View Full Version : Age and experience for Jet Commands

8th Jan 2003, 12:53
Open question.

What, if any, age would you consider appropriate for a first jet command on RPT operations. If you have an opinion, I would be interested in how your opinion might have been formed by previous experience, be it military or civil.

Embittered Old Man

8th Jan 2003, 14:12
Knave, saw your post on the 'other' thread and couldn't resist this one. ;)

Seriously, how long is a piece of string. QFs 'record' is 27 on the 767 with the youngster at the time having done six years checked to line as both S/O and F/O (about '91 he checked out I think but don't recall who it was) so obviously QF felt that this was a decent amount of time. If we assume absolute minimums of the time of joining of (say) 500 hours and about 700 hours per year after that you are looking at 3000 hours on jets (as S/O and F/O) plus whatever they came to QF with prior to that- but remember that we are talking a senioiority system here, he may well have been 'ready' much earlier!

Personally, I think it is an individual thing. Some pilots will be ready at completely different times, others may be ready at the same time. This could range from 1000 hours as an F/O to 4000 hours as an F/O. Some may never be ready.

As to bare minimums, honestly, who knows. I think you can have a 'safe' or 'minimum standard' Captain who will handle non normals proficiently and then you can have an 'above average' captain who will deal with non normals with aplomb. The difference in there is the 'experience' factor. That said, I've flown with commanders who have just checked out who have shown greater leadership, teamwork and other Human Factor skills than those who have been checked out for years (or heaven forbid, decades!! :eek: ) so I don't think you can necessarily ask the question that way.

Do I think a former 'low time' pilot can do it after 12 months in the right hand seat? Probably but I'd reckon that they'd be the exception rather than the rule. But what would I know, I'm an ex cadet who never did THY!! :D

Good luck with the question. Shall be interesting to see the responses. Incidentally, you could've set it up as a poll. ;)

8th Jan 2003, 14:52
Totally agree with Keg.
It ultimately depends on the person themselves. I have flown with Captains that vary from superb to very bad indeed. It's also hard to tell how the person will change when given the command, as they will have to change to maintain the responsibility.

9th Jan 2003, 06:59
Setting it up as a poll would have required more computer skills than I currently possess.
With the example of a pilot entering jet service from a very young age and steadily picking up hours in a stable work environment, age 25 starts to make more sense. My view is probably skewed by the fact my work environment was decidedly not secure or stable and I went through the start stop routine common to most people who start off in GA.

9th Jan 2003, 07:38

Asks an interesting question in the light of the current state of flux in the Australian Airline Industry in regard to recruiting and training of Captains.

Age and experience for RPT Jet Commands
Open question.

What, if any, age would you consider appropriate for a first jet command on RPT operations. If you have an opinion, I would be interested in how your opinion might have been formed by previous experience, be it military or civil.

Keg suggests a poll may be interesting, Knave is not sure how to start one, so I'll have a go for him.

Please feel free to suggest additional questions or a change to the questions on this thread :D


9th Jan 2003, 09:26
Who cares. At the end of the day it will be determined by seniority, the standard being met and positions available.

9th Jan 2003, 15:50
Who cares if it takes a few years, sitting there in the RHS (all care and no responsibilty) absorbing all the canny tricks of the trade.

When you go LHS the "buck" stops with you, and when it all goes pear shaped it can be a very lonely place.

Don't rush it, if you make in your 20's there's no mountains to climb by 40 you'd be a boring old fart without the advantage of carrying years of knowledge gleaned from others on your way up.

;) ;)

10th Jan 2003, 00:26
Perfectly put Frontside

I'm with stupid
10th Jan 2003, 06:41
May I add another ( relevant ) question to the thread.

Assuming you know next to nothing about the guy/gal up front in the left seat ( and assuming you knew their experience level ), when you go to put your family on a domestic jet service, would you rather see " slightly greying " ( maybe not for female skippers ) 10000 hr plus person, or " only just shaving " 3000hr person ?

In other words, you don't know if the older experienced guy is a danger to all including himself or the young guy is a complete ace, but what is the next best deciding factor ?

10th Jan 2003, 08:25

If the guy/gal sitting there should not be there then the airline will be ultimately responsible for allowing a person who is not a suitable person to hold that responsibility of P-in-C of that A/C.
Once again you can vote with your feet and not fly with that airline. You do have a choice.

Sly'n Smiley
10th Jan 2003, 23:53
After 12 years of airline flying with 3 different carriers operating jets, I have come to the conclusion that AGE and EXPERIENCE are usefull but not defining indicators of command performance. It may be interesting to note that some authorities stipulate a minimum age for jet commands. For example, in Vietnam (where I am now) the age is 35. Remember, too, that there is a reason why your car insurance gets cheaper as you get older. And also why it is cheaper for females;)

Kaptin M
11th Jan 2003, 02:08
Personally, I think it is an individual thing. Some pilots will be ready at completely different times, others may be ready at the same time.
Totally agree with you, Keg. :)

And generally speaking, in a structured system, ie. a seniority/bid system, it is possible for those who feel that they are not ready for command, to delay it, and conversely those who believe they are "ready to go", to bid for it.
That's not to say though, that seniority might also hold back some people who WANT their lhs asap!!

Question: If - at ANY age - a pilot was offered an airline command, regardless of previous experience, how many do you think would pass it up?
I'd hazard a guess at probably LESS than about 10%.

howard hughes
11th Jan 2003, 09:53
Kaptin M I see a slight flaw in your logic.

I'm tipping less than ten percent would knock back the offer, I've only met one in my lifetime.

With a seniority/bid system surely people who are not ready for commands (but think that they are aces) will be applying for commands as soon as their number comes up too.

Surely a better system would be if people were not offered an upgrade until they are capable of doing the job (this of course very hard to discern as previously discussed).

Now I'm not saying this is a fault free system either, but each applicant should be put forward on merit alone. Some may have the age, some may have experience (ie:hours or exposure), some may have logical decision making skills, some may have all of these but given a quality check and training system, many varied types can and will succeed in the LHS.

Just something else to add to the mix - ATTITUDE! Where does this fit in?

Heard these before?

-"this old fart cant fly for sh**!!! I should be in the left hand seat!"

-"This young sprog cant fly for sh**!!! Sit there and dont touch anything!"

My two bobs worth.

Cheers, HH

11th Jan 2003, 10:28
Regardless of the system leading up to command, be it seniority or experience, qualification, suitability, a pre command assessment should sort out those that are ready and those that need a bit more time.

In my experience that assessment has involved something like a complete review of the initial sylabus followed by a LOFT exercise.

Seniority will tell you who is next in the queue whilst an assessment will tell you is actually ready.

[I haven't voted as I don't see questions that would fit my answers].

Kaptin M
11th Jan 2003, 11:48
Unfortunately, Howie, the "merit system" helps those with the silkiest (and resultant brown) tongues - "Promotion By Suction...(PBS)" was the appropriately coined terminology, I believe!
Most all of the ex-Ansett Flight Department achieved their positions by the "PBS" method, to the point where it was rumoured that Sir Peter needed only one pair of underpants!! :rolleyes:

Yes, BM, "Seniority will tell you who is next in the queue whilst an assessment will tell you is actually ready."
However with the seniority/bid system, a pilot who feels that he needs to wait a little longer, is not unwillingly forced to undertake an assessment for which he feels he isn't ready, without direct confrontation.

In actual fact, exactly HOW does a pilot - who is told he/she will start command training - handle a situation, if he/she feels they aren't yet ready, without jeopardising their career further down the path?

Perhaps an advertising of "existing opportunities" would allow the best of both worlds?
The "potentials" could apply (by secret ballot), and the employer could then select (on the PBS method, if so desired!!) the successful aspirants, thereby covering all bases for both sides!

11th Jan 2003, 13:46


Problem is, sooner or later we are all offered promotions that will take us past the level of our own capabilities at the time.

The hard part and most of us don't recognise it, is knowing when that occurs and have the grace to "stand back"

Kaptin M
11th Jan 2003, 19:53
Problem is, sooner or later we are all offered promotions that will take us past the level of our own capabilities at the time.
Personally Gaunty, I reckon one of the BIGGEST problems in aviation, are the number of pilots who actively strive for positions above their capabilities, and not only do they not step back once the recognition dawns upon them, but push on regardless!!

EGO - that unique ability to say "I CAN do it!":D..............when the whole world is telling you that you :eek:CAN'T!!!:eek:

11th Jan 2003, 22:49
Just for reference, just checked to line about 2 hours ago, 26 year old, with 3400 hours total, as a 737-800 captain. This is by the way, with a large airline in Europe. He had undergone our command training programme, that lasts nearly 4 to 5 months, and did very well. But others do not. However, I was once told by an Ansett captain, "You need at least 10 years as an FO, before you can command a 'jet'" This,I came to realise long ago, is just w**k. What you need, is, yes experience, and then training, and then company back-up. And as long as you have these things, in the correct mix, all, with in reason, will go well.

12th Jan 2003, 01:16
Fair enough SOPS. So training is pretty important and can offset a lack of experience.

How good is Virgin Blue training? The endorsement program was initially a shambles.

Virgin Blue has very experienced pilots as the norm, but how does the system cope with 1000 hour pilots?

I understand our 1000 hour pilot may well be trained by a Training Captain who himself joined Virgin with no jet experience, was presented with a lousy endorsement program, six months later a Captain and shortly thereafter a Training Captain!

Surely the training department under considerable strain. New airline doubling in size and then some.

I understand VB a sentimental favourite amongst 89ers but many of us have been painted a different picture by pilots from within Virgin Blue- who themselves are very experienced airline pilots from abroad and question the lack of investment and experience in some training practices.

I'm with stupid
12th Jan 2003, 07:09
Very simplistic Eurocap, so are you saying that every Captain in every airline should be in that position, I think the crash stats may disagree with you there.
When I am boarding an A/C and happen to notice the skipper is'nt yet shaving, what do you suggest I do? walk back to the Terminal ??

SlynSmiley, beware of the stats that dictate that females are better drivers and therefore get cheaper insurance ( likewise older drivers ) , this does not take into account accidents per KMs travelled, simply the number of females involved in accidents v males. My point is that the male, as a rule, in any houshold would do probably 80-90 % of the driving, and therefore is statistically more likely to be in an accident just because he is on the road more.

Gnads, I can assure you that the captains in VB get nowhere close to the training that SOPs refers to.

12th Jan 2003, 10:59
I agree with the previous posters that it should be an appropriate blend of experience, training and intelligence. i.e. it depends on the candidate.

However, just food for thought.

In my 11,000 odd hours, I have experienced 2 engine failures and 1 hydraulic system failure. I have never had to perform an emergency/rapid descent, never had a tyre failure, never done an RTO, never had a slat/flap fault, never a fire nor a flight control fault. In other words, I have major malfunctions about once every 3,500 hours on average.

Therefore, a jet transport Captain with less than this (admittedly rough statistical) number (3,500 hours) may never have seen in real time a major malfunction.

Does training (even the best available) really guarantee that the individual will perform appropriately under the acid test? Or does the Training Department make the assumption that simulation equals reality?

Just food for thought...

12th Jan 2003, 11:13
A Jet Captain????

Who has the wisdom of Moses, the patience of Jobe, perseverance of Noah and the ability to juggle the daily crap while operating an aluminium projectile in a translucent liquid, finger up at mother nature and remember the girls name in the morning????
Applications to the third rock from the Sun.

Seriously, after too many years at this task there is no fixed profile that I would be game to put in a job description.
All of para one are actually needed on a sector by sector basis, good training, the ability to KNOW SOP's, and when to go outside the "box" without compromising SAFETY are a few more.
CRM has been eased into the equation, I facililitate this, but it's a crock of s$%t if the process is not from the top down and I am yet to see that REALLY WORK as we will only have what we can afford or understand, the window dressing is Bull of the first order.
I have seen ex engineers/navigators eat up being a Captain and others fail so dismally you would hope they take up another career. I have seen good Captains lose the plot due to the onset of the many debilitating effects of age, and others go on into their 80's as good as I will never be, damnit!!!
Can you empart your knowlege to the next in line, be an example to ALL the people you deal with in the day's toil, get the task done on time, every time, on budget for fuel and all the Bosses little bits in their right place at the end of the day?


Where I am the F/Os are supposed to ask the Capt for advice on how to improve their performance, TRY ASKING YOUR F/O HOW YOU WENT, it's a brave move some days.

If someone flashes his lights at you, flash back, it's me going to my next lesson.


howard hughes
12th Jan 2003, 22:45
Existing opportunities Kap - I like it!!!

Advertise, interview and pick the most suitably qualified.

Thats exactly how its done where I work. But I do have to agree that brown nosing might help too. Of course no sytem is perfect, but alas, thats aviation....

Cheers and happy New Year, HH.

13th Jan 2003, 09:51
In reply to Greybeard on CRM
CRM has been eased into the equation, I facilitate this, but it's a crock of s$%t if the process is not from the top down and I am yet to see that REALLY WORK

CRM has nothing to do with management or even management pilots. Sure it would be oh so wonderful if they all believed in it and practiced it in our airlines, it would make a CRM culture so much easier to achieve. Yes, for most airlines, and any company, that is in the list with the tooth fairy, Christmas wish lists, and wet dreaming. CRM is for aircrew, especially pilots, about pilots. Each airline's group of aircrew are the only ones that make CRM happen or not. Don't look to blame it on those who are not really involved here. Leadership is vital, but MUST come from WITHIN the pilot group to make the CRM crock of s$%t a reality. As a CRM facilitator, that is the job given to you. You shouldn't be in that position if you are looking for quick fixes, easy answers, or excuses. Keep pushing, you are one of the few making a positve difference in your aircrew group, even if you can't see it happening. Cultures are alive and constantly changing and that includes any pilot group.

Kaptin M
13th Jan 2003, 10:58
CRM, b55 has EVERYTHING to do with management.

Management set the tone for the "mindset" of the whole company, and IMHO the failures of many, many companies today are a DIRECT result of this "New World, aggressive" management style.

The "abrasion factor" that has been introduced into (apparently) most airlines, is in my opinion, THE single biggest factor causing the tide of airline drownings.

Suddenly, it seems that the "management" bonus must take priority over ALL else - investor dividends, staff employment , and company welfare!!

It's a little hard to practise CRM, when the Captains' position is seen to be ACTIVELY undermined by non-flying, non-revenue producing management.

Management should be there to lead by example, and to SUPPORT the pilots.
NOT undermine them!

But, if that's the way they wish to play it....fine! :)

13th Jan 2003, 12:18
To b55 and Kaptin,

Two ends of the opinion poll and actually both right in many ways.
The PILOTS are the ones who can change the system, BUT if a most/every turn they are turned down when REASONABLE requests are made or are treated unjustly then Management have failed in the CRM LOOP.
My CRM facilitation room can hold 16, we sometimes get 12/14 which means that the commitment to provide the Pilots with the opportunity to participate has not perhaps been met, some being called out on the morning of the course to crew a flight. Yes we must operate, but a little more thought and planning would let me do my job to the best advantage.
As for being a facilitator or not, I enjoy my task, get good positive feeback and have met and enjoyed the company of a lot more of my peers than many other Pilots as we tend to mix with the other side of the cockpit rather than our peers in normal operations.

Openess, frank and confidential discussions, a good laugh or two, some heated discussions even with Management participation in the room have so far been of good value, I would like to see it get better that's all.

I have been in this from 1986 and it is getting better, changing and challenging to be a facilitator and the learning process is in both directions.


14th Jan 2003, 01:37
Kaptin M is correct..and if you don't have decent CRM between management and pilots you certainly can't expect it in the cockpit.

The Australian domestic aviation industry has been all but decimated by management who thought they could quarantine hatred-disdain-loathing-contempt etc toward one specific group of pilots and stop that destroying their whole airline culture.

Didn't work then and never ever will.

14th Jan 2003, 06:43
You are letting management control your safety??!! I can't believe that. You will never get management to see the safety picture the same way as pilots do. NEVER. Don't let them control your ultimate safety issue, as well. They will control all those other issues that you stated. None of them will mean anything if you're dead. The pilots on the flight deck have their own safety destiny in their hands. Management is not there, where we are. Only we control the flight deck culture. Don't let them in!!!

KAP, your last line..."But if that's the way they want to play it ....fine." That is the key to this. It is the reality. Stop wishing for something that will never happen to our satisfaction from another culture, management, get over it and on with our jobs of safe flight. THAT'S OUR JOB, NOT THEIRS!!

All you need for a CRM program is a person willing to stand up in front of the other pilots and talk CRM issues. Leadership and a passion are the only vital ingredients to a successful CRM program. Money only makes the task easier for a facilitator but will never guarantee the program a success.
By all means, bring management into the CRM program. If your pilot culture is strong, you can influence another culture, It does work both ways!!! Keep pushing .......

15th Jan 2003, 20:52

I am with you 100%. At long last a realistic reply to a thread that should be more realsitic about the practicalities of who is in charge.


As I said before if you are not happy DON'T GO!!!!!