View Full Version : Open Letter to Senator Xenophon

17th Sep 2010, 01:14
From: (insert name)

To: [email protected]

Senator Xenophon,

I am very pleased that you have taken issue with pilot training standards in this country.

I am very concerned that the Australian Airline Industry will be putting passenger lives in danger if it continues with plans to place Cadet Trainees newly qualified as basic Commercial Pilots into the First Officer seats on commercial airline services.

Sound aviation safety practices are taken for granted in Australia. I fear that we will be heading for a Colgan Air-like accident in this country if Airline Management insists on placing under-experienced pilots in the control seats of large jet airliners.

The US Congress has recently mandated the following minimums for airline pilots before they may operate as crewmembers on a commercial airline:

Minimum Licence Level Air Transport Pilot Licence
Minimum Flight Experience 1500 Hours
Minimum Age 23 years

I fully support this strengthening of safety standards in the US and request your support to ensure the same sweeping safety reforms are made to similarly protect the travelling public here in Australia.

I would greatly appreciate your attendance at the next Aviation Industry meeting in Melbourne on 27 September in order to assist with public recognition of this safety-critical issue.

Lives may be lost if the Government and the Civil Aviation Safety Authority does not recognise that the duty of care for public safety in Australia demands an airline pilot with more than 200 hours of flight experience.

Thanks for all your hard work and continuing support for aviation-related safety-critical issues.


(insert name)

17th Sep 2010, 01:19

I just emailed this to Senator Xenophon.

May I suggest everyone passionate about this issue do the same by copying and pasting and then sending their own copy to the Senator's office.

Feel free to add some personal information about yourself and your history if you desire. Remember, however, stick to the facts, keep calm and without emotion and don't get distracted from the primary target - Safety.

This battle must be fought on the grounds of SAFETY. Any other focus is a distraction that risks losing PUBLIC SUPPORT...critical if we are to get legislative change.

Mods: Any chance you could 'sticky' this up top. In more than 10 years of membership on PPRUNE this is the first issue that has me wanting to get up on my soapbox.



17th Sep 2010, 01:35

May I suggest you not single out any one airline for special treatment. This is an Australian airline industry-wide problem, IMO. Otherwise it looks like you have an axe to grind against Jetstar.

We're happy to sticky an appropriate letter for you, but it must address the whole industry. That will gain the greatest effect :)


17th Sep 2010, 02:24
Popgun,Great idea, I agree with Tid'that this needs to be aimed at the industry as a whole. This is the version I will be sending to Senator Xenophon....GordonSenator Xenophon,I am very pleased that you have taken issue with pilot training standards in this country. I am very concerned that the airline industry will be putting passenger lives in danger if they continue with their plan to replace experienced pilots with recently qualified Commercial Pilot Cadet Trainees for the role of First Officers on airline service.Sound aviation safety practices are taken for granted in Australia. I fear that if the practice of placing under-qualified and/or under-experienced trainees in the control seats of large jet airliners, the industry exposes the public to an accident similar to that see in the United States last year. I am sure you are aware that following that accident, the FAA revised that practice and raised the experience requirements for pilots in order to prevent similar accidents from occurring in the future.I would greatly appreciate your attendance at the next AIPA meeting in Melbourne in order to assist with public recognition of this safety-critical issue. Lives may be lost if CASA does not recognise that public safety in Australia demands an airline pilot with more than 200 hours of flight experience.Thanks for all your hard work and support.(insert name)

17th Sep 2010, 04:06
Dear Senator Xenophon,

I am a professional pilot and have flown for twenty years, presently as Captain of Boeing 737 with an Australian RPT Operator. I have flown throughout Papua New Guinea, Europe and Australia/Pacific region.
I agree with your views on the lowering of experience levels. Whilst the low cost carrier model has undoubtedly caused a lowering of wage levels it is not solely responsible for the lowering of experience levels nor a lowering of acceptable standards.
The responsibility of enforcing minimum standards for commercial pilots lies with CASA. Unfortunately I fear any increase in expected standards will only come about as a corollary of an accident/ Royal Commission.
My great concern is that those operators lower down the food chain (predominantly turboprop operators) will be forced through pilot attrition to the major players (large well established airlines) to reduce their minimum requirements to levels which will satisfy the regulatory authorities but nevertheless pose an increased risk to the traveling public.
I thank you for bringing this to the attention of the Parliament and hope that you can achieve change in order to preserve the publics right of safe travel.

Yours sincerely

Mr. Hat
17th Sep 2010, 04:20
Great idea but I personally think each of us have a different story to tell. Put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard) and tell the man of your experience. How you've seen it through your eyes. Its not a petition its an education of people that don't understand the complexities and realities of our profession.

Greenslopes, I'm concerned about turboprop operators also but the reality is that this will now reach the likes of your operation. You are going to have the young 200 hour impoverished foreign FO sitting next to you in the not too distant future.

All okay in CAVOK but gee experience chimes in when the shit hits the fan. The people that say all you need is training obviously haven't seen things go wrong before in multicrew land. Its an overly simplistic view full of biases. It takes a long time to make a good effo and it takes decades to make a good Captain. There are alot of things that build a safe pilot and one of them is good training

You need training AND experience AND attitude AND...the list goes on.

Brake Boy
17th Sep 2010, 04:36
Just sent mine through!

tail wheel
17th Sep 2010, 06:03
"...if Jetstar insists on placing under-qualified, under-experienced trainees ..."

May I suggest you delete the "under qualified ... trainees" part. It suggests the airline is not complying with Civil Aviation requirements, and they are not trainees, they are commercial pilots.

17th Sep 2010, 06:21
This is getting a little messy, why has this not been raised when QF started their cadetship? What about the cadets in the right seat of DHC-8's? There was no issue when this was introduced, why is it a problem now??

It is becoming a little too JQ phobic!

17th Sep 2010, 06:33
OK, I hear you all. Thanks for the input and advice. Standby for a more industry-generic version.


17th Sep 2010, 07:02
OK, I've just reworked it to remove anything emotive or company-specific and to make the language inclusive of the entire industry.

Mods: Better? OK to sticky?



Mr. Hat
17th Sep 2010, 07:43
You need individual letters with personal experiences in the industry its not a petition. They need to hear what goes on behind the facade.

17th Sep 2010, 07:54
Thanks Mr Hat,

I agree...thats why I edited to suggest guys add their own personal touches...

In the absence of personal editing, however, due to either lack of time, shaky penmanship or plain laziness, the letter sent, as is, is still better than remaining silent or sending nothing.

Lets hope we see some cohesion from the pointy end of our industry.



Mr. Hat
17th Sep 2010, 09:41
This is it popgun. Now or never. This will determine if we all end up in the middle east one day..

18th Sep 2010, 05:03

Please sticky if you are happy with the amendments.



18th Sep 2010, 09:06
Fortunate that Senator Nick Xenophon has taken up the cudgel for this issue. It could have been Rob Goatshit instead!:yuk:

19th Sep 2010, 06:24
Yes, this is nicely surprising...I can't remember the last time an Aussie politician picked up a safety-related issue and ran with it...

Mr. Hat
19th Sep 2010, 06:41
He's not your average politician. Lets not forget his work on the jump seat. His words to me were profound. It was the first time someone stood up and said "hang on this doesn't make sense" or words to that effect:

Found at:


19th Sep 2010, 12:51
Dear Pilots of Aus,
The erosion of training standards and employee standards is happening industry wide. I think it is important for you to note that there is an increasing problem in engineering that is similar to this. we must unite the persons of aircraft operations !

that is all, and good luck.

19th Sep 2010, 13:58
This is getting a little messy, why has this not been raised when QF started their cadetship

QF cadets do not operate as F/Os for Take off, approach and landing for some years.
This is about nothing other than cutting costs and driving conditions down, last I checked there were plenty of experienced pilots in Australia unlike other countries around the world that have cadet programmes.

19th Sep 2010, 15:29

I reckon this email thing to Nick Xenophon is a good initiative - but it will be less useful if any events are not factual. When you get to deal with the serious business of Senate Enquiries, nobody is interested in rumours and hearsay - only reasonably verifiable bits of relevant info.

I for one am glad that I read this thread - otherwise I wouldn't have read the Skippers thread or the related bits. I imagine that some folks in the FIFO industry would be a little concerned about:

"Two years and 10 months after commencing his Commercial Pilot Training with Fast Track Pilot Training, 21 year old XX of Perth has begun training as a Captain on the Metroliner with Skippers Airlines. Fast Track CEO, Brad Coombe said, "when X came to us in 2006 he had been doing odd jobs as a gardner and was thinking about buying a lawn mowing round to fund his flight training. After much discussion he decided to fund his training via a bank loan. This allowed him to join our course full time. There was much controversy as to whether he could complete the Fast Track course in the prescribed 18 weeks and to his credit - he did! When X joined Skippers with a basic Commercial Pilots Licence & Multi-Engine Instrument Rating, there were some in the industry that were suggesting that this couldn't be done & that he would be stuck as a co-pilot for a long time with little prospect of ever becoming a Captain. X has overcome many hurdles & has coped very well and by all accounts has turned out to be a sound crew member in multi crew pilot operations with Skippers."

It may well be that X is actually a very competent driver, and this is certainly not intended to comment on any one individual, but what worries me is that X may well have been the last person standing in a system that, having exhausted supply, modifies demand by changing the rules of the game. While Senator Xenophon has put the spotlight on airlines, the reality is that the FIFO game is pseudo-airline flight operations anyway!

Maybe the good Senator needs to widen the focus of his concerns - maybe we can get him a flight to Jundee!!

Stay alive

20th Sep 2010, 23:09
Spot on 4dogs

Mr. Hat
21st Sep 2010, 00:59
FIFO? I really do feel for you genuinely. Why? FIFO and the travelling public really have no idea at all. Its a numbers game. Before too long someone's number is going to be called up. In FIFO well you're in the game all the time travelling to and from the place of work. Let me tell you a story.

Years ago Mrs. Hat comes home and announces she's thinking of a FIFO job as it pays double what her current profession pays in the city. Having worked in the industry I politely (diplomatically) informed her why we didn't need the money that bad.

FIFO operators put tenders in for contracts. Generally this means the company with the lowest bid and the best spin wins the contract. You would think they're all rolling in money because everybody in Mining is making the big bucks right? Wrong.

Paper thin margins as a result of this clever tender process. Have a close read of the EBA's for the pilots and you'll quickly work out why, unless they particularly don't want to move, most of the pilots want out or see it as a stepping stone. In 07' the exodus from these companies was truly amazing. I've never seen anything like it. I saw people that looked like they hadn't started shaving get commands on pretty serious equipment and then bugger off to an Airline. And why wouldn't you leave with the same days off a 9 to 5 office worker gets AND you're working shift work?

Indeed they are shift workers without the rest and penalties. These guys are getting up at 3am day in day out. Sure they get weekends off. But during the week by the time most people are pulling their chair in at the office these dudes have already been awake for 6 hours. Now there's some strong data that highlights the most amazing of revelations: Humans don't perform very well fatigued. They perform even worse when fatigued and working at hours such as those used to transport FIFO workers. Fear not. According to the experts in Congress in the US accidents like the Colgan crash were due to a lack of skills and not that much to do with conditions or fatigue. So we can sleep easy right?.. ..

Have you ever noticed how the aircraft look a bit old and tired. Thats because they are my friend! They're generally so old that most of the time you are travelling on an aircraft whose company is long since gone or the machine is no longer in production. In other words it belongs in a museum. Flying out to airstrips with no radar, no navaids and f-all equipment on board thats going to help them in a pinch.

Of course there are the mining safety audits and the charade that goes on with it. All incredibly highly paid skilled people that analyse every detail. Ohh boy they're running a tight ship! Not in a pink fit my friend, they should stick to the HSE audit. Big business and the blind eye - we shall see if a senate enquiry can get to the real truth behind our sad industry.

21st Sep 2010, 01:27
I wonder whether this 21 yo captain know how to use a weather radar.


21st Sep 2010, 05:08
Mr Hat, you are spot on sir. I used to work in FIFO and it is just as you describe. Don't forget that some of these companies also do some RPT routes, with the same crews that are on min rest, min experience, min support and clapped out aircraft etc. So now Mr and Mrs Joe Average and the kids are sitting in the back of some aeroplane assuming everything is kosher because they paid good money for their ticket with a regional airline. Not quite.......

Mr. Hat
21st Sep 2010, 06:06
Yep and I used the biggest filter I could find. Its certainly not a post aimed at the employees who I think do a bloody remarkable job given their situation - just a nice big reality check for the big money earners that think they're sitting pretty at the back.

Here's another one for the road while I'm on the soap box: Most of the time the guys at the front are making less than the mine site dish pig or the cleaner.

22nd Sep 2010, 05:36
Some fair points made...but rather than bleat, moan and reminisce...

Lets support the Senator's calls for a Senate Enquiry!!!

We are pilots...problem solvers by nature. Surely we're not defeated this easily?

I know I am not.

PG :ok:

22nd Sep 2010, 11:08
unionist, they're only lining up to do the job because the taxpayer is loaning them 99K loan via FEEHELP to undertake the training. How much skin is the operator actually risking? Next to nothing.
The government is underwriting this madness. The taxpayer bears the risk, the operator gets the benefit of reduced wages & expanded labour pool. Classic privatising of profits, socialising the losses. Crony capitalism at its finest.

teresa green
22nd Sep 2010, 12:29
Kayboy, I started aged 19 years, with 230 hrs, on a DC 3, (TAA). I was as basically useless as t#ts on a bull. I would not like it to go back to that scene, and nor would I like to see it become the norm. You are basically a accident waiting to happen, and my 230 hrs was bush bashing, no cadet course, no Sim, just me, one Chipmunk, bags of mail, out of Isa, and I lived in a car ( which leaked). I spent 12 months on that DC3 being berated, sworn at, threatened, by the toughest Pilots in the world, the blokes that survived Bomber Command. I can not think of a better training (in that era) for a young pilot, but today it would be totally unacceptable, (more's the pity) . My point is, you have no frecking idea, you have little or no skills, (you might think you have) I soon found out I had exactly none, and yes, of course, the Aircraft are a lot less physical these days, and probably for a computer nerd, a piece of cake, until...........:mad:

22nd Sep 2010, 12:32
Goodluck but i dont see this going anywhere....

24th Sep 2010, 01:06
Nothing will change with negative, defeatist attitudes like that...

Thankfully for our industry many of us aren't beaten yet and will be bringing pressure to bear on our politicians and our professional associations in order to:

Stop further erosion of aviation safety standards, and

Prevent circumvention of Aussie Industrial Relations legislation via off-shoring of pilot jobs.

Cheers to all those who are passionate enough about these issues to get off their behinds and take positive actions towards resolution.


28th Sep 2010, 04:23
I was there. I didn't take notes, but here is my recollection...

There was somewhere between 50 and 100 in attendance. Most guys, overwhelmingly, were from QF, with smaller numbers from Jetstar and a few from Virgin Blue and Tiger. Unfortunately, there didn't seem to be any from the Regionals and GA...perhaps to do with the fact that no publicity of the meeting was placed in mainstream media.

Not nearly as many as the Sydney meeting but numbers were expected to be lower for several reasons not least of which was the rapidly unfolding IT fiasco at Virgin Blue...

The tone of the meeting was united, defiant and deeply passionate that our profession had to be rescued from this dangerous path.

There was a feeling that the 2 major issues (Off-shoring and 200 hour FOs) had galvanised the industry now to stop the rot in its tracks. Many guys I spoke with said they hadn't seen this sort of unity in more than 20 years.

An identical no-confidence motion in BB was carried unanimously by the group.

Senator Xenophon was spoken of warmly and considered key to the fight.

Cohesion, unity and collective industry focus were mentioned by all speakers...and considered essential to success.

This aspect was particularly highlighted by the Transport Workers Union speaker who assured the audience that the rest of our aviation industry colleagues (Baggage handlers, FAs, Refuellers, ATCs, Customer Service etc etc) were 100% behind us.

The meeting was advised that management had closed the door on further discussions and so the course ahead meant publicity campaigns and/or legal challenges. AIPA's legal counsel felt that an effective publicity campaign was the smarter choice.

Further, there was some explanation from a Jetstar pilot regarding the 'September to Remember' campaign. He said that the success of this campaign would not be known until the data for September had been analysed down the track but that he would not be surprised if a lot of efficiencies disappeared as individual pilots ceased going beyond what they were contracted to do.

The legal guy confirmed that doing just 'what you are paid to do, and no more' was acting within the law and could not be seen as an illegal industrial action.

A few free bevvies were had by all after the formal meeting and everyone I spoke to felt that the meeting was a success. It continued the momentum of the Sydney meeting...and there was talk of perhaps another meeting, the next one in BrisVegas.


28th Sep 2010, 11:56
I spent 12 months on that DC3 being berated, sworn at, threatened, by the toughest Pilots in the world, the blokes that survived Bomber Command. I can not think of a better training (in that era) for a young pilot,

I think you need to divest yourself of the rose-tinted glasses. It was precisely because of those being berated, sworn at and threatened attitudes by so called "captains" that CRM and it's ilk was brought into the training system.

Are you telling me that a working environment where the boss can make dirty passes at his female employee, swear at her perceived lack of competence, act the tough John Wayne captain of movie star fame, is seriously conducive to good training? Sounds like you may have been the victim of Stockholme Syndrome?

I flew four engine bombers at Townsville. Albeit, thank goodness, after the war. Yet the former wartime captains I was privileged to crew with were the very opposite to the cretans you were caught up with.

The pilots I crewed with in the 1953 era were in general reasonably sound pilots (with the odd exception) and none I knew were rude, shouters or generally mean bastards to me or my fellow Sergeant copilots. This obnoxious attitude you struck (and enjoyed?) in those long ago days, seems to be peculiar only to gold braided civilian airline captains where company and union seniority ruled and new first officers were treated as a mere bum in the RH seat. I for one never struck these types in the RAAF. Their lights would have been punched out after hours.

Some people (pilots) may learn more when screamed at by bullies on the flight deck. Bully for them:ok: Personally I have nothing but sheer contempt for that "style" of captaincy which eventually many years later cost the lives of over 500 innocent passengers at Tenerife.

In later years, I met a couple of these idiot captains who were legends in their own minds, when I spent a few days doing an F28 conversion with Ansett Airlines of West Australia (formerly McRobertson Miller Airlines). These nutters were loathed by their own first officers for just the same habits displayed in your loving description of the hardened "veterans" you crewed with at 250 hours.

Apologies for the rant - nothing personal but screaming skulls on the flight deck get right up my hairy nostrils.

1st Oct 2010, 07:58
Just read the US Senate Bill - 5900. Very long but well worth a scan as the 1500 hours is only one of many significant changes. Mandating multi - crew skills training is another, so is a review of "commuting". Be careful what you wish for if anyone suggests copying it here holus bolus.
By the way in section 209/216 it makes provision for "academic credit" to reduce the 1500 hours.
Fly safe