More Than Enough Pilots to Meet U.S. Airline Demand: Debunking the Pilot Shortage Myth
Air Line Pilots Association International
"Over the past decade, the United States has produced more than enough certificated pilots to meet airline hiring demands and compensate for retirements, even as new and more rigorous pilot training standards were enacted to enhance safety. In fact, there are currently about 1.5 certificated pilots relative to demand, according to Federal Aviation Administration and Bureau of Labor Statistics data. So, although we don’t have a pilot shortage, we do have a shortage of airline executives willing to stand by their business decisions to cut air service and be upfront about their intentions to skirt safety rules and hire inexperienced workers for less pay. ALPA’s position to maintain airline pilot safety training and requirements is strongly supported by industry and labor stakeholders."
"Unfortunately, some airlines are using the fictitious claim that there is a lack of available pilots to try to weaken training and safety standards and distract from their profit-first business decisions to cut service and
hire inexperienced aviators for less pay instead of focusing on changes
to fundamental issues associated with these profit-driven business models. The companies claim, among other things, that the first officer qualification and pilot training requirements mandated by Congress discourage potential airline pilots and are the cause for service cuts to rural communities.
Looking at the numbers, data shows that airlines make operational decisions based on the profitability of each route. Past practice proves that if you pay airline pilots commensurate with their training and experience, not only will you get qualified candidates but also a robust pipeline of future aviators.
Regulations that enhance safety and that have led to the U.S. aviation system’s exemplary safety record should never be used as the scapegoat for profit and should be untouchable by special interests. ALPA will defend against any action that would erode airline safety standards. Read about the FAA’s recent denial of Republic Airways’ pilot training exemption request."
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The 1,500-Hour Rule Has Broken The Pilot Pipeline In The U.S.
Ben Baldanza, Forbes Contributor
"The 1500 Hour rule is not as universally accepted as being helpful as the flight time and duty rule regulation. The rule has made it very expensive to decide to become a pilot — about $250,000 out of pocket and two or three years for people not trained by the military. It also has made it difficult to attract new populations, including women and minorities, into the pilot profession. Most importantly, it is seen by some as actually reducing safety since people spend years getting flight experience in areas not necessarily associated with flying commercial aircraft in a complex system, and end up entering that system unprepared.
According to the FAA, there are about 164,000 ATP licenses granted in the U.S. This includes people who can no longer legally fly commercially due to age or illness, and pilots who have not maintained medical certification. Estimates for pilots needing to be hired by the airlines for 2022 range from 12,000 to 15,000. Yet, the current rate of training is expected to produce only about 6,000 pilots this year. This means the pilot pipeline in the U.S. is producing less than half of the pilots needed to support the fleet plans of the U.S. airlines.
The biggest reason for this is the huge hurdle it takes to enter into this career now. Prior to the 1500 Hour rule, prospective pilots could earn their ATP with a Commercial pilots license, a minimum of 250 hours of flying, plus airline-specific training. Typically, new hires had closer to 500 hours before being hired. This process created an apprentice-based solution. New first officers were paired with seasoned captains over their next 1,000 or so hours, learning how to fly in the U.S. airspace system, and into big commercial airports. This apprentice-based system produced the safest air transportation system in the world and operated for over 80 years in the U.S, and was copied by virtually every other nation on the globe.
Having to get 1,500 hours before being hired requires an enormous
financial and time commitment that effectively shrinks the number of people who are willing to become pilots. As importantly, these 1,500 hours can all be earned flying small, single engine planes in rural areas, or even flying hot air balloons. During the years of building these hours, most applicants do very little to train themselves in the career they plan to enter, such as flying big jets into New York and Chicago.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) ruled that the Colgan crash was primarily due to the pilot inappropriately responding to his situation, and they pointed out that fatigue was a contributing factor — the captain had chronic sleep loss in the days before the accident and both he and the first officer had interrupted and poor-quality sleep in the 24 hours before their 9:18 p.m. takeoff. However, the 1500 hour rule does nothing about pilot fatigue — no post-Colgan regulation has addressed that. And the NTSB did not conclude that either of the pilots were inexperienced. Each of the pilots had over 2,000 flight hours so the 1500 hour rule would not have kept either of them out of that cockpit.
The families who lost people in the Colgan crash, and anyone who wants the safest air transportation system, deserve regulations that will in fact make the system safer. There is no evidence that the 1500 Hour rule has made our air transportation system safer. There is some evidence that it has been made it less safe. When a child bruises their knee, and the mother kisses the bruise and says everything will be okay, that mother knows the act of kissing does nothing to actually heal the bruise. But it does tell the child that the mother cares, is there for support, and gives the child confidence. The 1500 Hour rule is like that kiss - it makes people feel good that something changed, but the change does nothing to address the NTSB-determined cause of that crash."
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