Training Can Be the Difference Between Life and Death

Two recent airline accidents reveal how training is often the difference maker when it comes to emergency situations.

Lest anyone is still telling you that training and development isn’t critical during a time of tightened budgets and “right-sized” workforces, look no further than USA Today this week for evidence to the contrary.

According to an article in Tuesday’s edition, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced that the agency will be stepping up inspection of training programs for regional airline pilots in response to the crash of Continental Express Flight 3407 near Buffalo, N.Y., in February.

A National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigation of the incident highlighted a series of pilot errors leading to an engine stall that caused the plane to nosedive, killing all 49 people aboard, as well as one man on the ground. The NTSB investigation noted that the pilot and co-pilot may have lacked the proper training for flight conditions.

USA Today reported that Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood and FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt issued a joint statement that they will be seeking better pilot training, along with other safety improvements.

Contrast that story with the story of Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, who safely guided US Airways Flight 1549 to an emergency ditching into the Hudson River after a midair collision with a flock of birds that disabled both engines.

Besides 40 years of flight experience, Sullenberger has served as a safety and emergency instructor and accident investigator, and has remained committed to his own ongoing development and education throughout his career. In fact, he was reportedly studying the psychology of how a flight crew responds to emergency situations before his close encounter with the Hudson.

Sullenberger told CBS News anchorwoman Katie Couric that “for 42 years, I've been making small, regular deposits in this bank of experience: education and training. And on Jan. 15, the balance was sufficient so that I could make a very large withdrawal.”