A preliminary investigation by safety officials has found
that poor pilot training – not windshear
– was at fault in the recent Lion Air crash in Indonesia, raising concerns
about human error and the role it plays in air crashes.
On 13 April, two pilots operating a Lion Air Boeing 737
undershot a runway at Ngurah Rai Airport and crashed into the waters off Bali. Preliminary
findings from the investigation found that a 24-year-old captain could not
see the runway upon descent and was forced to hand over control of the plane to
a co-captain at 46m – below the minimum altitude considered safe. While
a full investigation is not yet complete, the preliminary findings have ruled
out any fault with the aircraft.
Pilot error refers to any action or decision – or lack of
proper action – made by a pilot that plays a role in an accident. This may
include a simple mistake, a lapse in judgment or failure to exercise due
diligence. There are two
types of pilot error, according to Aviation Safety Magazine: tactical
errors, which are related to a pilot’s poor actions or decisions, often caused
by fatigue, inebriation or lack of experience; and operational errors, related
to problems with flight instruction and training. In the case of the Lion Air
incident, it appears both lack of experience and poor training may have played
In fact, pilot error is the leading cause of commercial
airline accidents, with close to 80% percent of accidents caused by pilot
to Boeing. The other 20% are mainly due to faulty equipment and unsafe,
weather-related flying conditions.
Although policies put in place to reduce pilot error are not
universal across the world, there are varying guidelines about how long a pilot
can captain a flight, how many co-pilots should be present and how many hours a
pilot can fly before taking mandatory breaks. There are also varying guidelines
about how many hours of training pilots must complete, below what altitude they
should not hand over control of a plane and when they should abort landings.
report has recommended that Lion Air implement several safety measures,
including reviewing “the policy and procedures regarding the risk associated
with changeover of control at critical altitudes or critical time”.