Unsettling news from this morning’s USA Today: When the paper analyzed federal flight accident records, they discovered that “More than half of the 522 fatalities in U.S. airline accidents since 2000” could be traced back to problems with the flight simulators that pilots use to learn how to fly commercial airliners.
While on the whole, flight simulators are a good thing for air safety, in that they allow pilots to log training hours without real-life passengers on board, current simulators oversimplify certain key aspects of flight — which is made worse in that many airlines don’t warn their pilots of the simulators’ limitations.
[M]any airline simulators, including Continental’s, made such takeoffs seem far easier than in the real world. To make matters worse, the airline and its trainers were never told the simulators were inaccurate, the safety board found.
Simulators revolutionized training starting in the 1970s by allowing airlines to train pilots almost exclusively on the ground. However, as realistic as they may seem, simulators are only as good as the data used to program them. Current simulators aren’t accurate when a plane goes out of control, which has prevented their use in training for the leading killer in commercial aviation.
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