FAA urging foreign airlines to use GPS for SFO landings

Airplane landing at SFO.
July 29, 2013 6:55:36 PM PDT
The Federal Aviation Administration is mandating some new rules for commercial airline pilots at San Francisco International. The FAA is concerned about an unusual number of aborted landings at the airport. Some feel the mandate is a double standard.

The pilots of foreign flag airlines will no longer be allowed to fly in visually and land their airplanes. They're going to have to rely on GPS instruments to make sure they're coming in correctly.

The airport got concerned about the number of planes that would come into SFO and then because they were too high or too low or not lined up, they'd have to pull up and fly around and try it again. Those "go arounds" are recorded. Asiana's Flight 214 called for a go-around just seconds before it slammed into the sea wall and the end of the runway.

The airport noted Asiana and some other foreign carriers had an unusually high number of go arounds, ever since the airports instrument landing system went down for repairs.

So now the FAA is requiring all foreign flagged pilots to use a secondary instrument system based on data from GPS signals.

Airline safety consultant and retired airline pilot Barry Schiff says the FAA is taking the wrong approach. He told us, "In essence they are establishing a double standard. They're saying some pilots are not as good as others. Well, that's not a good thing for passengers who buy tickets on those airlines."

Schiff says the FAA and foreign carriers should demand that all pilots can meet the same standards.

"I think each airline has to be looked at individually and the training standards and the skill levels of their pilots have to be determined individually," said Schiff.

Not all aviation consultants are on board with Schiff. Aviation consultant Mike McCarron says the FAA is just acting out of an abundance of caution.

People are a lot more aware of the situation and so I think the FAA is just responding to make sure everyone is on the same page, everyone's following instrument procedures as much as they can, for as long as they can," said McCarron.

But it remains a double standard. The FAA rules only apply to foreign carriers. No matter the weather, until the instrument landing system is up and running in late August. Pilots from airlines based outside the U.S. will be told they have to fly GPS coordinates into SFO.


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