Aviation, Germanwings, Pilot Trustworthiness

Lufthansa Ab Initio Training Part III

By Camilo on May 21, 2015 0 Comments

Please see here for Part I and here for Part II of this series. Today’s post is the last.

When I viewed Slide 8 of Lufthansa’s presentation to the NTSB, my curiosity was piqued by the length of the various stages in their ab initio pilot training program leading to a Multi-Crew Pilot License (MPL.) The different stages are interesting in comparison to what I remember from my Navy days.

Lufthansa MPL Training Program

Lufthansa’s Become an Airline Pilot Quickly Program

Stage 1, Theoretical Training (Ground School) lasts almost a year. In the Navy, Aviation Indoctrination (today it’s called Aviation Preflight Indoctrination) lasted about 6 weeks.

Stage 2, Flight Training, lasts four months. This is the stage with the most in common with the Primary Flight Training Stage in Navy flight school. The Navy version lasted about 6-9 months but had a lesser scope (if I recall correctly – the mists of time and all that.) We spent more time on “upset training” (stalls) in this stage. First we learned how to recover from power off stalls (stall in a glide) and approach turn stalls (stall in a turn with the landing gear and flaps down). Then we practiced these maneuvers ad nauseum for the rest of flight school. It worked: one night during the intermediate phase in the T-2C, I got near an approach stall in the landing pattern over Pensacola Bay at night, 500 ft. above the water. The rudder pedal shaker (a stall warning feature) came on unexpectedly. I reacted immediately- adding power, lowering the nose, and accelerating the T-2C out of the stall; I lost only 10-20 ft of altitude. My instructor said nothing. I’d been trained to extreme proficiency in that maneuver by the Navy. I don’t know how often students are drilled in stall recovery in Lufthansa’s program, but if the 2:50 hrs of upset recovery training represent one flight, that’s not enough. Stall recovery training has to be practiced again and again throughout the syllabus.

Stages 3 and 4 add 123 hours during 6.5 months of training. All in all, this program lasts 22 months and students fly about 237 hours, much of that in the simulator. At the end of flight school in the Navy, I had taken 24 months and flown more than 260 aircraft hours (I don’t remember the amount of simulator time.) Navy flight students of my day left flight school with more flight hours than Lufthansa’s ab intio MPL graduates do.

But nobody in the U.S. would ever assign a recently winged Naval Aviator to the cockpit of an airliner for want of experience. 260 hours – let alone fewer – would be a laughably low number for such a position.

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