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    « FTC Sets Endorsement Rules for Blogs—Trescott Apology Tour Begins | Main | Book Review: Highest Duty – Captain Sully Sullenberger, American Hero »

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    Steve

    Max, first of all - great post.

    I don't have any aspirations to be a career pilot (I fly simply for pleasure) but my reaction to all this is mixed. There's no arguing that requirements need to be beefed up for some regionals but I don't necessarily think an arbitrary number of hours is how to do that.

    In my mind, there are two key things: a) the quality of training received and b) the recency and type of experience a pilot has. On top of that are the working conditions, mainly duty/rest hours and scheduling in the airline world.

    I realize there are still qualified pilots out there (1,500+ ATPs) unemployed by the airline industry due to layoffs in recent years so there is an applicant pool to some extent. On the other hand, there's no way nearly any student graduating from a collegiate flight training program has anywhere near the required hours. Even as an instructor, it's going to take a while to gain 1,000+ hours and will likely have some disruptive affect on CFIs everywhere due to increased competition for a relatively stable pool of students.

    Ultimately, I just don't see how this helps when you take it as a whole. If they modify it to put more stringent crew rest requirements and training requirements in place, that's good for everyone. And let me be clear that I don't disagree that it would be great if everyone had an ATP. Still, an arbitrary number defined by a Congress that knows little about aviation and pilot training seems like a rather bad way to approach the whole situation.

    Luca Bencini-Tibo

    Except for one comment, the biggest missing part in the discussion is airline economics. Yes, we all for safety and given the choice, we all would like to have Captain Sullenberger as PIC of our next airline flight. Unfortunately trade-offs need to be made as safety is not cost free.

    While there are a lot of things that can increase safety at relatively low cost (for example CRM training for all pilots) – safety also comes with experience. The problem is that we want to have 100% safety while paying for airline fares that match Greyhound Bus fares. Would the flying public be willing to pay say 50% more for a ticket to have a more experienced (and rested) and presumably safer crew? And how will the higher ticket price translate into airline economics – would less people fly resulting in even less total revenue and more losses?

    It’s the same argument I have heard for years on the low pay for CFI’s. Yes we all agree that CFI’s are underpaid and being a CFI, part of the pay is flight hours; but how many of us would want to pay $100/hr for a CFI? Or $75/hr?

    The bigger issue is pilot training. While not a criticism, most pilots (unless they go through the military) pay for their own flight training. In countries where there is no effective General Aviation, airlines usually pay for training for “ab initio” pilots following a rather strict and comprehensive syllabus – much like the military. When is the last time US airlines paid for “ab initio” training?

    While not a big factor anymore, a lot of US airline pilots came from the ranks of military pilots (in fact Capt Sullenberger was an experienced military pilot prior to joining US Airways). The training of course was provided by the tax payers and their service to the country was their pay pack. Nevertheless this means that US airlines never had to budget for “ab initio” training. When Herb Kelleher started Southwest Airlines, he hired just about all the pilots of an USAF squadron that was flying the military version of the 737. While not a criticism of Mr. Kelleher, he would not have been able to do this without the US taxpayers providing him with experienced 737 pilots for his fledging airline.

    Bottom line:

    1. Need to consider trade-offs between safety and economics.
    2. The cost of airline pilot training is an externality, needs to be considered more explicitly by the flying public and airlines.


    Luca F. Bencini-Tibo, ATP/CFI
    Luca_bencini@alum.mit.edu

    Max Trescott

    Steve, the bill does direct the FAA "to specify limitations on the hours of flight and duty time allowed for pilots to address problems relating to pilot fatigue." No question, an arbitrary number of hours doesn't guarantee more experienced pilots, but it does increase the probability that some of those pilots are more experienced.
    Luca, you say that part of the "pay" for a CFI is "flight hours" which is true for people who are using a CFI rating as a stepping stone to the airlines. But should it be that way? Does that decrease the quality of flight training (and safety) in some cases for people who have chosen a CFI who's primarily in it just for the hours? No question, the U.S. airlines have been able to avoid paying for “ab initio” training and there's no incentive for them to take on this additional cost; instead their modus operandi has been to shed costs. The bill is a good step, but it doesn't address these issues at all, so expect no change in this area.

    Matt Hammer

    Honestly, I think requiring an ATP for 121 copilots will decrease the over-all safety of commercial aviation. Part 121 accident rates probably won't change at all. But part 135 and 91 will probably get worse.

    Why? Because now one of the safest jobs in commercial aviation (being a copilot for a 121 airline) will no longer be an option for less experienced pilots. They'll be forced to build up time working 135 or 91. This will have a two-fold effect: 1) it will make good aviation jobs virtually impossible to get for new pilots, since all the new pilots will be fighting for the few 135/91 jobs that are out there; 2) it'll "force" people to work for 135/91 operators that will not only screw them financially, but will also likely operate aircraft which aren't properly maintained (something we all know occurs *far* too frequently with small 135/91 operators).

    In effect, requiring an ATP for the airlines will force less experienced pilots to start with the most dangerous jobs. This is just another case of our government trying to appear as if it's solving problems, while only making things worse.

    Joshua Nawrocki

    While the bill has its good parts, like a lot of people, I just don't see how requiring a pilot to have an ATP is going to make things much better. Flying is already one of the safest ways to travel, and because of one crash, that was largely pilot fatigue related, they want to pass regulation requiring such.

    Like others all ready mentioned, how are the airlines going to afford this? A pilot with 500 hours is willing to fly for a lot less than a pilot with 1500 hours, and not only that, where are they going to get these pilots? I was recently talking to a pilot recruiter with ASA and he said that when the economy turns around, the minimums are going to be around 1500 hours, however, that's only going to last about six months until they bring back all the furloughed pilots, and then the minimums will continue to drop. There is no way that regional airlines are going to be able to keep up with the demand for pilots at the rate they will be retiring. The age 65 rule only delayed the inevitable, and the demand for pilots will skyrocket in the next few years. This is not going to leave enough time for pilots to meet the new "qualifications" to fly for regional carriers.

    In turn this is going to make flying very expensive for the general public because they wont have enough pilots to meet all the flights they have the demand for, forcing them to use the pilots they have as much as possible, which completely battles all the fatigue everyone is trying to fix.

    I completely agree that safety should be a huge priority, but requiring 1500 hours is not a practical way to do it. Who is going to want to bother becoming an airline pilot anymore? Flight training is hugely expensive, and takes a long time, and by the time a student gets their private, instrument, commercial, multi-engine, at a part 141 school, they are lucky to have 250 hours, and then what? Get your CFI and teach VFR all day? How does that help a pilot in a situation like the one in Buffalo?

    I think what they need to focus on is revamping the training, beginning with the private pilot, and have more focus on emergency procedures. When I got my private, what were the emergency procedures? Simulated engine failure, set up the emergency landing and call for help. That is not a whole lot. Basically they just tell you to memorize the check list. They should put more focus on emergencies from the beginning, and then down the road, pilots are better able to deal with it.

    I cant really help but feel that the representatives who wrote this bill just don't have a clue what they are talking about. They want the airlines to be safe for people to fly, but the way they think it should be done is completely ridiculous. Not to mention, that the airlines ARE safe, and I never have any doubt about that when I step onto a plane. And I never doubt that the pilots who are flying it are even close to being incompetent, whether its their first day on the job flying a CRJ, or he has 20,000 hours and has been flying for years.

    shon bernard

    I dont understand how everyone can say that 1500 hours will make the skies magically safe forever. Wake up people the very accident that caused this legislation had a captain and first officer which had well over 1500 hours and a CFII (Certified Flight Instructor Instrument) I think the quality of instruction is far more important than amount of hours. As a current airline captain and airline instructor quality is far more important than quantity

    Volkerts

    I think that the part of this bill addressing all the rules about recurrent training is positive. Airlines should take this responsibility by their own, but if they're not willing to do so, it's good if it's required by law. About the minimum of 1500 hours: I can only agree with a lot of people here that the amount of hours does not count, but the quality of these hours and the quality of the initial training. I don't hear anyone talking about these bill v.s. the development of the MPL (multi pilot license) that's going on in some countries right now. I don't know about the status of MPL in the USA, anyone?

    Sylvia

    “Why increase the requirements? Most of the safety issues on flights today are caused by low pay and heavy hours, no?”

    There was a study recently - unfortunately I didn't bookmark my reference - which went over aviation accidents caused by pilot error and plotted them by pilot hours. If I recall correctly, the two peaks in the graph were new pilots and very experienced pilots. Over-confidence was listed as a prime suspect for the latter peak. I'll see if I can find it, my memory is a bit hazy.

    Jim Hann

    Max, good story. As a former regional airline Captain, I can tell you that having the ATP will prove nothing. What is the old saw? You can have a thousand hours of experience or experience the same hour a thousand times. Flight instructing as time builders do it will definitely be the latter.

    What the FAA really needs to look at is the training programs and checking skills in the regional airline departments. I've flown with First Officers that had obviously been given a "gift" by their checkairmen, leaving me with the coal in my stocking! Training is the answer, not requiring an ATP to apply.

    twitter.com/mnphysicist

    Matt's comment concerning 91/135 ops wrt marginal equipment is right on the money. On the other hand, the experience gained flying single pilot IFR in nearly worn out freighters builds rock solid judgment and airmanship... Provided of course one survives, or more realistically stays in the game long enough.

    The ATP requirement likewise would make sense, but with a caveat to require not just 75 hours of instrument, but a couple hundred hours of actual.

    Of course, as other have mentioned, such would create a pilot shortage, which likely would have the effect of improving pay and duty times as well. The big question then becomes is whether folks are willing to pay or not.

    Mike

    I am currently in college as a flight student, 300 hours Com/SEL/MEL/Instrument/and working on my CFI, and I can tell you that from my prospective-someone new to the industry, raising the standards to an ATP level is one of the stupidest things they could have done. All of my peers in flight school, along with myself are very discouraged. We pay $60,000 on top of a four year degree to flight instruct for years making only $10-15/hour then get to the airlines (if we ever actually make it that far) where we will start off only making $18,000-25,000 and by that time we will most likely be in our mid 30 or 40s with tons of debt. There will definantly be a pilot shortage since no one with brains will pay and wait that long to be treated like that. I can tell you that my flight school has already seen a drop in applications since this bill was in question..our professors remind us everyday. They have gone about it the wrong way...I believe they should make the written tests more difficult (no more memorizing answers... duh!) and screen like the military does once you apply for a commercial or ATP (aptitude tests ect.) All I can say is that if they do not increase pay dramatically, there is no way people will even bother entering this profession where we are treated so poorly by the government and the airlines

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