The Pandemic is Diminishing Pilots’ Flying Abilities

Last year, thousands of airline pilots were furloughed and suspended from their jobs due to the novel coronavirus. Many of these employees went through hard times and struggled to make a living during the pandemic last year. With improvements in this new year, numerous airline pilots are finally returning to the skies after a dramatic reduction of flights from 2020. However, serious problems have emerged, as many pilots have found their skills at flying to be a bit “rusty”. Many pilots’ skills at flying an aircraft have been mildly impaired due to a lack of recent practice, and this could mean serious issues for the near future in the aviation industry.

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Credit: CNBC

Since thousands of pilots have been away from their jobs for several months, many of them have reported being unclear on some aspects of flying a plane. Although many commercial pilots have been flying for several years now, their abilities can still be impaired from a long break. There are countless components and detailed procedures to flying a plane, so it’s not entirely the pilots’ fault; flying isn’t a permanent skill. During the past few months of returning to commercial aviation, there have been multiple reports of minor pilot faults from flying a plane. For example, one pilot damaged a part of a towing vehicle after forgetting to disengage the parking brake while pulling back from the gate. More recently, another pilot forgot to turn on the anti-icing mechanism on the plane, which could have caused the altitude and airspeed sensors on the outside of the plane to be blocked with ice. In another incident, a pilot landed at an airport without clearance from the air traffic control tower, which could have resulted in an aviation accident if another aircraft was on the runway. Additionally, one pilot had so much trouble landing that it took him three tries to get the aircraft successfully on the ground. These are only some of the few minor incidents among a dozen that have occurred since pilots have returned to flying. 

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Credit: AOPA

One of the pilots explained their faults in a statement by saying, “This was my first flight in nearly 3 months. I placed too much confidence in assuming that it would all come back to me as ‘second nature.’” This proves that pilots will still need training no matter how confident they are in their ability to fly an aircraft. The transition from idling at home to maneuvering a plane in a cockpit could present a couple of challenges regardless of how skilled one pilot is. Thankfully, no serious accidents have occurred so far from these small incidents, but it is definitely something airlines will need to deal with. All of these flights have landed safely without any problems, but that doesn’t mean this will be the case for all flights in the future. As for the pilots, there haven’t been severe consequences from these errors, since it is reasonable to forget things from a lack of practice.

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Credit: Pinterest


To resolve these problems, airlines are filing their pilots through refresher courses to replenish their flying abilities. Airlines are also hosting simulator sessions for their pilots to experience flying again. The FAA is also requiring pilots to perform certain flight maneuvers, such as landing and taking off, within brief time periods to keep their skills sharp. Pilots coming back from a furlough or some other break are being refreshed to properly fly a plane through these programs. Practice is required to fully restore the abilities of a pilot, and airlines are working to ensure that all pilots are properly trained before returning to the industry. 

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Credit: Boeing

After all these new insights on the qualification of pilots to fly, is flying still a safe mode of transportation, and should passengers be worried at all? The answer is still a yes! Despite these small mishaps from pilots over the past few months, flying is still a safe mode of transportation. To be a commercial pilot in the first place, one must have thousands of hours of flight time. Even though pilots may still commit these small mistakes when flying, the likelihood of crashing is still highly unlikely. Pilots will still have the general sense and understanding of how to fly a plane. It’s just the small details that they might forget to do when coming back from a break. Even if a pilot forgets a major component of flying, there is still no need to worry since pilots are being retrained to fly. With many pilots back in the air, the aviation industry is one step closer to being fully recovered again.


Cover image credited to Getty Images

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