The pilots who haven’t flown in a long time owing to the COVID-19 pandemic are making mistakes, according to an internal memo of Qantas Airways. According to Qantas, Qantas pilots make mistakes like taking off with the parking brake on or needing additional time for standard procedures.
The issues are detailed in an internal Qantas letter obtained by the Herald and The Age. They highlight the difficulties that airlines worldwide are encountering as out-of-practice pilots return to duty after being stood down.
The heads of Qantas’ fleet operations claim the pandemic’s two-year disruption produced a situation where skilled pilots have lost recency and experience a consequent loss in cognitive ability.
Qantas Airways reports flying errors while on the ground, mid-air
Qantas airline recognises a flow-on effect for flight crews’ focus and familiarity with the operation when the flying drastically reduced. The traditional tasks that used to be accomplished quickly now take up more time and draw focus away from piloting the plane. Qantas Airways’ flight operations team looks for systemic or recurring events, which is ‘particularly crucial considering the disrupted period of operations we’ve had over the last 19 months.’
Some of the common errors repeated while the aircraft were on the ground included ‘starting take-off with park brake set’ and ‘misidentification of altitude as airspeed’, which reveals the review of recent trends from Qantas pilot reports.
According to Qantas memo, on-ground threats included incorrectly positioned switches on cockpit panels and’ external inspection events .’ Since Qantas pilots of a Qantas 787 aircraft forgot to remove gear pins before departure, they could not lower the plane’s landing gear shortly after take-off from Sydney in June.
While in the air, there were pre-flight switching problems that eventually led to larger in-flight issues. The memo also mentioned ‘continuing shaky approaches’ and ‘crew looking back on the event’ and not knowing they were overloaded or had lost situational awareness.
Mick Quinn, an ex-head of safety at Emirates and a former manager of air-safety investigation at Qantas, said it was tough for pilots to return to the cockpit after long periods away, but one answer for airlines was to increase training and time spent in flight simulators.