A safety review at Delta Air Lines shows improvements in operations and training but lingering concern over "lapses in crew coordination and discipline" in some Delta cockpits, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.
The FAA gave the assessment in a document made public Tuesday in which an FAA team outlined its findings during an inspection at Delta in early October.The agency team said Delta's management "has taken strong and positive action" in response to a critical review of Delta's operations 14 months ago and that it "observed competent performances in the majority of Delta's cockpits."
But the FAA said the team also "observed many of the same behavior patterns that were previously noted in the l987 audit" in which the airline was chastised for allowing poor discipline and communications among flight crews. It said some Delta pilots may "not perceive" a problem or "may simply not be observant" enough to correct their shortcomings.
In the recent follow-up review, the FAA inspection team again "observed lapses in crew coordination and discipline in a small but significant percentage of cockpits," said the agency. It said some pilots improperly used checklists, relied on memory when conducting pre-flight checks, and in some cases demonstrated an unstructured cockpit management style.
The FAA also said Delta management pilots should be tougher when conducting proficiency checks and too often require pilots to meet only minimum standards.
The airline has more than 6,500 pilots.
Delta spokesman Bill Berry said the company was "in general agreement with the report."
Delta's cockpit operations and its training program came under intense FAA scrutiny in the summer of l987 after a series of errors by Delta pilots brought the airline close to having several serious accidents including a near-collision over the Atlantic.
Pilot performance also has become a focal point in the investigation of the crash last August of a Delta Boeing 727 as it attempted to depart the Dallas-Fort Worth airport. Investigators are trying to determine whether the three-man crew forgot to properly set the wing flaps, causing the crash, which killed 14 of the 108 people aboard.