Transportation Ministry Report Slams Training of Civilian Pilots

A new report by the Ministry of Transportation warns of systemic breakdown in the training of civilian pilots in Israel, particularly in landing aircraft.

The report by Yitzhak Raz, the ministry's chief air accidents investigator, in part centers on the crash of a light airplane at Herzliya Airport, during an attempted landing last summer.

According to the report, which Haaretz acquired, the small aircraft, a Cessna 172, was on approach to land at the Herzliya airport after a training flight on the morning of August 20, earlier this year.

On touchdown the aircraft bounced several times and landed heavily on the runway causing the front wheels to collapse, as well as damage to the propeller from the impact on the ground. During the crash, the aircraft was dragged on the runway until it stopped on the side. The student pilot, who flew solo, was unharmed.

The human factor

The report concludes that "similar cases to this [the accident of the Cessna 172] occurred too often in the past, some of them ending, unlike this one, with injuries and deaths. There is no disagreement in the [conclusion] that the overwhelming majority of the incidents stemmed from basic training flaws in landing."

The investigators point to "an absence of regularity in the turn and approach for landing, not maintaining an orderly routine or the necessary speed," characterizing most of the cases. The report also suggested that training for both "stable approach" and "another round," in which the approach is repeated for a better landing, is flawed.

The similarity of the accidents under investigation led to a closer examination of the human factor, with emphasis being placed on method and ways of flight training in Israel.

In the conclusions of the investigation into the crash, the investigators note that "the training of civilian pilots in Israel is based on a military method that is appropriate for professional pilots, who fly frequently and under close supervision, and is not appropriate to the method common throughout the aviation world for some time now. The method is difficult for student [pilots], complicated and a lot less forgiving [of errors]." The report further states that the "entrenchment of the Civil Aviation Authority, and other aviation bodies, following decades in which the same training method was employed in Israel, along with the absence of genuine dialogue between flight instructors and examiners, has resulted in the dulling of the sensitivity necessary, among most of those involved, to identify shortcomings in the method and its negative impact on the performance of the students."

The authors of the report insist that "altering the method of flight training is an essential and immediate need, with implications for other aspects of the field of aviation that could substantively improve flight safety in these areas."

Making reference to the a February 2008 report of a CAA professional task force, which was entrusted with examining how to implement the necessary changes, the current report notes that "initial exploration into the matter was carried out, but no steps were taken for the implementation of the recommendations."

"It can be assumed that, had the recommendations given been implemented, the accidents, including the one investigated [involving the Cessna 172] would have been prevented at least in part," the report concludes.