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Babbitt Cites Pilot Professionalism In Flight 188 Incident

Calls The Minneapolis Overshoot 'A Very Bad Example'

FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt said the Flight 188 incident in which a Northwest jet overflew its intended destination by 150 miles only serves to reinforce his call for an emphasis on professionalism in the cockpit.

"The passengers aboard that airplane sat comfortably because they assumed that the people up front were paying attention," Babbitt said in a speech Wednesday to the International Aviation Club. "Being distracted by compound problems is always a risk in the cockpit, which is why the captain and the first officer are trained and professional paid positions. You get paid to be a professional. That’s actually the definition of the difference between being a professional and an amateur."

Babbitt said the incident is the symptom of a much bigger problem. ". I can’t regulate professionalism," he said. "With everything we know about human factors, there are still those who just ignore the common sense rules of safety. At the top of the list is something every pilot has heard over the years from their flight instructors: Remember to first always fly the airplane."

By contrast, he pointed to the example of US Airways flight 1549, which ditched in the Hudson River after a bird strike with no loss of life. " There was not one second of less than total concentration. That crew was the epitome of professionalism and a textbook case of focus by everyone, including the controllers. That is an example of being in the game especially when the stakes are so high. "There was not one second of less than total concentration. That crew was the epitome of professionalism and a textbook case of focus by everyone, including the controllers. That is an example of being in the game especially when the stakes are so high."

Babbitt told the International Aviation Club that the transition to NextGen needs to be a cooperative international effort. "It’s also clear that air traffic modernization can’t be an intercontinental competition. We have to work together to make sure that what’s on the drawing board is a good fit for the system too," he said. "That’s why the goal in our modernization efforts needs to be in the payoff:  NextGen and SESAR must deliver operational efficiencies. If nothing else, the dollar cost of fuel, the social cost of carbon and our focus on being green are proof enough that NextGen and SESAR need to be hand-in-glove each step of the way. And we are talking with other authorities around the globe about their plans for the future."

Babbitt emphasized that globalization will play a major role in the modernization of the air traffic system. "The point is simple," he said. "If any of us tries to go it alone, quite clearly, we’re not going to go as far as we need to. Without partnership, we simply can’t get there from here. Globalization of the world is here. Our industry must be in step with that movement."

FMI: www.faa.gov

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