Pushing the plane away from the gate with passengers standing in the aisle.

--Making company-related calls or public-relations announcements to passengers while below 10,000 feet.

Distracted by Noise

Even more frequently, the inspectors said they found that crew members minimized the use or importance of cockpit checklists. On nearly every flight, crews were distracted by noise from radio speakers and in some cases they missed air traffic calls. The FAA recommended that crew members use headsets.

"Maybe individually, these things are not serious, but taken as a whole, they show a pattern that is of concern to us," said Fred Farrar, an FAA spokesman.

Delta said in a statement that "some elements" of the FAA's review paralleled earlier findings of the company's internal investigation. A spokesman said that the company has taken actions to correct some of the problems cited.

Incidents Led to Review

The FAA launched the review of Delta's pilot program after a string of incidents last July in which Delta pilots landed in the wrong city, on the wrong runway, inadvertently shut down both engines of a two-engine jetliner while taking off over the Pacific from Los Angeles and nearly collided with a jumbo jet over the North Atlantic after straying 60 miles off course.

The FAA noted that Delta, the country's fourth-largest airline, has an excellent reputation in the industry and said inspectors found no evidence that Delta crews are "either unprofessional or purposefully negligent."

Each of the July incidents is being investigated separately for possible enforcement action, the FAA said.

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