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Airline Crews Disdain Required Security Training as Boring, Unhelpful

April 20, 1986

DALLAS (AP) _ A mandatory anti-terrorist training session was of so little value that few pilots or flight attendants paid attention, a captain for a major airline said after a recent class.

″People were talking, they were doing other things ... including reading the paper,″ the captain told the Dallas Morning News. ″I’d leave for 20 minutes at a time and take care of business. I’d come back into a bull session, with tapes running.″

The instructor for the eight-hour course entered the room only to change videotapes, said the captain, who was not identified.

The newspaper interviewed a number of pilots and flight attendants who took the course recently. They described the training as boring and uphelpful and said they doubt they are better prepared now to handle such a crisis, the newspaper said in its report Saturday.

The training required by the Federal Aviation Administration is intended ″to protect U.S. civil aviation against international terrorism,″ the agency says. It was ordered after last June’s TWA hijacking and became mandatory this month for international crews.

The FAA disputed the complaints, saying the quality of the new program has been very high. ″We have no reason to think that it wasn’t effective,″ said FAA spokesman Fred Farrar.

Of his training session, Braniff pilot Bill Burke said, ″It was just kind of an insult when you’ve been flying for 28 years and somebody says, ’If you see someone with a gun coming down the ramp, don’t let them on the plane.‴

One flight attendant for a major airline, who was not identified, said her anti-terrorist training session ″was without a doubt the worst class in any area in any subject I have ever had. I am a college graduate and that was the worst thing.″

All pilots and flight attendants serving on international flights are required to have received eight hours of initial anti-terrorist training. Crew members on domestic flights must receive the training by Sept. 1.

Airline officials said most major carriers show crew members slightly more than five hours of videotapes and two hours of written material, combined with discussion time and an open-book test.

Much of the information is dated, too long, and uninteresting, pilots and flight attendants told the News. Classes often lack live instruction or discussion, and groups can share answers when taking tests, they said.

The airlines’ major lobbying group, the Air Transport Association, is recommending that the requirement be withdrawn and revised, the newspaper said.

It was the association that put the federally approved training package together and made it available to airlines for about $450, according to the News.

Association spokesman Tom Tripp said his group collected videotapes from a wide range of sources simply to meet the eight-hour requirement established by the FAA, which he said didn’t provide enough guidance.

″We’ve had absolutely no specifications or instructions or input″ from the FAA, Tripp said. ″The truth of the matter is we still don’t understand what is deficient in current flight crew member training.″

The FAA denied it failed to help, but would not elaborate, the News said.

Jim Federer, training coordinator for Southwest Airlines, said some of the good of the association’s training package ″was probably lost because there was so much garbage″ in the information.

Federer said Southwest Airlines and other carriers use the association package because the costs of developing a new program and then seeking FAA approval make alternatives impractical.

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