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Command Failure Rates

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Command Failure Rates

Old 12th Jun 2007, 03:20
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Command Failure Rates

I often read about the high failure rates of initial Captain Candidates at Cathay on this forum. In order to provoke thought on this subject, I spoke with the FAA Principal Operating Inspector (POI) at the major airline I work for some insight.

In North America, a failure rate at a major airline is considered excessively high if it exceeds 15% of first time Captain upgrade candidates. It was not made clear to me over what time frame this 15% represents but the Director of Training indicated that it was less than a single quarter in its fiscal year. As a result, the FAA would conduct an investigation into the airline's training program. Any deficiencies or additions would then be instituted into the program to bring the failure rate below the 15%. The program would not necessarily be any easier; rather it would be more conducive to a better learning experience yet still fiscally sensitive to the airline. This type of program has been in place since the early 1990's.

With this in mind, I have a couple of comments and questions about what I am hearing about Cathay training. If you have a First Officer who has been through numerous checking events over the course of nearly a decade with Cathay, how can Cathay justify the high failure rate of initial Captain's? Have they really been unsafe over all those years as a co-pilot that would warrant them incapable of being a Captain? Is there any REAL oversight by a regulatory agency in Hong Kong to monitor abnormally high failure rates or do they even care? Is there any grievance procedure in place if a Captain candidate felt that they were being discriminated against?

60-80% of all accidents occurs as a result of poor group-decision making, ineffective communication, inadequate leadership and poor task management and has little to do with the technical aspects of operating in a multi-person cockpit or ATC operations area. In 1986 ICAO adapted a resolution that "In order to improve safety, OPERATORS must be made aware and RESPONSIVE to the importance of human factors in aviation through PROACTIVE learning and from the REACTION of others."

My point with this quoted comment from ICAO and from my personal experience as a Check Airmen is that failure rates are not entirely indicative of ill prepared candidates (as I so often read on Fragrant Harbor forum), but rather a reflection of a poorly constructed training environment. Is Cathay creating better Captains because they can recite from memory a dogmatic passage from an operations or systems manual? If simple mistakes in the training environment have consequences later in your career what kind of environment do you think that creates? Preventing candidates from communicating well for fear of retribution creates a potential accident scenario. Is Cathay really any safer than any other major airline? Why is Cathay culture like this? Why does it permeate into the training department?

My airline also has a hostile employer/management relationship but that is curiously completely absent in the training environment. Smarter people before me realized that our lives and families are worth more than petty politics. And so are yours.
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Old 12th Jun 2007, 14:34
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In Cathay Pacific a First Officer has to have exactly the same type rating and other ratings as the Captain. So the First Officer is checked against the same standards as the Captain by the Aviation Authority (CAD) check pilots in the on-going regulatory testing.

But to be a Commander in CX demands the highest standards of personal integrity, judgement and character which can be worlds apart from the mere ability to pole a hunk of tin around the skies, which is the minimum acceptable criteria for a First Officer.

CX might be wrong in demanding such high attributes from their Commanders, but that's how they have always done it!

As you point out, other airlines may operate to different standards.
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Old 12th Jun 2007, 15:07
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THE BEST FROM THE BEST FROM THE BEST.....................................

and the whole world is smiling........
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Old 12th Jun 2007, 15:37
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Hehe.
But to be a Commander in CX demands the highest standards of personal integrity, judgement and character
System obviously isn't perfect then. While most commanders are great, there are some weird individuals out there!
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Old 12th Jun 2007, 16:35
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Angel

Airbus Driver

I spoke with the FAA Principal Operating Inspector (POI) at the major airline I work for some insight.

We work under the HKCAD and they are privy to our training courses and all the changes that have been implemented over the last couple of years, all to try and get people through. I think there are major operation differences between a US major and Cathay Pacific one of which I believe is that we are NOT dispatched by Licensed Dispatchers and e.g. we do not check in with the company to see if we can continue a flight to our destination when crossing the N. Atlantic, as I have heard many a US flight do. Some people will unfortunately never make the grade, just like some never make it through flight school, but they are given a chance to prove themselves!
60-80% of all accidents occurs as a result of poor group-decision making, ineffective communication, inadequate leadership and poor task management and has little to do with the technical aspects of operating in a multi-person cockpit or ATC operations area.
I would change your "group" decision making to "Command" decision-making having taken into account all factors.
Is Cathay creating better Captains because they can recite from memory a dogmatic passage from an operations or systems manual?
Being able to quote the books verbatim is NOT what the company is looking for, but knowing where to find the information and how to apply it is very important.
Smarter people before me realized that our lives and families are worth more than petty politics.
Why do you think some of these decisions have been made! Would you like your family down the back when the company were not quite sure but passed them anyway?
from my personal experience as a Check Airmen is that failure rates are not entirely indicative of ill prepared candidates (as I so often read on Fragrant Harbour forum),
Well you sound a little naive if you believe everything your read on this forum!
By the way why are you shy of saying which "major" you work for, you know who we work for!!
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Old 12th Jun 2007, 16:59
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FlexibleResponse,
You can be my wingman anytime!
You idiot.
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Old 12th Jun 2007, 17:14
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Hey Flex,
But to be a Commander in CX demands the highest standards of personal integrity, judgement and character
Does that apply to the managers on the 3rd floor as well, or...
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Old 13th Jun 2007, 01:48
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Say what?

I have got to butt in. There are some people on another planet here, and I suspect that would be the 3rd floor planet called ......

Some of you guys sound like a PR firm!

Airbus_driver.

I personally know 7 guys who failed their command course. With the exception of 1, they all put in an incredible amount of work for their command course. Being ill-prepared is hardly ever an issue here at CX. They all know there is alot at stake. The historical failure rate just makes them even better prepared than ever these days. Your information regarding the program to do with failure rates is interesting. However, CAD have no real teeth here. It would be seen by CX as interfering. Again, CX simply do not have the political will to look inwards at themselves.

One could say that maybe they are just not command material. Well, once again, I know each and every one of these people and know that is not the case. Apart from one of the group, I have flown with each of them and have left them to it on their sectors. Definitely no problem there.

Vermin - get a life. Your drivel doesn't even warrant reading. Your racist remarks have no place here.

electricjetjock - I believe you should add command decision making. Not change it from group decision making. You are technically correct in what you say (CAD etc), but the difference in dispatching is really not a huge issue. 99% of the time, the decision is very straightforawrd as far as route, fuel etc goes. i.e. go the route the computer says, and take the fuel the flight plan says! As has been said previously, the acid test is whether you would trust the guy with your own family on board. I can tell you (but you know already (this part of comment deleted - a bit on the nose eh what?)) that there are many command failures I would have no hesitation in trusting them with my family.

The sad thing is that whether or not you pass a command course can depend on 2 very inmportant factors:

1. Who you get for your 3 and/or 4 Bar and extension sectors (if applicable), and

2. Who is on leave when your file goes around the training department prior to the final nod.

Last edited by newbie1972; 13th Jun 2007 at 09:10.
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Old 13th Jun 2007, 05:34
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Electricjetjock, nicely put & accurately stated which is a nice change for this Forum
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Old 13th Jun 2007, 09:08
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Yes

Just a further couple of points. While CAD may be privy to any changes in the training system, it doesn't necessarily mean they will do anything about it if it is wrong. Case in point is when the '777 ground course in your own time' was changed only after the pilot's association challenged it. Only then was CAD forced to make a decision.

I would also challenge the help that candidates get after failing the command course. IMHO, there is in fact no real, effective and most importantly non-jeopardy/threatening system in place to assist guys in any areas that they may need to improve.

CX training departments refusal to look inwards and address some of these issues is disappointing. Is it that the training system is so bogged down that they don't have the resources and time to do this? Don't know. Just a thought.

As for a trans pacific flight, it would be a brave Captain who would, under most circumstances, not receive guidance from the company before making any decision about a diversion or tech stop. It's not about our ability to make a decision. It's about using all the resources available to us.
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Old 13th Jun 2007, 09:35
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All wonderful stuff.................but
where is my ruddy pay rise
I'm going backwards in this place.
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Old 13th Jun 2007, 11:42
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CX training is basically non existant. All candidates are checked from the start, no coaching. There are a lot of egos blocking the system from achieving satisfactory results. Most trainers are by title only and have had little formal training in methods of instruction. Many candidates fail because the pilot conducting the assessment is not confident enough to make an accurate judgement and so takes the easy way out. There is no review of checkers and trainers and no transparency forcing them to adhere to policy or a code of ethics. Such behaviour would never be allowed to exist in any other airline or flt dep I have worked for.

Basically, CX training and flt ops in general is very old fashioned and has largely been left behind by more enlightened airlines.

DTH. Ex USAF, CX Captain, US Major Checkairman, US LCC Checkairman, Corporate Checkairman, FAA inspector.
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Old 13th Jun 2007, 23:37
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Electricjetjock

the skygod impressions evident in your post do not reflect reality, as most in this company are focussed on keeping a low profile. Your artificial emphasis on commanders autonomy (or what command checking at CX is all about) is therefore a little irritating.

Think of the LHR-HKG 744 a few years ago that turned back over Russia with an engine vibration problem. Company Ops whistled for a return to London, end of storyÖ

DTH: Right on the money...
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Old 16th Jun 2007, 11:02
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Cant speak for CX but KA has the worst training mentality of any airline I have worked for.

One pilot was given the tick verbally after a pc only to find he had lost the tick when the form arrived 2 weeks later. He queeried the check captain only to be told "From memory it was not worth a tick". One TIRE had to leave the debrief room to phone the manager flight training to ask him if the candidates performance was a pass or fail. Of course he failed but based on the input from someone who wasnt even present!!!! WTF. Its the only airline I have worked for where the check report is not sighted or signed by the candidate until its too late. The most common "hint" as to the poor quality of the training mindset is when a candidate questions the comments or the result of a pc/ct5. All too often the reason for the poor grade or failure changes from report to checker to manager. ie: they are not basing their decision on a framework of agreed criteria or performance indicators but on GUT INSTINCT.

Tragic.
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Old 16th Jun 2007, 11:12
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Flexible Response wrote

"But to be a Commander in CX demands the highest standards of personal integrity, judgement and character which can be worlds apart from the mere ability to pole a hunk of tin around the skies, which is the minimum acceptable criteria for a First Officer."

What an absolute utter load of horse sh!t.

It is however the sad, outdated criteria Cathay uses to decide who is worthy to "command" one of their pristine mobile bacterial laboratories.
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Old 16th Jun 2007, 11:38
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Hostile,
as rare as it is, I agree with you! Flex, keep peddling insurance or cars or whatever.

I think the CX system works ok most of the time. But then I hear of a guy I flew with who failed his 4 bar twice....well actually, he didn't fail it, the star chamber failed him. Now how is that possible? The 3 bar was supposed to be the hurdle...4 bar was simply the CRM test. The guy is a pleasure to fly with. He is very laid back but that is because he is guilty of having far more intelligence than this job requires! Go figure?

In Emirates I believe they have a much better system...at the end of your command ride, the checker tells you off as you are about to leave the cockpit for being out of uniform...he then hands you 4 bars and shakes your hand.

Last edited by Numero Crunchero; 19th Jun 2007 at 03:56.
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Old 16th Jun 2007, 11:42
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Numero

I never thought I'd see the day. Welcome to the dark side................
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Old 16th Jun 2007, 14:23
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Flexible Response wrote

"But to be a Commander in CX demands the highest standards of personal integrity, judgement and character which can be worlds apart from the mere ability to pole a hunk of tin around the skies, which is the minimum acceptable criteria for a First Officer."
hostile23 wrote

What an absolute utter load of horse sh!t.
Hey! I didn't make the rules! I am just detailing the facts.

I donít like the management and especially some of the more supercilious pricks they employ there any more than you do. But letís keep that a separate issue here. OK?

Whether or not one personally agrees or disagrees with the standards that CX requires of it Commanders is hardly the argument here. The standards have remained the same for the last 50 or 60 years and seem to have served the airline well. As they say from time to time, "it's our train set and we'll run it any way we feel like".

From time to time the Command failure rate has always had blips both upward and downward. Natural leaders seem to sail through the process without even a blink of the eye. But for those other of us, well, we just have to learn the responsibilities and craft of Command the hard way.

If you sit around picking your nose while hoping that someone will shake some holy water on you through the belief that you have some God-given right bestowed by seniority number, then you may be sadly disappointed. You have to personally demonstrate to the company that you are worthy of the responsibility and that they can trust you to carry out the duties that they require of you.

In CX, Command is not a right. Command is earned.

CX Command standards have stood the test of time and aren't likely to change soon. However, if anyone would prefer a less demanding route to Command, then they are obviously welcome to pursue options with other airlines that have lower standards
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Old 16th Jun 2007, 22:27
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NC,

I think you'll find CX manuals are now the same as Boeing. Checklists certainly are, but that might be a step backwards.
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Old 17th Jun 2007, 04:57
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Flex wrote

"If you sit around picking your nose while hoping that someone will shake some holy water on you through the belief that you have some God-given right bestowed by seniority number, then you may be sadly disappointed. You have to personally demonstrate to the company that you are worthy of the responsibility and that they can trust you to carry out the duties that they require of you."

And my argument is that those "responsibilities" are exactly the same as any other operator of wide bodied aircraft. You have still not demonstrated to me why a prospective Cathay Captain is in need of so much more attention than any other pilot stepping up to the plate for a command.
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