Don’t forget the landing gear

Seems like a pretty simple part of the process if you’re an airline pilot, right? After all, landing without the gear down is generally not the normal approach to arrivals and it is something that these pilots have been doing a couple dozen times each month for years. Turns out that it is still confusing to a few of them.

The union representing pilots at United Airlines has circulated a 101 page memo generated internally to members of Congress critical of the new company’s management and training policies, suggesting that they are skimping on safety in the effort to provide training on policy alterations needed to unify the policies of United and merger partner Continental. Among the concerns cited, nearly forgetting to lower the landing gear is on the list. Others have suggested that the changes have caused them to not follow taxi instructions from ATC while on the ground.

The document, dated Nov. 10, lambasts United for using only individual, computer-based training to help United pilots absorb a "large volume of procedural changes, some of which are quite complex," without including classroom work or practice sessions in flight simulators.

"United’s training regime is the equivalent of the Ringling Brothers Circus introducing a new trapeze routine and training the artists via computer," says the document.

This move follows efforts by the pilots to get the training policy amended in court, a case that was rather quickly dismissed as "speculative" and the FAA has insisted that they are monitoring the training regimen.

I’m all in favor of getting the right training, but I cannot see how getting Congress involved is a way to make anything good happen.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


  1. Disagree, I think getting Congress involved is absolutely the next step, their constituents want the pilots to be trained properly… I myself as a 1K-MM on UA do NOT want computer training, I want them in simulators practicing, imagine learning to drive or how to handle a skid by a computer telling you what to do.

    No, this is the next step, Congress has already had enough of the airlines skimping and I agree with this move.

    1. Yes, Scott, everyone want the pilots properly trained. That’s not the point here. The issue is whether Congress should be telling the FAA what is considered valid training or whether the FAA should be permitted to figure that out on their own. Besides, the CBT isn’t teaching them how to fly so the analogies you’ve drawn to “learning how to drive” are quite far off. But I certainly did do a decent amount of studying in terms of what the rules of the road were in books before someone handed me the keys and let me loose on the highways, so I’m pretty comfortable in the assertion that some combination of hands on and CBT will work just fine. And that’s what the pilots are getting.

  2. It is hard to believe that there are not internal methods to communicate with the training pilots and discuss the training.

    Can this be anything other than a tactic by the pilots union to try to gain leverage in their negotiations for a unified contract? Are the union’s issues primarily with management, or is this also between the UA & CO branches of the union?

    In any event, I agree with Seth that Congress is almost certainly not the right arbiter of pilot training procedures.

  3. This is ridiculous and frivolous. I hope it gets thrown back in their face and does them lasting damage. It’s people like these pilots, and others who misuse judicial and political processes, who do untold damage to our competitiveness.

    Having said that, it does not reflect well on the management of both legacy carriers to reach this sort of stage with their employees.

  4. I just completed my annual “harrassment in the workplace” training – a computer based class. I will now be contacting my congressional representatives to ensure that next year’s installment will be simulator-based.

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