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Airline fears of pilot shortage spark Congress fight over required training

Good article to read. I want your options with the pilot shortage and the mandatory hours required by the FAA. I am a student at a 4-year college for Aviation with approximately 325 hours of flight time. ( さらに...

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Whatever pilot shortage there might actually be is directly attributable to the low pay and dismal benefits at regional airlines. Add to that, the low quality of life. Airlines have been using pilots' love of flying to screw them over for eons. As they continue to do that, they can be sure that only the most dedicated (and perhaps most masochistic) will apply.
You're right John. I began my commercial flying at age 45 in a Jetstream 31. I finished in the Do328. At age 60--pop! You're a cindrella. Love of flying is the only thing that kept me there.
zennermd 12
Maybe if the airlines, FAA and congress would stop trying to destroy GA we would not be in quite as bad of mess...... maybe.
The fear is not of a pilot shortage. It is a fear of a shortage of pilots who will work for $19,000 per year.
Exactly! Jackass management.
Well, both pilots in the Colgan crash were well above 1500 hours. The other thing as noted in the story is that the rule emphasizes quantity over quality of training. If I read the rules right, both people in the pointy end must have ATP's. That can put a very inexperienced right seat in place. To me a right seat should be for some learning under an experienced left seat. I think 250 hours as it was is probably too little but 1500 hours is way too much. That said, other than the Colgan crash in which quantity of hours was not a factor, there weren't any serious accidents related to low hours in the right seat. I think the mandatory retirement age should have been done away with although it did not have that much bearing on the regionals. IMHO
I agree 100%, Preacher. As I have stated to anyone who would listen, that build-up time from Commercial license (250 hrs) to ATP (1,500 hrs) is usually gained by becoming a Flight Instructor. That's the way I built up my time to ATP and can speak from experience I learned more about flying by going from A to B than by teaching people how to fly. Captains are there to guide that inexperienced FO. Instructing just doesn't do it. Quality not quantity determines the capabilities in the pointy end. Beef up the cross country and instrument time requirements to maybe 500 hrs total time. Then the airline, regional, Part 135 charter companies need to do their part with a very detailed and intense training program to weed out the ones that just cannot cut it. Let the FO grow in the position - not build up hours teaching.
Most of the guys I know who instructed say they learned a lot from it. It certainly gives you a knowledge base from which later decision making stems from.

Captains are not there to guide the inexperienced FO. That's what it devolved to, but is not the intent in the modern cockpit. He is there to be the final authority on the safe operation of the aircraft. Not to wet nurse an inexperienced FO though his first cloud.

Certain airline training departments proved themselves incapable of "weeding out" the pilots who were weak. What would you expect the feds to do? Continue status quo?
I certainly don't have all the answers but to me the CFI route, if one is not careful, can be like the blind leading the blind. I don't think a Captain is made to wet nurse either but 10-15000 hours is certainly a bed of information to learn from and a lot more than one may get from a training department.
Ken Lane 2
Agreed. It's not the time. It's the quality of training and lack of expectations by competent flight instructors along the way.

When I get raked over the coals by a school's owner because I expected my students to learn more about slow flight, stalls, accelerated stalls, etc... that's a problem. Heck, I knew next to nothing about accelerated stalls until CFI training and then with a DPE for CFI who pushed me into using Bill Kershner material for more. When I hear someone spout the line, "stalls have nothing to do with airspeed" and don't say another word, it's like fingernails on a chalkboard. I want to slap them and ask, "Gosh, why does stall speed increase with bank angle? I thought speed wasn't an issue?" If you mention "load", be prepared for the "deer in the headlights" look.

As far as Colgan 3407, I think the thing that grabbed more attention than anything was several failures for the same ticket. I know some higher standards were implemented on the airlines' part but I cannot recall the particulars.

If they really want to insure competence, it should be based on multiple pre-hire reviews and flight tests. I'd base it on how Chick-fil-a does their corporate hiring. It takes at least six interviews just to be considered. Throw in a few sim sessions with different instructors and an extra flight test by a DPE for ATP, then you might establish a standard. But just time? It will never insure anything but just time and a ticket.
Pinnacle 3701, ASAP data, ASIAS data, etc.
There is no pilot shortage. The only shortage is in the crappy pay that management is pushing routinely. There's plenty of pilots out there but they won't work for the crap starting pay.
Having read about “pilot shortages” for the last 15 years, I am naturally skeptical of such claims. ESPECIALLY when these claims are made by those whose primary source of funding is from flight schools promising the world to young aviation enthusiasts. (And all too often delivering nothing more than shattered dreams and astronomical debt.) A pilot shortage is just the thing to motivate people to walk through their front doors.
However I can see how the coming wave of soon-to-be 65 year olds and the obscene 1,500 hour minimums for beginning pilots could (and perhaps will) have an impact on future airline staffing, particularly regional. Many commentators have spoken about poor pay, low benefits, and tedious working environments at the regionals. This is a non-starter for me. How many times have you heard a student pilot and/or enthusiast say, “I’d fly for free” or an old timer talk about “coming up through the ranks”? There is something deeply rewarding about starting with low pay and tough hours; I believe it really makes you appreciate the better pay, hours, and working conditions at the majors when you arrive. Seniority and “coming up through the ranks” imparts a kind of respect for the position, the career, and your peers. What’s unfair is the added burden (often times crushing) of college debt. Why is this? Why do our airline pilots have anything more than pilot’s licenses? If a pilot wishes to move out of the cockpit and into the office (IE chief pilot, corporate position, etc.) then by all means, he should attain the necessary skills to do that (a degree). But to fly a plane? What does a bachelor’s degree in communications do to serve a pilot other than having a great PA message? What does a bachelor’s degree in marketing do to serve a pilot other than towing an ad banner? These degrees are useless to pilots, passengers, and airlines. The only purpose they serve is to make colleges & universities richer.
If airlines, politicians, whoever are concerned about a pilot shortage, real or not, large or small, they are best served by working to first pressure airlines to scrap this ridiculous, discriminatory practice of college degree requirements. Second, airlines should help to alleviate the cost of flight school and hours attainment. Third, airlines should assist new pilots with housing resources. Finally, and only then, should regional pay be considered.
For all the cost in time and money to get to the place a pilot would need to be to get an ATP, and the starting pay for the first four years of so just don't add up. The majors are the only one in the airline business that pay a fair wage, but as a new pilot trying to get there takes years.
I would guess maybe this is why less and less young people are getting pilot license these days. Demand is going up more pilots needed, more airplNes need, every thing going up, but the pilots pay. Not only that the companies want you to work more hours for the same old pay.
Is it any wonder?
I'm not surprised that a severe shortage of pilots is here. The high price of Student lessons, aircraft rental, fuel, maintenance, tie down or hangar space and overall soaring prices of aircraft have all but stopped new pilots from getting involved. Even experienced pilots have curtailed their flying as well. I remember my first lessons in 1972 were in a J3 Cub at $12/hr and that included the plane. I spent $2500 getting my license and another $3000 for my instrument commercial. Luckily the airline paid for my heavy iron ATP training and I wouldn't want to have paid for that either. Today a private pilot student will pay $9000 to $11,000 for the private and several thousand more for the instrument and commercial. The cost of owning a plane is not too cheap either. It's not unusual to pay upwards of &1500 for an annual that used to be $300-500 for a 172 or Archer. Fuel prices have risen to the point where no one wants to spend the money for fuel at today,s prices. So, it's no wonder that students interested in flying has dropped.
AWAAlum 2
Every other career path is guided by the idea that if you aren't happy with the salary offered, you simply don't accept the offer. Why does it seem people in the pilot business feel it should be different for them?
Hello pilots,
On the pilot "shortage" , the majors have always "feasted" on the military pilots returning to civilian service as their major source of recruitment. Until(if) this steady source starts to dwindle, will the self-trained civilian pilot population see improvement in hiring and benefits.
It's all B.S.!!!! I'm an "Older" well seasoned pilot and I can't begin to tell you how many times I've been passed over due to my age! There is no shortage, there's NEVER been a shortage, it's all about flooding the market with pilots to save on labor costs!
Yep. The maintenance end of the business is the same way.

Everybody in aviation wants to hire a 35 year old guy, with 20 years of experience, who will work for $12/hour.

Got cold called for a DOM position.....currently filled by a pilot who had a wand waved over him and "poof", he is now wearing a DOM hat. An "Aircraft Management company" ( a new oxymoron) with 10 plus planes, from singles to bizjets, scattered between Plains state/BFE and South Florida.

Asked me what a guy who knew what he was doing would want to fill the position (pay wise). I told him "Six figures, plus", depending on where the home base was. (And no, there ain't no discount for living in an area with "affordable housing"......the reason it's "affordable" is because nobody wants to live in BFE)

Conversation terminated soon after that. I'm guessing they had the typical cheapskate/Flyover reaction, which is "$100K? WTF?".

I hate to clue these guys in, but anybody who has the talent/experience/training to fill that position is ALREADY making $100K plus.

So what happens? They usually fill the position with whatever A&P will take it for what they are offering, then pray to God that the OJT plan works before stuff gets irredeemedly screwed up.
Yep! We can all thank Frank Lorenzo for the current state of Aviation!
All of the a-holes that run businesses in the US love the free market, until all of that "supply and demand" stuff starts rearing it's ugly head.

Then it all about going to Congress for subsidies of one sort or another, or "relaxing the requirements", or (preferably) both.

Business leaders always talk about "growth". Any growth in the aviation business in the past 30 years has been subsidized by taking money away from the airlines employees, and giving it to the airlines execs directly, or to the passengers by way of super discounted airfares.

Incentives usually mean you get more of something (like crooked Wall Street bankers). Disincentives (1980-present) are mainly created by screwing employees. People aren't totally stupid. eventually means that you are going to get fewer pilots and mechanics, and the quality of the ones you do get are going to be lower.

Don't believe me? Go ask any crew chief/floor supervisor on any shop floor in any Airline/Business Aviation/GA maintenance shop.

In the aviation business, chickens are coming home to roost
Well, as opposed to earlier years and way of life, there probably is a pilot shortage in some quarters. I'll not get into the pros and cons of a college education other than to say by not having one, you are limited to a particular career field, which may be fine. Some say that is a learning thing that shows an individual can put forth extra effort. That would be all well and good if it weren't so expensive, but the one thing that is totally lacking is a clear path to a job out of flight school, college, whatever, into a flying job. Still too much luck and who you know. There is talk in this thread about truck drivers. Having owned a truck line for awhile, bottom line is that money is paid, drivers are trained and put on the road. Now, that is very simplified but the bottom line is that if you learn how to drive a truck, you are going to have a decent paying job. The Airlines need to set up something similar, FAA is going to have to get involved, and so are the legacies. It will all be interesting.
Exactly my thoughts. Majors will have to pick up the tab for training. Start right in high school and maybe a two year degree in aviation. My university offers a two year degree, private, instrument and commercial. Students can also get multi and instructor ratings. $$$$$$$$$. I teach the Garmin 1000 in our simulators. I know first hand how much they're in debt. Just like the military, train with a contract to stay for a number of years.
Yep, you really can't blame the individuals to take on that kind of expense without seeing a reward at the end. That is a big gamble.
My last year active, we had an expansion and I hired a total of 5 newbys. In the process I had close to 1000 applications, all having multi=thousand hours and with commercial and ATP ratings, most having turbine time. All were working somewhere and just looking for something better and to be treated like a human being. That treatment was important to everyone of them. If half the horror stories I heard were true, that seems to be something that is going to have to be addressed as well. These folks didn't want their butt's kissed, just treated halfway decent.
Obama is a disaster to our country and military , he hated America and is siding with our enemies in Iran, he's a fool.
There is a shortage of pilots. I can't find any pilots qualified for a jet copilot. Oh, they think they are qualified with some simulator time and 1600 hours of single engine time, but our insurance won't touch a guy like that and it's too risky to spend $18,000 on a type rating on a guy that will take years to even halfway train.
Then you're not looking hard enough! I am a jet pilot with an ATP and a Type Rating and I'm finding it impossible to find a job. Why? I'm not current and nobody wants foot the cost of Re-currency!
Ray Dahl 1
@ preacher and loral...AMEN! I was hired with 314 hours and went on to retire off the 747-451. Back then applicants took what was called the 'STANINE' test which eliminated some, why I don't know.
Congress must lower the requirements or the qualified pilot shortage will hinder us greatly. Look at the Big3ME carriers and their traing program.
Well, In looking at what Ron Wilcher says above, all his statements are accurate but the one that really stands out is that the majors are the only ones paying a decent wage
I hit post too quick. The majors are the only ones paying decent money and it is not near what it was at one time, and it takes so long to get in there. This 1500 hour rule has just kinda muddied the water to boot. As far as the STANINE eliminating some, I think that shrink interview in there had some to do with it plus it looked a lot at attitude and mental aptitude. Some guys, regardless of how bad they might want it, just were not meant to fly. There are some folks out there that literally cannot walk and chew bubble gum at the same time. Those are the ones that you don't need in the pointey end regardless and yes, there are people out there like that.
There's a saying just like in the flying profession "50% of doctors graduated in the bottom half of their class". This applies to all professions.
canuck44 2
Unfortunately there are surgeons like that too.
I guess every profession has some of them. Did you get your barn roof rebuilt or are you still up there?
canuck44 1
Just packing up (closing up). Stable fixed and a bunch of electrical problems solved, deck stained, stutters repaired. Going to Halifax for a couple of days and home to Florida Saturday. Only one bad weather day here so made work easy.
That's good for an old man that the work was easy. LOL
Here's a perfect example of why quantity doesn't equal quality. Met a guy at a local airport 2 days ago that was trying to get 20 hrs in to meet 1,200 total time to work for a regional. Was planning on doing some instrument approaches to maintain currency but plane was broke. He has been doing these "currency" approaches VFR, no hood, no safety pilot. In other words he had complete vision outside cockpit. And he honestly believed these approaches counted for instrument currency! Do you want this guy up front flying the plane in the soup?
At least he was trying. Do you know many pilots that have logged 20 hours in 2 minutes. There are a lot of pilots hired with more hours in their log book than they have.
Yes unfortunately I do. And with the 1,500 hr rule more and more are going to have an abundance of "parker pen" time. Hopefully, when they are hired and enter training their shortcomings will be discovered and they will be booted out before entering the airplane. And as far as the guy above trying, he could have accomplished the same thing sitting on his couch with the Terminal Procedures and visualizing the approaches. Sorry, being an Instrument Instructor, he's not the kind of former student I would admit to having taught.
I guess I missed your point. You said he needed 20 hours to meet a 1,200 hour total time. Did the airline care if he had currency or just the 1,200 hours? He was checking the box for 1,200 hours total time. Legal currency is a different issue. As an instructor, you can remind him of the legal requirements. If you really want to help
As an instructor I did remind him of the legal requirements. He looked at me like I just landed in a space ship. He wasn't even aware that he had an additional 6 months to get current but just the way he was doing it, he obviously has no regard, or never read, the FAR's on instrument currency. Makes me wonder about the capabilities of his previous instrument instructor. The rules haven't changed. He should have known what he was doing was not legal currency.
30west 2
In the late nineties I flew with a few Captains who were about to retire off the 767 (our 747's had recently been retired from the fleet) that were hired with similar experience. The one that sticks in my mind was hired with a private under the condition that he had a commercial/instrument when he reported to training.

The mentoring from line Captains who taught the "art" of flying and demanded that the jet be flown precisely according to company profiles and procedures was how very low time new hires were able to not only succeed, but be great leaders in the cockpit and, in turn, bring up the next generation of new hires. Many thanks to those who preceded me!
Right 30, there was a day in the 60's when United Airlines etc. trained their own Pilots and all you needed was a Commercial/Instrument. They can do that again and keep their low pay for First Officers. I imagine CRM will be severely impacted as that puts the Captain in a position again where he will never be questioned due to human nature and the situation of a "Trainee" instead of a truly qualified Pilot in the right seat. What trainee questions his Instructor? Pretty rare event.
You never win making a deal with the Devil
canuck44 1
The result of the current scheme is to populate Asian airlines where the new pilot can get in lots of hours. Unfortunately, culture and lack of experience in the mentors will decrease quality, but then when did government look at anything except numbers.
BobRose 1
Don't worry, Obama will be clearing our the aviators in our military pretty soon. ;)
Makes you wonder what they will stick in the F35 if the hunk of junk ever becomes fully operational. The Army booted a bunch of Kiowa pilots that were senior rather than training them into a newer model. I wonder if they'll do the same on the flying junkyard.
You think we have no one wanting to help in Iran now, wait until they have 200 missiles pointed at Europe and the Middle East and we ask our allies for help
They'll say "do we know you?"
LarryQB 1
Although not directly related to your question about what to do I would like to weigh in on the 1500 hour rule. As stated that was because of the "inexperience" of the Colgan pilots in reacting incorrectly to a wing stall. I disagree with the NTSB finding and believe they reacted correctly to what they thought was a tail plane stall due to icing rather than what really happened which was a wing stall due to slow speed. I believe they reacted improperly because 1) they were tired, 2) they lacked cockpit discipline perhaps because of the airline's culture, and 3) the airline let a marginal pilot go on the line. Flight time had nothing to do with the errors made in my opinion.
inoc 1
Quantifying "Pilot Shortage":

The only source for the number of "active" pilots is the FAA.
"Active" meaning those with a current medical who haven't requested that the FAA not list their addresses in the FAA data base.

Having even an accurate number for the number of "active" student, private, commercial, or ATP pilots is of course useless without knowing what the openings/demand is for each license (read commercial and ATP), which is pretty much unobtainable.

Sooo, one has to plot the history of those numbers.
In doing so I found the following:

1) In March, 2001 the FAA stopped including pilots who had only a glider and/or only a rotorcraft rating in the statistics for private, commercial and ATP licenses and added them to the "other" category.
This resulted in an approximate increase in the "other" category to 29,596 from 16,200 for an 83% apparent, but not actual, increase of pilots in this category.
This in turn resulted in a reduction of ATP listed pilots by approximately 1,804 from 141,596 (1.2%), Commercial by 3,672 from 121,858 (3%), and Private by 7,917 from 252,561 (3.1%).

2) In July 2010, the FAA issued a rule that increased the duration of validity for student pilot certificates for pilots under the age of 40 from 36 to 60 months.
This resulted in an apparent, but not actual, increase in active student pilots to 119,119 from 72,280 for a 64% increase.

3) From 1980 thru 2000 the plots show a roughly linear change. Private pilots decreased from 357,479 to 252,561 or by 30%, Commercial decreased from 183,442 to 121,858 or by 34%, ATP increased from 69,569 to 141,596 or by 103%.

4) After 2000 thru 2014 plotting FAA numbers (uncorrected for 1) & 2)) shows:
a) Private continuing to decrease at roughly the same rate as from 1980 thru 2000,
b) Commercial continuing the same rate of decrease apparent in 3) from 2000 to 2007 and from 2010 thru 2014 but with a significant uptick from 2007 to 2010 (an increase of 22,219 from the 115,127 in 2007).
c) ATP roughly unchanged from 2000 to 2010, then a slight increase from 2010 thru 2014 of 11,200 from the 145,464 of 2010 (7.6%, averaging 1.9%/year).

5) Incorporating approximate corrections for 1) & 2) changes 4) a) Private and b) Commercial into ~3% less of a decrease and c) ATP by ~2% more of an increase.

Data for all years noted are for end of that year, 12/31.
Let's address the root cause of all of this. It's the cheap air fares that have created this mess, what else? It started with the Airline Deregulation Act in 1978.
I've seen it and experienced the downward spiral of commercial aviation (airline travel) as a frequent, job and business related, domestic and intercontinetal air traveler since 1964. The US airlines are now the Greyhounds of the air. It might be possible that Greyhound Bus drivers are now compensated at a higher rate than many of the commercial airlines aircraft 'drivers' these days.
You left out the chief culprit in all of this .... Frank Lorenzo, CEO of the Texas Air Group, that destroyed Eastern Airlines and started the ultimate destruction of the Aviation Industry.
Could he have done it without the deregulation act in 1978?
I really doubt it. He had to have that environment as well as our bankruptcy laws. They are a little more stringent now but still lax and were even moreso then.
I heard today on radio ad for truck driveing job wanted stating pay $55000-$8000. it make me wonder what those guys paid in training to become a truck driver.
$6000-10000, depending on where they went. Rules are same but some folks standards are not.
You think airlines abuse their pilots? Try driving 10 hours every day. That $80,000 paycheck is for the top % of drivers who are hardly never home. You don't get a nice hotel. You don't always get rest at a known stop. You just drive and drive.
While there is pilot shortage just around the corner, companies think that lowering the hour experience requirement will solve their problems. As a ATR flight examiner (TRE), I can say that they are wrong.
Ed Mentz -7
as a non-pilot observer: A:I see a lot to indicate that you guys aren't pilots, just system managers. B:had I the choice, I would not travel with a non-fighter pilot driver. C:since congress is in the loop, 'tis going to be a CLFK anyway, and the decision is going to be made by campaign contribution. just MHO...

[This poster has been suspended.]

Sorry, but what the hell are you talking about?

Give me a fighter pilot any day of the week. And, I am saying this from thirty-seven years of flying for a major airline which included about twenty years of Check Airman work ( in 727, S-80, 757,767,777), instructing, line checks both domestic and international and FAA Designee.

I had one man, a F-117 Gulf War I pilot, who was terrible. But, then, a F-117 is not a fighter, is it...?

Other than that man, all were quicker thinkers, thought well ahead of the jet, flew smoothly, aggressive when needed, great radio procedures, quick studies, yada, yada, yada...

Yep, give me an ex-fighter (or one still flying in the Guard) pilot any day of the week.
Concur with David. I too have done a ton of LCA work with one of the majors and while we have many very good pilots, in most instances the ex-fighter tend to be way ahead of the airplane and their contemporaries. Just calling it as I see it.
Cheers! (ex F-4, F-5, F-15, MIg-21, MiG-23)
I don't care what the pilot's background is. If you are not ahead of your plane and flight, I don't want you in my cockpit
Amen, Preacher.

[This poster has been suspended.]

You did. The military doesn't teach GA flying. That's a whole different ball game. Military flight school is a ranking from the best to the worst. The top guy gets the first pick of available aircraft. The bottom guy gets what's left. I didn't learn GA flying until I got my instructor's ticket and began flying "little" airplanes.
I agree with you Mike. As a flight Instructor, I flew with an Ex-Marine F-4 Fighter Pilot. We took off out of Santa Monica in HARD IFR in a C-172. Had I not been watching him like a hawk, he would have flown us right into the mountains!! Where Instrument Flying was concerned, he sucked, however, in VFR his flying flying superb.
@mike oxlong: To my knowledge, air force, navy of marine fighter or other aircraft drivers have one thing in common and generally deep-seated, it's discipline that is questionable in many of todays 'flight school' airline jockeys. What's your background in aviation anyhow to make such asinine statement is the question.
He can answer for himself later but I'm a thinkin' he is retired NWA Captain. His complaint has been noted before and the crux of the thing is that most military pilots are used to flying solo and they are rough in the pleasing dept.


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