The economic impact of the lack of airline travel during the Covid-19 pandemic is well known, but the minimal time spent in the air by pilots could be a safety risk as well.
Pilots that didn’t fly for months are now making potentially disastrous mistakes now that they are back in the cockpit.
One captain, who was flying a passenger plane for the first time in six months, realised he was heading in the wrong direction just before takeoff, according to a report by Bloomberg.
Another pilot, who hadn’t flown in seven months, said just a couple of hundred metres before his plane was about to land he realised he hadn’t lowered the wheels. He pulled out of the landing at the last minute, avoiding what would likely have been a catastrophic crash.
An airline pilot who had just recovered from Covid-19 had to abort their flight after forgetting to start the plane’s second engine.
These incidents have been revealed by out-of-practice pilots on a database designed to identify emerging safety threats.
All the pilots blamed their mistakes on a lack of flying time during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Airports Company South Africa (ACSA) recorded an 80% drop in airline passengers in 2020-2021 due to Covid-19.
The travel restrictions that were put in place by most countries have also led to many pilots losing their jobs.
As countries ramp up their vaccination programmes, international borders have started opening – with some pilots having only just returned to the skies.
With pilots admitting to being out of practice, this could prove to be dangerous.
The International Civil Aviation Organization and the International Air Transport Association, however, are providing training guides to airlines so that their pilots can get back in the groove and return to the air.