BAD TIMING: As Americans Gear Up For Post-Pandemic Travel, Pilots Report Feeling Rusty In Cockpit

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Commercial pilots are now blaming unprecedented pandemic down-time for in-flight mistakes with passengers on board. And while the latest safety data shows flying is the safest it has ever been, CNN analyzed publicly-available incident reports submitted by US flight crews. Pilots self-reported being “rusty” in at least 26 separate cases, including drifting from assigned altitudes and courses, aiming for the wrong runway, even landing without proper clearance from air traffic control. CNN aviation analyst Peter Goelz says these mistakes could be fatal. He says, “These these kinds of fairly mundane, what appear to be mundane errors, they really resulted in terrible events.”

Several airlines like American are re-training pilots at a simulator center in Dallas before they return to the flight deck. 29 year American pilot Curtis Joens recently returned from a company leave of absence due to the pandemic. He says, “We don’t just sit down and say, ‘okay start engines,’ and fly by the seat of our pants. We, there’s a checklist and a methodology for everything that we do, all the way from the preflight to starting engines, to taxi, to take off.”

Aamerican says day-to-day, there are at least 400 pilots that are in some sort of training environment.

Perhaps because of the lack of travel this past year, people are ready to get out and about. Expedia’s annual deprivation study found that 64 percent of respondents felt vacation deprived, and 42 percent had to cancel at least one trip in 2020 because of COVID. But to make up for that, they’re vowing to take more vacation days than usual this year. Which means an increase from the average eight days of vacation to 13.

This episode’s panel features:
WCCB TV’s Morgan Fogarty
WCCB News @ Ten anchor Drew Bollea
WCCB Sports anchor Zach Aldridge