Greensboro - The investigation into Saturday's fatal crash of the 300-passenger Asiana Airlines Flight 214 in San Francisco continues today, as the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) will interview the four pilots on that plane. As new details emerge and speculation intensifies, local Triad pilots and flight school operators are explaining the logistics of pilot training and FAA protocol.
WFMY News 2 talked with personnel from the TAA flight training school in Greensboro, where pilots from around the world come to earn various degrees of pilot's licenses. One of the school's instructor pilots, MayCay Beeler, explained rules for pilot training and standard protocol are similar in both the U.S. and foreign countries. There are FAA rules for airline training in the U.S. where the FAA has jurisdiction, and those rules are very much the same in foreign countries, as all countries are governed by the International Civil Aviation Organization.
Former Air Force pilot, aviation attorney and part-time private pilot Bruce Brandon said, "The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is somewhat the standard for the world. Many nations copy the same requirements the FAA does. The FAA has that as a requirement-if you want to certify your airplane-you have to demonstrate... The airline has to prove that the passengers can get off the airplane within 90 seconds with half the exits blocked."
That 90-second rule is essentially universal and has been credited with saving the lives of all but two of the Asiana Flight 214 passengers. Survivors were able to evacuate before flames engulfed much of the plane.
In terms of pilot training, MayCay explained according to FAA regulations, pilots in training must initially go through months of extensive ground training. In that training, they learn standard operating procedures and complete intense coursework. Pilots in command then must complete proficiency checks or simulator training within six months of beginning to fly in actual airplanes. Upon starting to fly, each pilot in command must complete a line check-an examiner-supervised ride every 12 months for each new airplane type he or she flies.
Brandon explained pilot training is similar for pilots who operate private plans versus big commercial jets, like the Asiana Airlines Boeing 777. The automation systems are even similar. He said, "Generally speaking, flying is flying... It takes about the same amount of time to qualify, in my experiences in many different airplanes. You have to have two to three weeks of ground school, and then you have to go through two to three weeks of simulator training, and regardless of the airplane, those times don't vary a great deal. Then, of course, after the simulator you have to do the line experience, as well, and those are fairly consistent between airplanes."
A line check is an examiner-supervised flight each pilot must take every 12 months for each type of airplane the pilot flies.
Brandon told News 2 that though it is tragic two teenage girls lost their lives in the Asiana Jet crash, it is a miracle that almost 300 people did manage to survive. He said the survivors are a testament to the effectiveness of constantly-updated FAA evacuation protocol.
In regard to speculation that has been circulating about potential pilot error in that flight, Brandon said, "We still don't know the physical condition of the pilots. Were they extremely tired or not? The time zone difference is also a factor...rhythm, all those things come into play... It could have been a pilot problem, it could have been a malfunction of the flight management system, it could have been quite a lot of things, and that's why the SB (NTSB) will take quite a long time to fulfill this investigation to determine exactly what caused it."