It’s been more than a year since the FAA morphed SFAR 108, the jet-like initial and recurrent pilot type qualifications rules, into the new Subpart N of FAR Part 91 pertaining to MU-2 pilot qualifications. About the same time last year, the FAA also created AC 91-89, which standardizes MU-2B series training programs.

The changes resulted from a five-year campaign by TAS/Turbine Aircraft Services and MHIA/Mitsubishi Heavy Industries America’s aircraft product support division to upgrade MU-2 pilot qualifications and proficiency. The MU-2 community was hopeful that more-stringent qualification and training requirements would slash the aircraft’s fatal accident rate.

Yet, apparently, a sizable portion of MU-2 pilots are not heeding lessons learned in training. On March 29, 2016, the pilot of an MU-2B-60 lost control of the aircraft and crashed a mile short of Runway 07 at Îles-de-la-Madeleine, Quebec. Then on May 15, 2017, an MU-2B-40, en route from Aguadillo, Puerto Rico’s Rafael Hernandez airport to Eleuthera, Bahamas, crashed into the Atlantic Ocean.

Five minutes after takeoff from Buenos Aires’ San Fernando airport on July 24, 2017, an MU-2 Marquise crashed into the delta of the Paraná River. And on Sept. 23, 2017, an MU-2B-40 Marquise crashed 3 mi. northeast of the Ainsworth, Nebraska, airport.

“Most MU-2 accidents involve attitudinal problems on the part of pilots,” says Pat Cannon, one of the most experienced MU-2 pilots and instructors in the U.S. Pilots walk the walk during rigorous initial and recurrent training. Then, they go back to their old habit patterns once they climb back into their aircraft when they’re not under the scrutiny of instructors. “It’s Jekyll and Hyde. It’s the normalization of deviance.”

Cannon notes that MU-2 pilots who also attend MHIA’s Pilot’s Review of Proficiency safety management and decision-making seminars, in addition to FAA-required training, have excellent safety records. PROP originated in 1982 as an initiative to improve safety. It has been effective in slashing the number of MU-2 accidents and incidents.

Going forward, Cannon and MHIA officials look forward to the flexibility afforded to them in upgrading training standards as published in AC 91-89. The Advisory Circular can be amended, as needed, without going through the cumbersome public comment process that was necessary to make changes to SFAR 108.

But there still are plenty of loopholes in MU-2 training systems. While CFIs are required to have 24-month letters of authorization in order to teach in the aircraft, the FAA doesn’t have a top-notch standardization and evaluation system in place for holding instructors to the same standards. Teaching methods, focus points and minimum client qualifications standards can vary from instructor to instructor.

Next, MU-2B series aircraft are equipped with a variety of instrument display systems, GPS navigators and autopilots. The differences between aircraft have potential to be challenges with respect to flight and sim instructor standardization.

But Cannon notes that Alpha Systems angle-of-attack systems now are available for MU-2 aircraft. They’re relatively inexpensive, and they can boost situational awareness during critical phases of flight, such as low-speed operations in airport landing patterns.

And finally, MU-2 aircraft aren’t required to be fitted with flight data recorders for most non-commercial operations. Most also lack quick access recorders that would support flight operations quality-assurance programs. FOQA tattletales have potential to rein in rogue pilots before their normalization of deviance.

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries America officials are quite aware of all these factors. They continue to push for tighter adherence to SOPs and cockpit discipline on the part of the MU-2 pilot community.