Leaked memo reveals errors as rusty Qantas pilots return to flying

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Qantas pilots are demonstrating poor performance and are prone to making mistakes, a leaked internal memo reveals. 

The memo, obtained by The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, discusses how pilots are routinely making minor missteps, such as mistaking altitude for airspeed and commencing take-off while the parking brake is still on. 

The memo notes a rise in the number of unstable approaches and instances where the crew have not realized that the aircraft has been overloaded. 

“Routine items that used to be completed with a minimum of effort now occupy more time and divert attention away from flying the aircraft,” heads of Qantas’ fleet operations say in the memo, according to The Sydney Morning Herald. 

The memo concludes that the break in operations caused by the COVID-19 pandemic “created a situation where expert pilots have lost recency and experienced a subsequent reduction in cognitive capacity.” 

This is not the first time where out of practice pilots have returned to work following the pandemic and problems have occurred. Such reports date back as far as summer 2020 and, although in general the pandemic resulted in the decrease of both the number and the proportion of accidents and incidents, rusty pilots have continued to be an issue. 

“It is highly unlikely that a pilot will forget how to fly an aircraft and it is highly unlikely a pilot will forget how to operate any of the flight controls. But a pilot may forget an action or a procedure as part of a sequence. It is also possible that proficiency of fine motor skills might be affected, such as the ability to make quick and accurate control column adjustments during a crosswind landing,” Brett Molesworth, an expert in aviation safety at University of New South Wales, Sydney, said in a university press release.  

Seeking to counteract such challenges, numerous airlines have initiated additional training and testing for their pilots.  

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