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FAA panel proposes that airline co-pilot standards be raised

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FAA panel proposes that airline co-pilot standards be raised

Old 8th Oct 2010, 17:36
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Hi!

Airrabbit: U R right on. There is a sea change coming for Aviation, and especially for the US, and most US pilots don't see it, because they don't ready pprune/aren't aware of the recruiting situation at EK/QR/India/China, etc.

This year the new Flight/Duty/Rest rules will come out, and virtually all -121 airlines will need to hire more pilots. The "regionals" will be especially hard hit, as many of them don't have contract rules, and push the FAA rules to (and past) the limit. This change, by itself, will mean many more RJ/Tprop pilots will be needed if the schedule is to be maintained.

The ATP/1500 hour requirement will be in effect in less than 3 years, just when the Age 65 guys start to retire again. The economy will, in all probability, be much better than it is now. The overseas airlines/countries will be desiring MANY more pilots than are currently flying there. It will be a tsunami, and HR departments across the US will be shocked, as will most of the US pilots.

In the early 1960s, major airlines, like UAL, hired High School Students (pre-university) who only had Private Pilot Licenses, and then provided all the training needed to get them into their jets. Something like this/MPL will be needed in the US.

Note: Currently, 250 hours are required to get an FAA Commercial (needed to be a-121 airline FO) at any mom and pop airport. However, at Embry Riddle/University of North Dakota (the two biggest air universities in the US), and other -141 flight training organizations, can get their guys a Commercial with only about 188 hours of flight time, due to other credits (sim, special courses, etc., etc.). I anticipate that the ATP/1500 hour may be reduced by 100-200 hours thru the same means that the Commercial requirements are now reduced. However, there is new, mandated training that is being added to the ATP, so in some ways it will be more difficult to get.

Latest Hiring US: Southwest is merging with AirTran, and they both will begin hiring soon (SWA hasn't hired much at all for about 3 years). FedEx will soon be hiring. UPS cancelled the rest of their furloughs. World will be hiring soon. American is starting to recall. Continental recalled all their guys, and UAL/CAL will both be hiring when the merger is figured out. USAir is hiring...etc., etc.

All of this will be good for overseas job seekers, as less Americans will be available, so there will be more pressure for better T&Cs worldwide...
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Old 8th Oct 2010, 17:48
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Hi!

DoubleDolphins:
Er, in the UK all FOs have type ratings. What's the big deal?
The big deal, if the UK switched to the new US situation, is that both the Capt AND the FO would need a full ATPL (NOT frozen) in the aicraft they fly for their airline. That IS correct, and brand new FO at EVERY UK airline would need a full ATPL before they sat in the right seat.

In the US, the current minimum hourly requirement is 1500 hours for the ATP. Previously (like in 2008), the smaller US -121 airlines (Mesa, Pinnacle, etc.) were hiring pilots with less than 250 total hours directly into the right seat, with NO MPL type of training, just a straight commercial required.
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Old 8th Oct 2010, 21:00
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AirRabbit,

I mostly agree with you. I will say that when I sat on a regionals hiring board I DID look VERY closely at applicants logs. And having come from both a Military and Civilian background (due to being a military RW Pilot) I was very aware of what looked and sounded plausible and what was pure fiction (P51 time). Of course WELL designed simulator checks can also verify this quite rapidly.

I do not agree with your numbers concerning retirements. I think you are a bit on the high side. And at any rate the retirements will not occur in an average linear fashion but rather in dribs and drabs. And while I cannot speak for any other airline at least at my carrier (Continental) I know that the manpower planning guys are very intently looking at this.


Additionally (and many will think this statement to be heresy) with the advancements in automation and remote piloting I do see a time in the not too distant future when the Cargo airlines will go to a single pilot type of operation. This coming no doubt after a very protracted and ugly fight but coming none the less as it will make far too much sense to the bean counters and the general populace will not be smart enough to be worried as to how many pilots are flying their boxes and mail.

I agree very much that a Lufthansa style training academy needs to be instituted to meet the coming needs but my question is - by whom ? Should it be University based like an Embry Riddle or should each individual airline maintain their own ? Or should it be run and overseen entirely by the FAA as they do with air traffic controllers ? Or worse yet run by ALPA under the guise of an apprenticeship by it's governing trade guild ? More importantly how do we legislate this training academy into existance ? Because that's ultimately what it's going to take. Just because a couple of old burnt out airline pilots think it's a good idea has never been enough before.
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Old 9th Oct 2010, 21:18
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Originally Posted by Airspeedintervention
I do not agree with your numbers concerning retirements. I think you are a bit on the high side. And at any rate the retirements will not occur in an average linear fashion but rather in dribs and drabs. And while I cannot speak for any other airline at least at my carrier (Continental) I know that the manpower planning guys are very intently looking at this.
I can understand why my “guesstimate” that 50% of the current airline pilots will retire between now and 2023 might raise some eyebrows and likely create bit of consternation. However, for what it’s worth, here is a link to a presentation made at the 2009 World Aviation Training Symposium (WATS) conference …
WATS Pilot Proceedings | Halldale
If the link doesn’t allow a direct “click” connection – copy this and paste it into your browser. Once the page loads, go to the first presentation in session 4. It’s a 49.6MB PowerPoint presentation that you might find interesting.

Also, while it may come to pass - and I know there is a lot of activity - both from potential suppliers and the FAA (in the form of airspace utilization and monitoring concerns) - regarding Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and Unmanned Aerial Systems) and garnering a lot of attention (in fact, its one of the few times I can recall the US regulatory authority trying to get out in front of a technological advancement before it hits everyone in the face - good on 'em for that anyway), I'm just not convinced that, whatever level that operation may achieve in the near future, it will have a huge impact on the number of pilots needed for US airline operations - up or down.

Last edited by AirRabbit; 9th Oct 2010 at 21:32.
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Old 17th Oct 2010, 06:24
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Just found this piece of news here:

Airlines oppose law increasing pilot flight hours - pottsmerc.com

The key issue is money, according to officials familiar with the panel's deliberations. Airlines worry that if the FAA raises the threshold for co-pilots — also called first officers — from the current minimum of 250 hours, airlines will be forced to raise pilot salaries and benefits to attract more experienced fliers, the officials said.
What a disaster: Airlines will have to raise pilots´ salaries
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Old 17th Oct 2010, 11:36
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Well, there is a surprise! Airline management only concerned with money, rather than safety.
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Old 18th Oct 2010, 00:42
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derogation of responsibility perhaps ? or should we call that abdication of responsibility ... one of my pet hates. First airline I worked for sniffed at my 4000 hours and the chief pilot made my time in the sim hell .... now Mr Cohen says ... that is all replacable by a computer course and nothing to do with money ... don't make me laugh! yeh CBT for LCY on a nasty day ... what fecki@g planet do these people live on ?, he wants a min hours desperate captain and a zero hour PTF F/O on all sectors ..... just for safetys sake ...
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Old 18th Oct 2010, 02:33
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I'd personally have a CFI as a co-pilot then some low-time "wonder" kid from ERAU, Purdue or UND.

I agree 100%
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Old 18th Oct 2010, 02:47
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How can some kid with 250 hrs help you if you have a problem? You are on your own. You need experience not just a cram course to make you know what is happening. Believe me, you learn a lot instructing, I did 3,000 hrs of it. You can't learn that in a 250 hr course.
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Old 18th Oct 2010, 04:23
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some of the worst pilots I've ever flown with were from embry riddle. nope...no way to make a pilot faster and cheaper...and retain real quality.
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Old 18th Oct 2010, 16:44
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P51Guy writes
How can some kid with 250 hrs help you if you have a problem? You are on your own. You need experience not just a cram course to make you know what is happening. Believe me, you learn a lot instructing, I did 3,000 hrs of it. You can't learn that in a 250 hr course.
Sometimes, judgement isn't honed with vast experience, Take AA 1429 Little Rock crash... Very experienced Captain, (CKA and a Chief Pilot) in a rush to get to Little Rock ahead of viloent Tstrms. Yes his fairly (Airline in-experienced) co-pilot could help him very little. End result, Captain pushing up daisies, FO much more experienced pilot, still on the line.
Or the hapless low-time DC10 FO who expressed his soon to be initiated go-around landing DFW early morning in Tstrm induced gusty x-winds after allnight flight from HNL. The very experienced DC10 Captain (ex-military jock)......."no, no, no, I've got it you in-experienced FO." Captain then takes control, lands and gets blown off the runway.
While I agree with the subject matter of mandating higher quality/more experience, having the hours doesn't always mean more useful experience or judgement.
Another example, FO. Pilot flying AA965, MIA-CLO, Dec 1995. FO was once, maybe even twice USAF Instructor Pilot of the Year in F4 Phantoms prior to being hired at AMR.
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Old 18th Oct 2010, 21:10
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Perhaps ...

we .. as seasoned professionals are looking to the powers that be to provide us with a gold standard .. a captain in training rather than a wannabe with money. Don't get me wrong, some of them are excellent material for training .. just that when you really need someone in the loop when things go slightly pear ... they are not there .... they cannot be, because they did not see the problem coming, despite an explanation as to why it was probably coming because they lacked the experience to comprehend. That is no reflection on their potential, just the expediaent that placed them in the right seat of a plane full of pax, instead of the left seat of a PA38 learning new ways to kill both occupants from someone you briefed .. this becomes something you talk about on the ground post event as you fill in the MOR ..
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Old 18th Oct 2010, 22:06
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COPILOT:

copilot: a fully qualified pilot acting as second in command of an airplane requring two or more pilots.

key concept: fully qualified.

'nuff said.
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Old 21st Oct 2010, 16:06
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What I believe we need is an approach that is different from the existing models that keep being referenced. The US military has very successfully taken “no nothing” applicants ... kids mostly ... and turned them into respectable aviators in just a touch over a year and a touch over 220 hours of flying. Does the military wash out some of its original applicants? Sure. Why? Those applicants don’t measure up to the standards that are set. The key is to establish a system with verifiable standards that must be met for one in training to proceed.

I believe that we are not going to have much to argue over when the need arises to hire a set number of pilots in a set number of days/weeks/months. You all know what we are likely to get if we have to go that route. Sure some of those folks are going to be OK … but, how many will slip through the cracks and be right there in the FO chair on the proverbial dark and stormy night? Wouldn’t it be better to take the steps NOW to ensure that we have a mechanism in place that will give all of us the best opportunity to have a competent aviator sitting in that other seat?

If we disregard how a person gains 1500 hours … and just accept someone with that specific base-line number, I feel we’ll be getting the raw end of the deal more often than getting the diamond-in-the-rough. Someone – more likely a series of “someones” – will be saddled with the necessity of flying his/her side of the cockpit while watching intently what that person in the other seat is doing or not doing. With the fact that the equipment we have today, it is likely that we won’t have to be dependent on the ability of that other pilot to an extent that we can’t handle … but this is one of those situations where the wrong circumstance, the wrong decision, the momentary lack of awareness that we all suffer periodically, can end in a tragedy … a la Colgan.

Can we dismount from the position of arguing incessantly about 500, 1000, 1500 hours and start focusing on the necessity to have a set of standards that, once met, will provide a competent pilot – whatever that takes? In that event, the person that would have made a competent FO and, for whatever reason, isn’t needed at that time, may go off and fly checks or tow banners or instruct … log additional time and be even better. And, in those circumstances that dictate that this graduate was needed right then – at the end of that competently designed training curriculum – we would have a perfectly adequate pilot in that FO chair … just like we see in the military today. However, if we put all our “eggs” in the 1500-hour basket, not caring how that guy was trained – just focus on the fact that he’s survived for that many hours (and, one would do well to wonder how accurate the log book entries may be….) isn’t necessarily the panacea! Sure, the same likelihood exists – the equipment is not just good – it’s VERY good. The facilities are also quite good. Airplanes aren’t falling out of the sky every day. There is a very good likelihood that this guy or gal and his flying partner, will survive until he/she becomes an adequate crew member. But, personally, I don’t like the odds of putting my life and the wellbeing of my family on the “Pass Line” and gamble that “Craps” isn’t the point being rolled out of the “hand of fate.”
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Old 21st Oct 2010, 18:03
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Originally Posted by pth
COPILOT:
copilot: a fully qualified pilot acting as second in command of an airplane requring two or more pilots.

key concept: fully qualified.

'nuff said.
This time I'll agree with you 100%...
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Old 21st Oct 2010, 19:45
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thanks white knight.

and for our fine air force pilots...250 hours etc...most are flying planes with ejection seats or parachute availability...they also have people giving them orders to accomplish a mission. (baby sitters in other words)...this is not to demean the fine pilots of the air force or other military branch.
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Old 21st Oct 2010, 23:13
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Originally Posted by AirRabbit
Can we dismount from the position of arguing incessantly about 500, 1000, 1500 hours and start focusing on the necessity to have a set of standards that, once met, will provide a competent pilot – whatever that takes?
We have gotten to where we are now because of the difficulty of defining "competant". I think if you ask the president of the airline, you will get a very different definition of "competant" than if you ask the line Captain with a lowtime FO who just finished a sector in Crap Wx with an enroute systems problem...... As soon as you say "train to competancy" the standard becomes subjective and will inevitably get watered down to save money. The one thing about a hard 1500 hour requirement is you either meet it or not. No "suggestion" from management to make training more efficent, no amount of "special arrangements" with "prefered" training providers etc etc, will lower the entry bar.

From a purely pragmatic view I think it will increase the quality of new hire part 121 FO's if only because the hardest hours to get are the first ones and the only guys/gals left will be the ones who really want it. All the posers spending daddy's cash so they can graduate from flight school and go straight to the airlines without getting their hands dirty will get discouraged and quit.

The other advantage is it will almost certainly reduce the pool of elligable new hire regional airline candidates. If the only sucess of this legislation is to end 16,000 dollar FO wages than IMO it will have been a great success
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Old 22nd Oct 2010, 02:42
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Air Force pilot also don't carry 200 + paying passengers to fly with fully competent FO's in the right seat. Paying passengers expect both pilots to be fully qualified as they should. 250 hrs doesn't qualify, sorry. 1500 hrs and an ATP gives you a much better chance of a qualified FO. Hopefully they will be able to pass a sim check prior to being hired which 250 hr pilots would have to struggle through with poor results. This is a good change for FAA requirements.
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Old 22nd Oct 2010, 15:53
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Originally Posted by protectthehornet
…and for our fine air force pilots...250 hours etc...most are flying planes with ejection seats or parachute availability...they also have people giving them orders to accomplish a mission. (baby sitters in other words)...this is not to demean the fine pilots of the air force or other military branch.
Aw … come on … you and I both know that this statement is more than just a little bit over-the-top. Sure, there are a lot of Air Force pilots flying airplanes with ejection seats and parachutes … but, you know quite well that there are many (many, many) airplanes operated by the Air Force (as well as Army, Navy, Marine, and Coast Guard) that carry passengers (or other persons performing duties on board) that do not have the availability of ejection seats OR parachutes. AND, you well know, THAT was not the point I was making. I suspect that it is possible that the military MAY have changed since my time, but there is no way that it has changed to the extent that pilots are merely human versions of on-board computers, doing what, and only what, they are told to do by some MYTHICAL “baby sitter” transmitting orders.
Originally Posted by p51guy
Air Force pilot also don't carry 200 + paying passengers to fly with fully competent FO's in the right seat. Paying passengers expect both pilots to be fully qualified as they should. 250 hrs doesn't qualify, sorry. 1500 hrs and an ATP gives you a much better chance of a qualified FO. Hopefully they will be able to pass a sim check prior to being hired which 250 hr pilots would have to struggle through with poor results. This is a good change for FAA requirements.
Same thing, sir … you cannot believe that this statement is not more than just a little over-the-top. We all recognize that the mission of the military is not to carry passengers from point “A” to point “B” – but there isn’t anyone, any where, who is ignorant enough to believe that the military does not carry passengers from some other point “A” to some other point “B” – just EXACTLY like commercial airline operations. Does that mean that the military is any less concerned about the competency of the pilots operating those aircraft? If it is true that the training US military pilots receive prior to their occupying the right seat in any one of the aircraft that carry passengers or other persons performing duties on board, you are indicting military commanders as regularly exposing those people to unsafe conditions and thereby making EACH of them guilty of careless and reckless behavior, endangering the lives of those persons, and thereby making EACH of them liable for legal prosecution. Each current or former military pilot I know is fully aware of the competency required to graduate from their respective branch’s pilot training program. As such, it is apparent to me, and would be equally apparent to any other current or former military pilot who may read this, that you are not a current or former military pilot – or you are a military pilot that somehow managed to slip through the process when you shouldn’t have, and your credibility on this particular subject has just tanked.

Originally Posted by Big Pistons Forever
We have gotten to where we are now because of the difficulty of defining "competant". I think if you ask the president of the airline, you will get a very different definition of "competant" than if you ask the line Captain with a lowtime FO who just finished a sector in Crap Wx with an enroute systems problem...... As soon as you say "train to competancy" the standard becomes subjective and will inevitably get watered down to save money. The one thing about a hard 1500 hour requirement is you either meet it or not. No "suggestion" from management to make training more efficent, no amount of "special arrangements" with "prefered" training providers etc etc, will lower the entry bar.

From a purely pragmatic view I think it will increase the quality of new hire part 121 FO's if only because the hardest hours to get are the first ones and the only guys/gals left will be the ones who really want it. All the posers spending daddy's cash so they can graduate from flight school and go straight to the airlines without getting their hands dirty will get discouraged and quit.

The other advantage is it will almost certainly reduce the pool of elligable new hire regional airline candidates. If the only sucess of this legislation is to end 16,000 dollar FO wages than IMO it will have been a great success.
In the most general of terms, I would agree with your statement that defining “competent” has been at the base of addressing a good share of the problems that currently exist in the aviation industry. Of course, airline managers are interested in managing a company that is profitable. Except for those profits, those managers wouldn’t have a job. And, I’m not going to argue that in many cases, those managers are willing to (and have) cut any (some would say “all”) costs to increase that profit margin. It has never been recognized by any airline manager that the “training department” is an income generating department within the airline. Training does not generate income. Just like purchasing an airplane doesn’t generate income … repairing a broken airplane doesn’t generate income … paying for fuel doesn’t generate income … in fact, there is only ONE thing that actually generates income in the airline business … and that is ticket sales. Everything else … that is EVERYthing else … merely allows you the opportunity to be able to provide the service for which that ticket was sold. That’s it.

Now, airline managers can get really indiscriminate with how to disburse the income generated by those ticket sales … they can pay everyone an exorbitant salary … they can provide all employees the most generous of health insurance programs … they can provide palatial working conditions … they can pay senior managers a lot and FOs a pittance … and the list can go on and on. But … eventually, reality sets in and the money runs out. So, where to make the prudent expenditure of the money that is available to them becomes a significant issue. Of course there are some basic expenditures … you can’t sell a ticket on an airplane from one city to another without having an airplane on which that seat is located. You have to pay for the fuel to operate the airplane. There are fees for landing and for gate rental and ticket counter space and baggage handling services and catering services and routine maintenance on the airplane and the equipment used to maintain the airplanes and … and … and … Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your perspective) there is a range through which almost all of those expenditures may be allocated. Training is an expenditure – and one can choose to spend the most or the least. But there is one thing – and really only ONE thing that cannot be adjusted with respect to that training … that happens to be what the regulations require. If the regulation is written in some convoluted, multiply-interpretive ways, the lesser amounts can be expended … but SOMEthing has to be expended or the regulatory authority won’t approve the programs.

Therefore, it should be the goal of anyone interested in seeking that adequate training – training that provides competence in the pilot – MUST BE written into the regulations – and those regulations have to be written in basic language; language that easy to understand; language that is limited in the ways it can be interpreted. Yeah, I know. More rules and regulations. No one wants to have to deal with more rules and regulations. But, in this case, there is really no alternative. Rules are not necessarily bad things. First, if they are written to ensure what we all want to see – they would be beneficial to each of us. Second, if we all have RULES, no one would be allowed to have anything less than what is required – a leveling of the playing field. THIS is what I am advocating. We NEED to have rules that yield competent pilots. There should be NO alternative to that competency requirement. If the airline management complains about the necessity of spending the necessary funds to achieve that level of competency, the regulatory authority should politely, but firmly, advise them that they cannot afford to be an airline. Please note – I’m not making a plea for regulatory requirements for salaries of airline employees – and I’m fully aware of the predatory practice of paying FO a pittance of a salary – at least for the first several years of employment. That’s a business decision into which I believe the regulatory authorities should have no input.

If the regulatory requirements are sufficiently written – sufficiently understood – and then enforced, there would be no issue of incompetent persons getting through on “daddy’s” bank account.
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Old 22nd Oct 2010, 16:25
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Air Rabbit

How good is good enough? An airline flight is the safest mode of travel allready so there is a powerfull argument that the existing training is in fact "good enough". Now we pilots know better but the question is not a facile one. Most of what gets covered in training is low to extremely low probability , but high to very high consequence events.

I aggree with the thrust of your arguments but the difficulty of actually effecting change in such a maliable problem space is significant. Demanding 1500 hrs is an easy way to show demonsterable change. Hopefully it will also serve as a catalyst to force a broader reexamination of pilot training.
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