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Foreign pilots should meet U.S. training standards, lawmakers say

July 10, 2013|By Richard Simon
  • An Asiana Airlines Boeing 777 takes off from Seoul. Federal officials are seeking tighter training rules for foreign pilots who fly in the United States.
An Asiana Airlines Boeing 777 takes off from Seoul. Federal officials are… (Ed Jones / AFP/Getty Images )

WASHINGTON — In the wake of the Asiana airliner crash, lawmakers on Wednesday called on federal authorities to extend to foreign pilots new requirements for increased training of U.S. pilots.

"There is no reason that American passengers should be put at risk by poorly trained pilots in other countries,’’ Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said at a Capitol Hill news conference.

While an investigation into the cause of the South Korean airliner’s crash landing last Saturday at San Francisco International Airport is still underway, Schumer said the accident demonstrates a "troubling pattern of pilot error.’’

He urged the Federal Aviation Administration, during an upcoming September meeting of a United Nations aviation body, to press foreign airlines flying in and out of U.S. airports to require their pilots to undergo the same training as U.S. pilots.

"If not, the FAA should consider limiting the carrier’s ability to fly in and out of the United States,’’ Schumer said. 

The FAA on Wednesday announced that by early next week a new rule will be in effect requiring first officers who fly U.S. passenger and cargo planes to have 1,500 hours of flight time — the same as captains — rather than 250 hours.

Schumer urged the agency to quickly complete work on another rule that would impose new requirements for pilot training, including how to better recognize and recover from stalls.  An FAA spokesman said the agency is committed to completing the rule by October, saying it will be "the most comprehensive change in pilot training for more than two decades.’’

The new regulations grow out of the 2009 Colgan Air crash, which killed 50 people near Buffalo, N.Y. Pilot training and fatigue were cited as factors in the crash. The FAA in December 2011 announced new rules designed to reduce fatigue.

"These tragedies must not pass with only sympathy and fact finding,’’ Schumer said. "We need to take what we learn and use that to improve pilot training, and crew member training and international safety standards.’’ He was joined at the news conference by Rep. Brian Higgins, a fellow New York Democrat.

In the San Francisco crash, attention has focused on the Asiana Airlines pilots, who were flying too low and slow during their final approach. It also was the pilot’s first landing in San Francisco in a Boeing 777.  Two people were killed and 182 were injured in the crash-landing.    

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richard.simon@latimes.com

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