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"Who is flying your airplane?"

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"Who is flying your airplane?"

Old 5th Jan 2010, 13:21
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Angel Oranage comments.

Angel Orange, could you please let me know about the safety consultant you quoted. Who are they, where was this said? Also more about the 150 hour MPA.
Galaxy Flyer, thanks for your reply.
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Old 5th Jan 2010, 17:06
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angelorange, you are spot on with your comments. And in the end, this IS about money, (making a profit), not qualifications and creating the best pilots. That is the way our aviation system has evolved since the '70's, under de-regulation. One way or another, it must be re-discovered with every new generation's entry into aviation - it can't be done cheaply. There is always a price to pay - what the last thirty years has been about is shifting, "who pays", not "if".

Meeting the bare minimum for such a licence is not the measure of "success". While teaching a cadet how to manipulate the controls of a modern airliner is relatively easy as the tragic lesson of 9/11 demonstrated, the job of "airline pilot" is not primarily about flying the airplane, it is about decision-making such that the employer runs a safe operation while making money.

I said, as many observers were saying years ago, that if the industry, meaning the accountants and CEOs, continue to desecrate this profession and this career as they have over the last twenty years, smart, capable young people who would make fine airline pilots will choose another profession.

Those chickens are coming home to roost right now. The "best and the brightest", in Captain Sullenberger's words, are no longer coming to the profession. Earnestness and keeness do not always equate to capability. The cadet program such as it is, is the industry's solution to this shortage.

While a 250hr brand-new pilot is capable of handling a big jet, usually those with such low time and no commercial experience in real life aviation sat in the Second Officer's or today the Relief Pilots' seat for a few years and essentially observed how it was done. Seasoned professionals who know this system will already know that the safety factor was higher because of the third set of eyes, because the "newbie" was familiar with company procedures, was trained in practical, real, under-pressure CRM decision-making and so on. This inevitably made a do-able, realistic transition from the back to the front seat for a low-time pilot and it worked - seen it.

Today, airline managements have been sold the bill of goods that today's airliners are so automated they, "fly themselves". I suspect such leaders, including MBA's who know more about cost-cutting than aviation, hopefully are even now learning that this is not so and that they now have a problem on their hands because the airline-pilot pipeline is no longer full of eager candidates. Certainly, training and experience have come under the microscope, and deservedly so, and the "newbies" and the MCPL "solution" are not the place to focus our gaze...

I don't know what the FAA or Transport Canada oversight is regarding schools which hand out MCPLs, (I suspect it is minimal but who knows) but aviation has always struggled making a decent return and is constantly a prime target for a cost-cutting accountant mentality.

This all seems black-and-white thinking and of course it is, but this is a forum, and isn't a place where extended dialogues can take place without putting most to sleep. These notions are now front-and-center in most serious industry discussions which now include the FAA, (though not Transport Canada...yet), having been highlighted by the very incidents and accidents that many feared would occur when lack of experience and low qualifications began entering the field.

When we have at least five if not six fatal aircraft stall accidents in the last few years* by professional airline crews there is something amiss and it is not just with individual pilots as the Colgan case highlights. Each of these cases has differing circumstances and it can always be argued that the stall resulted from other factors - that is exactly what a stall is however, but the aircraft itself doesn't know that. These aircraft stalled and pilots aren't supposed to allow that to occur - all the rest are details.

Higher pay, better working conditions, suitable fatigue-risk management, a decent prospect for retirement and a focus on the principles of aviation do not in and of themselves guarantee a safer aviation industry but it is a proven fact that these conditions contribute significantly, all other factors being equal.

The industry has "solved" the traditional causes of aircraft accidents such as weather, navigation, mid-air collision, CFIT, mechanical failure, engine reliability; automation has contributed measurably to such safety levels but is at the same time, our nemesis. Today accidents are about people and organizations and the management thereof.

So far this can be viewed as a blip, not a trend. Let us hope that recognition of this leads to appropriate solutions.


*Recent accidents which resulted from stalling the aircraft:
-One-Two-Go MD82 @ Phuket, (stalled due go-around thrust not applied);
-Spanair MD83 @ Madrid, (stalled on takeoff due zero-slats/flaps t/o);
-Turkish B737 @ AMS, (stalled on approach);
-Fedex ATR42 @ Lubbock, (stalled on approach - non-fatal);
-Colgan Q400 @ Buffalo, (stalled in icing);
-AF A330 over the Atlantic, (impacted fully-stalled, we don't know why yet)

Last edited by PJ2; 5th Jan 2010 at 19:00.
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Old 5th Jan 2010, 23:16
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I am surprised that there has not been more focus on this forum on the fact that a lot of the regional FOs in the US live in "crash pads" on blow-up mattresses/sofas in the same room as several other pilots and cabin crew. How can anyone - with 25,000 hrs or 250hrs - be in a fit state to operate a 16 hour duty day (which the FAA seems to allow, correct me if I am wrong please) after spending the night in these Bombay slum style conditions?

I seem to remember one of the executives from Colgan Air saying that they "employ professionals" and expect there pilots and crew to turn up to work fully rested. If you want professionals maybe you should pay more than $18,000 per year eh?? Then they probably wouldn't have to be working in TGI fridays in there spare time.
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Old 8th Jan 2010, 18:05
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as17 - you are quite right - fatigue and fitness to fly are major issues with low cost operations - especially Stateside. A few airline managers do not appreciate how FOs are treated and how expensive and even stressful it is to be on standby at a base far away from home.

PJ2 - agree with most of your points but I think we have a trend (rather than a blip) that began with de-regulation and before the recent accidents mentioned.

For the past 30+ years technology has made flying safer even with the increase in fleets and sectors flown. Examples include: TCAS that has improved situational awareness beyond ATC and lookout. Whilst Airbus FBW has enabled all aircrew skill levels to extract the maximum performance from the flight envelope without endangering others.

The big change is the peace dividend (reduction in Military Pilot numbers), access to cheap credit (until 2008) and self selection and pay to fly schemes.

Would that cadets be permitted to use the jump seat and act as a 3rd crew member on EU airline flights - but it rarely happens post 911.
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Old 11th Jan 2010, 14:36
  #65 (permalink)  
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Exclamation Flight Global - 2000-2010 Safety Review

Stalled airline safety needs new action to advance

"A step-change for the better in airline safety performance took place around the year 2000, but the fruits of those changes have now been reaped and while safety today is at an all-time high, improvement stopped six years ago. As our review details, that plateau marked a departure from a century of aviation safety, which had until recent years improved steadily since the Wright brothers.
The review demonstrates that many of the serious accidents that happened in 2009 were preventable and points a finger of blame at the legacy of years of pilots flying highly automated aircraft. Although modern flightdecks make a positive contribution to safety performance, the report argues, pilots are now out of practice at manual flying using raw flight and navigational data when the sophisticated systems fail, as they sometimes do, or when pilots have to revert to visual flying in marginal conditions."
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Old 11th Jan 2010, 21:01
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perhaps if he'd read about how nasty turprops stall in useless old htbj there be nothing at all to see,..but new ideas are always better,... go to any cemetary and you'll find lots of'em
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Old 11th Jan 2010, 23:03
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Here are parts 2 & 3 of the Buffalo News series linked to in the first post on this thread. Part 2 is about automation and airmanship; Part 3 about private flight schools. Nothing much new to regular readers of PPRune, but a good summary of the types of problem that can lead to the Buffalo accident and others past and (I fear) to come.

Part Two: The pilot system error : Home: The Buffalo News
Part Three: Top Guns give way to insta-pilots : World & Nation : The Buffalo News

Another Buffalo News link - A chart showing 5 years of incidents involving regional airlines, and other interesting stuff.
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Old 17th Jan 2010, 16:33
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More stringent requirements needed?

I operate a Gulfstream on an AOC. Our insurance carrier allows me to use anyone that has been to school in the last 12 months. But if we want to compete and fly the big buck passengers we have to meet additional requirements by Wyvern and ARGUS, They require a minimum of 2000 hours for an SIC, a minimum of 1500 hours ME. The people that know and understand do not want to ride in the back with "The minimums" up front.
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Old 17th Jan 2010, 17:44
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Flight Schools and Customer Airlines to demand more from the training pipeline. A structured apprenticeship route makes more sense than rushing through the basics.
Flight school and Customer Airlines would never ask more from training pipeline. Especially flight school. They are private business such airlines so they just care to gain as much money as they can. If the number of flight students decrease, they will reduce their incomes or even go bust. So would you increase the demand from training pipeline if your salary would be decreased ?

I am sure you know the answer
Old 17th Jan 2010, 19:52
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The situation today is pretty much as it has been forever. An airline has (generally) one source of income – ticket sales; and they have a multitude of things that cost – airplanes (whether purchased or leased), spare parts, fuel, landing fees, airport rental costs … and, likely, the largest cost, salaries. I know of no airline that went into business for any altruistic reason – the betterment of man, provision for safer, greater, and cheaper transportation for the masses, and so forth. Airlines are just like any other business – they’re in business for the same reason any other business is in business – to make money. Is that such a bad thing?

I can’t speak for the rest of the world, but in the US, the airline business used to be able to rely on the government to essentially ensure their success. The Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) had three main functions: to award routes to airlines, to limit the entry of air carriers into new markets, and to regulate fares for passengers. Therefore, when an airline experienced additional costs – like a hike in fuel costs, additional labor costs, etc. – they would go to the government seeking approval for a ticket cost increase. Sometimes they got it … sometimes they didn’t. The market didn’t drive many (if any) aspects of the airline business. Through the 1960s and into the early 1970s, for people who wanted to buy a ticket on an airline to go from point A to point B, it almost didn’t matter what airline they chose, because the price was almost identical between those two points – as that price was regulated by the government. Airlines couldn't change their route structure without permission. They couldn't add route segments or delete route segments without that approval. During this time the industry saw exploding growth patterns but, in the middle 1970s, economic conditions began to change – inflation started up, the growth of the economy took a down-turn, productivity declined, and labor costs continued to rise – not to mention that fuel costs were just beginning to respond to these same effects. The steady increase in public air travel was generating an increasing complexity level and the government found it increasingly problematic to both understand and fairly (and accurately) maintain controls on the industry. This resulted in the 1978 Airline Deregulation Act – which dismantled the process of setting fares and limiting competition – however, the safety regulation was not changed.

So what has been the impact? Airline ticket prices have declined – almost 40% (after adjusting for inflation factors). What about safety? Has it fallen the same way? NO. It has continued to improve. By any measure, the safety record, around the world and certainly in the US is now at its best position in history. I’ll let someone else comment on the level of service and impact on ground transportation issues – all serious issues, but not in my area of expertise, necessarily, and not really germane to the topic at hand.

The concern I have is that I believe a lot of the credit for the safety improvements has been due, in at least some large part, to the reliability of the equipment used (airplanes, engines, systems, and avionics). At the same time, up until recently, those who continued to seek flying jobs have had a fluctuating level of experience and qualifications. A good share of the US airline pilot population for a 15-year period was largely provided by ex-military pilots. This availability doesn’t exist at the same levels now. So, the issue that has developed is … how are the applicants for the flying jobs that are available going to get the training, experience, and qualifications that are necessary (by someone’s estimation, anyway)? And the talk now is that 250 hours, a CPL w/ IR and ME, is not sufficient … and many are flocking to the thought that requiring an ATPC will solve those problems. Will it? How much can an airline afford to spend on training its new pilots? Of course it would be a lot better for them to be able to hire those with several thousand hours of heavy, multi-engine jet time … but, where are those folks? Unfortunately, they don’t exist at the moment. So, what to do? Do those airlines take a person with 250 hours, a CPL, IR, and ME, and train them in 6 weeks on the CRJ (4.5 weeks of ground school and 1.5 weeks in a CRJ simulator) and expect the result to be a qualified airline first officer? Or, do those airlines take a 1500 hour pilot with an ATPC in a C-152, and give that pilot the same 6-week training course on the CRJ? Will the result be substantially different? Where is the control of this new pilot applicant’s background and experience? Will there be enough “off the street” applicants to meet the requirements? Will the airlines have to “beef-up” the CRJ training? Should they double that training - to 12 weeks (9 weeks of ground school and 3 weeks in a CRJ simulator?

Who are these pilot applicants? Where did they come from? So ... the salary that the smaller airlines are offering is not spectacular. Whose fault is that? Should the government step back in and re-regulate – thereby attempting to ensure the company’s success? Without ensuring the other end of the “money pipe,” I doubt that this will work. So, that means going back to the government setting airline ticket prices that will guarantee a profit for the airline after meeting all the newly mandated training requirements for its new-hire pilots. How will the traveling public view this “new” ticket pricing scheme? How effective do you think any industry will be when it is under the direct and continuing regulation of the government? Will such an effort require government subsidies? Where would that money come from? The point is, airline managers today are free to offer salaries that they believe they are capable of meeting while ensuring a satisfactory profit for the company. Sure – you can disagree with those managers’ position on what “satisfactory” really is – but it IS their company – not yours. As long as the airline industry is under a free market control – an individual airline will not be able to increase its ticket prices substantially above that of its competitors – or they risk losing their market share. Lowering the ticket price narrows their profit margin without making associated cuts in their costs – training is a cost – among a lot of other things – including salaries.

Please, don’t misunderstand my comments. I don’t have the answer. I assure you that if I did, I wouldn’t be reading and writing these posts … I’d be on lounge chair, enjoying the warmth of some sun-drenched beach with a tall, cool one in my hand awaiting the motor launch to take me back out to my yacht.

Last edited by AirRabbit; 18th Jan 2010 at 17:25.
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