MONTREAL (Reuters) – Canada’s decision to allow some pilot training normally performed in simulators to be conducted in the air because of coronavirus is facing opposition from pilots afraid of increased risk in the cockpit.
Regulators globally are granting extensions on pilot medical licenses, along with exemptions for certain training requirements, as hard-hit carriers wrestle with slumping traffic which is expected to result in a $84 billion loss for the industry in 2020 because of the pandemic.
But pilots are specifically pushing back against short-term exemptions granted in June by regulator Transport Canada.
“Each exemption in itself may not significantly reduce safety but when combined with several other exemptions, it can result in a significant overall reduction of safety as well as fail to meet international standards,” Air Line Pilots Association Canada President, Captain Tim Perry, told Reuters.
One exemption flagged by pilots allows proficiency checks, which are required training to fly planes, to be conducted on an airplane without passengers if a simulator is unavailable.
Such checks are safer to do in a simulator because pilots perform riskier maneuvers like an engine-failure after takeoff, said U.S. aviation consultant Kit Darby.
“There is some risk in those exemptions,” he said.
The International Federation of Air Line Pilots’ Associations (IFALPA) is “adamantly opposed” to planes being used for training normally conducted in a simulator, IFALPA training expert Captain Glen Finch said by email.
“The degradation in safety and reduced quality of training is unacceptable.”
Transport Canada told Reuters on Wednesday it has provided considerable guidance for operators using the exemption to “enable the safe conduct of maneuvers such as an engine-failure after take-off.”
The regulator added it was “unlikely” that large carriers like Air Canada and Onex Corp-owned WestJet would use this exemption because they have ready access to simulators.
Perry said the size of the carriers using the exemption did not matter because there should be “one level of safety for all.”
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