October 16, 2019

Cultural Differences in Airline Training, Experience and Decision-Making

Episode 6

Pilot training and confidence is everything when it comes to safety in the air according to this week’s guest, Captain Chinar Shah. She’s a professional pilot, flying for more than 19 years,13 as a pilot in the airline ranks including a number of months in the Boeing 737 Max.  
 
Shah used to fly for Jet Airways in India. She converted her license in the U.S. with the FAA and she has seen all sides of training in the United States and worldwide. 
 
In this week’s episode, Shah and the Flight Safety Detectives talk about the training, confidence, knowledge, steel nerves and experience it takes to be the best of the best. According to Shah, pilots need to know what “The Normal” is in the air so when there is an extraordinary dangerous situation, the pilot knows immediately what is wrong and how to correct it.
 
She says, “The concern here is the reaction to the malfunction, rather than the malfunction itself....You can’t have a complete power outage, for example, with only three minutes to land and not know what to do.”   
 
The culture of a country, the training and the airline may play a part in the way pilots react. Will a relatively new first officer with only 1,500 hours in the air comment on and help correct a mistake made in the cockpit by an experienced captain with more than 20,000 hours? She says, “There are times when I’ve seen people be completely submissive.”  
 
Shah has a deep respect for all of the professionals who inspect, repair and approve an aircraft before it takes to the air. She says, “I’ve always had great rapport with engineers and mechanics and they always teach you a thing or two about the airplane. Sure, it’s always the PIC (Pilot in Charge) who says whether the plane goes but it’s a collective decision.”
 
Shah started her flying in general aviation in India. She says that introduced her to a system she says might inhibit the growth of decision making skills because it is so restrictive. “[Overseas] they are very reluctant to let you go solo…In my opinion, that does hamper your growth as a pilot - your decision making.  In many parts of the world, you have someone telling you ‘do this, do that.’”

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