Some US lawmakers are urging FAA to press ICAO into changing airline pilot licensing and training procedures so they take advanced automated cockpit systems into account.

In a letter to FAA acting administrator Dan Elwell, US House Transportation Committee and Aviation Subcommittee congressmen want Elwell to raise the issue at an ICAO pilot licensing review meeting scheduled to be held in Montreal this week.

The letter is headed by transportation committee ranking member Sam Graves’ (R-Missouri), who is focused on the potential role that international pilot training standards played in the two deadly accidents involving Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft, in Indonesia in October, and Ethiopia in March.

The recent meeting of global regulators in Montreal was not called in response to the two MAX crashes, although it corresponds with the debate in the aftermath of those accidents over how increasingly automated aircraft systems may be negatively affecting pilot skills. At the meeting, regulators and representatives from global pilot groups are discussing electronic personnel licensing, competency-based alternatives to hour-based requirements, and appropriate flight simulator training device (FSTD) types for training and assessment, according to an agenda viewed by ATW.

“The meeting’s purpose, scope and agenda has been vetted and endorsed by our States prior to them arriving here this week. Any findings it determines though will still be subject to two further governance reviews before they head to our Council or Assembly for final endorsement,” ICAO spokesman Anthony Philbin said in an emailed statement, adding that ICAO had begun the process of planning the meeting in June 2018.

In the days following the March 10 crash of Ethiopian Airlines flight 302, Graves wrote to the inspector general of the US Department of Transportation requesting an investigation into cockpit automation and international pilot training standards. A spokesman for Graves said the inspector general has not begun that investigation yet, but said the probe would still occur “at some point.”

Investigators, who have not yet concluded either accident investigation, have determined that Boeing’s maneuvering characteristics augmentation system (MCAS) flight-control law played a central role in both MAX crashes, which led to the global grounding of the MAX fleet while Boeing develops upgrades to make the system more reliable. Still, Graves has stuck by his determination that inadequate foreign pilot training likely factored into the accidents, telling ATW that the Ethiopian pilots “didn’t follow procedures ... didn’t do what any trained pilot in the US would have done.”

“Aircraft accidents are rarely the result of just one factor. We feel strongly that through the various 737 MAX reviews and investigations, all possible contributing factors, including aircraft design, aircraft certification processes, airline operations processes, airline maintenance procedures and pilot training and experience should be explored,” wrote Sam Graves along with Subcommittee on Aviation ranking member Garret Graves (R-Louisiana).

The lawmakers want global regulators to focus on what combination of training and experience pilots need to identify when highly automated aircraft systems are not operating correctly; respond to such situations; and fly the aircraft manually when automated systems fail.

“Emphasis should be placed on competency-based training rather than simply amassing unrelated flight hours,” they wrote.

Ranking member Sam Graves has faced some pushback from groups representing international pilots because of what they see as his misplaced focus on the role of foreign pilot training standards involving the 737 MAX.

At a June 19 House Transportation Committee hearing held to discuss the 737 MAX, Allied Pilots Association (APA) president Daniel Carey told lawmakers that his group’s members have been “offended by remarks made by those who seem to blame the pilots killed” in the two crashes,” an apparent reference to Sam Graves.

Ben Goldstein, ben.goldstein@aviationweek.com