Airline Pilots' Experiences in and Reactions to Their Check Rides: Results from a Nationwide, Representative Survey
Published in Proceedings of the 2003 Society of Automotive Engineers' World Aviation Congress and Display
Despite sensationalistic news reports that might lead one to believe otherwise, commercial aviation remains the safest form of mass transportation in the United States. In fact, the probability of surviving any given flight is greater than 99.99% (National Transportation Safety Board, 1994). This impressive safety record is due in part to the rigorous training and evaluation procedures that commercial pilots undergo.
The focus of this paper is on the individual-level, post-training evaluations which are also known as “check rides.” There are two major types of check rides in commercial aviation. Under traditional pilot training procedures (14 CFR Part 121), the check ride is known as a maneuver validation (MV). The MV requires each pilot to individually perform a series of critical maneuvers that are graded according to FAA and airline standards. Although the MV is conducted in a full crew environment, each pilot must demonstrate his or her individual skill proficiency on every maneuver. Typically, there is little or no emphasis on CRM skills during a maneuver validation. Moreover, by focusing on individual maneuvers with few contextual cues, the MV may have high physical fidelity but low psychological fidelity (Boehm-Davis, Holt, & Hansberger, 1999).
The purpose of this study was to assess the relative effectiveness of different approaches to checking pilot performance at the end of training: the maneuver validation (MV) and the Line Operational Evaluation (LOE). Because the LOE provides greater contextual cues and integrates CRM skills with technical skills, it should simulate typical line operations more accurately than a traditional maneuver validation. Therefore, we hypothesized that pilots would rate the LOE as more useful than the MV. The results presented below are part of a much larger survey of airline pilots’ experiences in and reactions to their professional training (Baker et al., 2002).