- Some Qantas pilots returning to flying are making basic "errors" after being grounded during the pandemic, an internal company memo says.
- The memo, obtained by The Sydney Morning Herald, says some pilots were slower at routine tasks.
- The Australian airline told The Herald it's designed an "enhanced return-to-work programme" for pilots.
- For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.
Some Qantas pilots who were grounded during the Covid-19 pandemic have made basic errors since returning to flying, such as trying to take off with the parking brake engaged, according to an internal company memo obtained by The Sydney Morning Herald.
Some have also mistaken altitude readings for airspeed readings, the memo to Qantas staff says, as per The Herald.
The memo highlights the difficulties faced by pilots who were grounded for long periods during the pandemic before returning to work.
The heads of Qantas' fleet operations say in the memo that pilots who hadn't flown during the pandemic were slower with routine tasks and sometimes made "errors," The Herald reported. "Expert pilots have lost recency and experienced a subsequent reduction in cognitive capacity," the memo says, as per The Herald.
Recency refers to pilots carrying out a certain number of successful takeoffs and landings in a set period.
The fleet operations team says in the memo that errors listed in recent pilot reports included "commencing take-off with park brake set," "misidentification of altitude as airspeed," and "preflight switching errors that then led to larger in-flight issues," reported The Herald.
Qantas did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.
A Qantas spokesperson told The Herald that the airline recognised "very early" that it needed to tackle recency and refamiliarisation when its pilots returned to the air as travel picked up again, and that it had "designed an enhanced return-to-work programm fit for the unprecedented challenge facing our industry."
"Safety is our number one priority and all of the data shows that our pilots are coming back with the skills and confidence to do their job safely," the spokesperson said.
In the US, dozens of pilots, flight attendants, and other aviation staff have anonymously reported safety incidents related to flying during the pandemic through the Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS), a monitoring platform funded by the Federal Aviation Administration.
In one case reported to the ASRS, a first officer said they accidentally switched off the wrong engine for cooldown during a flight. "I believe not flying that much in the past year [due to] the pandemic played a factor into my error," the officer wrote.
In another case reported to the ASRS, a captain said a first officer "freshly back from a year leave" due to Covid-19 was flying their aircraft 800 feet higher than they should have.
In October, Qantas told Bloomberg that it had dedicated an entire team to getting pilots back in the air safely. Its Boeing 737 pilots have to attend a six-day course before flying again and a senior training captain sits in on their initial flights, Qantas said. The airline's A380 pilots also have to train on the ground and in the simulator for two days every 90 days, Qantas said.
At the start of the pandemic, pilots said it was difficult adjusting to flying lighter planes with fewer passengers.