Training with stress July 23, 2012 at 8:48 am

Bloomberg draws some lessons from the report on the crash of Air France 447 for US pilot training. 447 failed due to a high altitude stall.

Pilots of small planes practice diagnosing and recovering from stalls using actual aircraft, but it’s too risky and expensive for the major airlines to do this in their planes, which can cost as much as a few hundred million dollars apiece. Thus, high-altitude conditions need to be programmed into scenarios on the flight simulators that airline pilots use to train.

Second, the report found that pilots aren’t thoroughly trained to deal with sudden developments. Flight 447’s pilots were confounded when they lost airspeed readings because of a malfunctioning part; one of the pilots inadvertently put the plane into the stall that doomed it. French investigators wrote that training scenarios are too familiar to pilots and don’t sufficiently surprise them or test them with harrowing situations. In light of this observation, American aviation officials would do well to scrutinize the simulations used by U.S. airlines to make sure they’re challenging and ever- changing.

Reading this, it struck me how useful it would be to develop stress scenario training for central bankers. It would not be easy to design a simulator flexible enough to cope with a wide range of policy reactions, but it would be a great tool once you had it. You could have historical scenarios from the panic of 1825 through the Great Depression to Swedish and LTCM crises and imaginary ones like Euro breakup or the failure of a triparty repo clearer.

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