Centralized curriculum | United Airlines CEO: Improved pilot training is our solution to safety incidents

United Airlines CEO: Improved pilot training is our solution to safety incidents

Improvements to training measures will be a crucial part of United Airlines’ response to a recent swathe of safety incidents, according to CEO Scott Kirby.

In a letter to employees released on March 18, Kirby highlighted plans to extend safety training for pilots and an upgraded learning system for employees.

“An extra day of in-person training for all pilots starting in May and a centralized training curriculum for our new-hire maintenance technicians,” have been planned, according to Kirby’s statement.

The letter follows a turbulent few weeks for the airline. Over the past two weeks, there have been multiple incidents on United Airlines flights, including a runway roll-off, a tire blowout, and a tire coming loose, forcing the planes to make emergency landings and evacuations.

As recently as last Friday, March 15, a United Airlines flight completed a journey from San Francisco, California to Medford, Oregon before an underside panel was noticed to be missing.

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“Unfortunately, in the past few weeks, our airline has experienced a number of incidents that are reminders of the importance of safety,” explains Kirby. “While they are all unrelated, I want you to know that these incidents have our attention and have sharpened our focus.”

The sharpened focus in this case will include reviewing each incident and identifying areas for improvement in its training.

“Our team is reviewing the details of each case to understand what happened and using those insights to inform our safety training and procedures across all employee groups,” the letter says.

Kirby and United Airlines are hoping improvements to its learning programs will help it to “continue to run and operation that puts safety first and make our employees and customers proud.”

Training, L&D, and HR teams are under the spotlight in America’s airline crisis

Many of the recent incidents have involved Boeing models, including the runway roll-off and tire incidents over the past two weeks.

The airplane manufacturer is under multiple investigations from the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA), following a midair door panel blowout in January and previous fatal crashes.

The FAA has told Boeing to improve its training programs which it found were in a “complex and in a constant state of change,” resulting in employees being unaware of the company’s safety culture and practices.

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Other than training improvements, Boeing has admitted there is “more work to do.” It recently announced a revamp to its bonus structure for workers in the Boeing Commercial Airlines unit, with quality and safety metrics now being weighted more heavily than financial performance.

Criticism of Boeing’s company culture including management structures that enable retaliation have also been pointed out by the FAA.

Congress and the FAA are working to improve the regulatory frameworks governing aviation safety. However, HR, L&D, and training teams at United Airlines, Boeing, and other aviation companies such as Alaska Airlines are at the heart of America’s airline crisis as investigations consistently reveal failures in the quality of employee training.

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