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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 22nd Oct 2010, 18:42
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I would expect that everyone will recognize that it takes some finite period of time to acquire the skills necessary to pilot an airplane. Depending on the method taken, civilian or military, it could take a person between 3 and 13 months to get a CPL with an IR (potentially a CFI) and somewhere around 250 hours of logged flight time going the civilian route. The quality of the schools offering this training run the gamut of “wonderful” to “not-so-much.” The military route would take approximately 53 weeks to get through Undergraduate Pilot Training and then another 3 to 6 months to qualify on the specific airplane the military has assigned; this would put about the same amount of flight time in your military records – approximately 250 hours. Not much difference between the time involved.

If the pilot has gone the civilian route there is a reasonable chance that the pilot in question may have the necessary qualifications to adequately serve as a viable FO in airline operations. If the pilot has gone the military route (and you can feel free to believe that I am prejudiced on this point – it is true, I am prejudiced) it is my opinion that any given graduate would make a quite viable FO in airline operations at that point – of course, the military is going to get their “pound of flesh” in the form of 5 to 6 years of active duty military time.

Be that as it may, if we are merely comparing the viability of the graduates of these two differing routes to be in a position to present one’s self as a viable candidate for a vacant FO position for an airline – I am of the opinion that the odds are significantly greater that the military graduate would be considered viable than would the civilian graduate. Not only that, of two graduates (one from each source) it wouldn’t surprise me to see that the military trained person would be “head-and-shoulders” better than the person completing the civilian route. Why? Because of my personal knowledge of how that person was trained – knowing what subjects were taught, the level of integration between ground schools and flight training lesions; the level of pilot performance that is deemed to be “satisfactory” in each area – and the level of self-understanding and the accuracy self-assessment that each graduate can demonstrate. Yes – I do know the variances of civilian pilot training schools … and yes, there are some civilian pilot schools that can, and often do, produce reasonably acceptable pilots – although in a typical graduating class of … say 20 pilots … only about 5 (or 25%) would be what I would equate to the level I would be interested in interviewing for prospective positions within “my” airline. On the other hand, of a typical military graduating class … say of 40 graduates … there would likely be only 1 or 2 (or 2½% to 5%) that I would NOT place in the same “competence” category – and I only say that because of mere mathematical, statistical logic. In reality, it would be highly unlikely to have any graduate who would not be such a viable candidate.

Because there isn’t any record (of which I am aware) of what screening process a typical pilot training school uses to select their students, I cannot say whether or not the 15 other graduates of that civilian class of 20 would have been successful in getting through the military screening to have been admitted to the pilot training program in the military. If they would have been successful in getting through that screening process (and I personally don’t believe that would have happened), then the difference would have to be the quality of the training that was, or would have been, made available. Were this the case, it would have to be resulting from one or more of several factors – not the least of which is the competence and dedication of the instructors – but also includes those attributes of those who develop and over-see the administration of the instruction, practice, and evaluation processes – as well as the level of fidelity and reliability of the training equipment and the sequence and scheduling of the training program itself – and the determination and dedication of the individual students, themselves. All of these factors are regularly reviewed from a standardization perspective, records are reviewed, standardization evaluations are administered to the instructor/evaluation staff and the facilities and equipment has specific performance and maintenance regimens that must be met.

This is a round-about way of describing the 2 major issues that a typical pilot training school is not likely to have available in any anticipation of that school producing a “viable” airline applicant; 1) an exceptionally good screening process; and 2) an exceptionally good pilot training program.

If either of these factors are not made a part of the program I have been describing, then I would freely admit that seeking airline FO candidates with a CPL/IR and a minimum of 1500 hours of logged flight time would be a better choice – not A LOT better choice, but a better choice – than hiring someone with a CPL and IR rating with 200 – 250 hours of flight time.

I happen to believe that the necessity of hiring a whole bunch of new pilots, starting within the next 2 to 3 years – and extending for 12 – 20 years into the future is a situation that is simply awaiting the correct number of calendar pages to be ripped from the wall. By almost any measure one can name the number of new pilots needed in the US between 2013 and 2023 is between 45,000 and 60,000 pilots. I’ve posted some of the details of these numbers previously – but once again … this means that somewhere between 100 and 125 pilots will be needed every week throughout that 10-year period. Go back and re-read that last sentence … between 100 and 125 pilots every WEEK throughout that 10-year period. Said somewhat differently, that is between 400 and 500 pilots each month for that period. I am describing pilot requirements for the US airline market – not the world’s. IF (a very big word at times!) IF the choice is made to hire pilots with a minimum of 1500 hours of flight time – that means that each of those 100-125 pilots each week (400-500 pilots each month) will have to have had jobs that will allow them to have flown for that 1500 hours before they apply for the available airline job. You tell me … are there sufficient number of flying jobs available that will allow that number of new pilots to gain that number of “experience” hours that frequently over that period of time? I think not. If I’m correct – where are we going to get the number of pilots to do the job? From the corporate world? Perhaps to some degree … but certainly not at the needed numbers. From foreign airline sources? Perhaps to some degree … but certainly not at the needed numbers. From the military? Perhaps to some degree … but, and again, certainly not at the needed numbers. I should hasten to point out that the rest of the world is also going to be in need of pilots as well – and the three (3) regions (Europe, Asia/Pacific, Rest-of-the-World) will all be in need of numbers far in excess of what will be need in the US.

The calendar pages are being ripped from the wall – one page each month – and, like the man on TV used to say … “Time marches on.” What are we going to do to meet the aviation community needs for piloting jobs between now and 20 years from now? It’s not just a rhetorical question – it’s a question of reality and of substance. It’s going to have an answer – whether or not it’s the right answer is going to be up to us.
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Old 28th Oct 2010, 16:40
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Cool

Air Rabbit,

Accurate, incisive, clearly heartfelt and truly excellent!

Stay Alive,
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Old 30th Oct 2010, 10:05
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I flew in the US for 20 years (8 years military, 12 Major airline). The last couple years I made a jump to the "contract pilot" world. It has been a huge eye opener, and allowed me to see a lot of what is going on in the world of aviation, at least in regards to pilot training.

Flying in the US at a big airline, the average FO was hired when he was in his early 30's, whether he was civilian or military. Most of the civilians had 7 prior jobs, with 4-10,000 hours. My time as a Captain there was very easy, now that I look back on it. Maybe a couple of times a year I would give an airspeed call, but I never took the controls from another pilot. Ever. Not even close. 15 years ago even the regional airlines were able to hire experienced pilots. Not for much longer, and even a couple of years ago Mesa and several others were hiring 250 hour pilots.

Fast forward 2 years to Asia. Most Asian carriers either run cadet programs, or simply hire 250 hour pilots and put them in the right seat of a 37 or scarebus. 3 years later they are Captains, with 2200-3500 hours. A year later they are TRI/TRE's. The system we work in, and it is a system, can absorb a certain number of low time pilots. A lot perhaps, maybe 50%, and still maintain an adequate level of safety. Lufthansa, JAL, and a few others also run cadet programs and have excellent safety records. But when your entire airline is trained and staffed by low time pilots, the system no longer works. The safety records of these airlines speak for themselves.

Pilot training is expensive, and the payday at the end of the rainbow no longer attracts enough pilots. Also, most countries don't have enough feeder aviation to grow pilots. Aviation has gone from zilch to Boeing in most countries of the world.

I have had the opportunity this last 2 years to fly with pilots from all over the world, with various levels of experience. Even a lot of low time Euro and South American FO's, who went from 250 hours to A320's. I flew with them when they had 1500-3000 hours. They came from small carriers. Almost all of them were good pilots. At the same time, I also flew with FO's from Asia, Europe, South America, and North America with the same level of experience I flew with in the states. There is simply no comparison. More experience is better. They are like flying with another Captain next to me.

If you look at the individual accidents in the last 20 years or so, probably over 80% of accidents are by small airlines, mostly in less affluent countries, but also a lot in small airlines in rich countries. When to take into account they probably only make up 5 % of commercial aviation, the accident rate is horrendous. On the other side of it, most major airlines have a phenomenal safety record this past 20 years. Many have had only 1 bad accident, and that was usually a plane ending up off the runway, and the passengers were fine.

The last 6 fatal accidents in the US were with commuter airlines, and the pilots were on average far less experienced than their counterparts at the majors. Those 6 accidents were either 100% pilot error, or pilot error was a huge contributor after a minor malfunction. They are among the worst, and most preventable, accident reports I have ever read. It took these accidents for our government to step in.

ICAO actually is going the other way. They are pushing the "Multi crew pilot license". You think 250 hours is too little, how about 125? Plus 125 in a simulator. I believe it is already approved.

In 18 months at my last job, I took the controls from the other pilot 6 times, and I should have done so another 15 times at least.

Wikipedia is a great resource for aviation Safety. Type in the airline, and they will tell everything, including individual accidents, number of accidents, etc. Want to know if Airbus or Boeing is safer? Type in 777 or A330. Look at the number built, and the number crashed, including short reports of how and who crashed them. Phenomenal.

The US still has an adequate supply of pilots for the near future. They are one of the few countries on earth so lucky. We will run out eventually, and I hope the powers that be have a plan. If not, I think I will take the train when I retire.
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Old 30th Oct 2010, 17:43
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I have flown both military and civilian.

You CANNOT compare a new military pilot that attended training for up to 2 years FULL TIME to someone that did the civilian route where you. Do maybe a two hour lesson 3 times a week and flew a 172 around in good weather to bulk up enough time to get a CPL.

My fixed wing training was civilian, and it was scary how lax the training standards are when compared to a military training environment.

250 hours civilian DOES NOT!! Equal 250 military
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Old 30th Oct 2010, 17:48
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Double tap
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Old 30th Oct 2010, 18:45
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MIlitary standards are actually pretty poor. Very little actual hands on flying and very little use of simulators, coupled with an unjust culture that encourages keeping the QFI happy rather than education.
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Old 31st Oct 2010, 08:36
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Here's an idea..

When the airlines start hiring again, and they get 50,000 resumes....they

Hire pilots with an ATP, College Degree, and First Class Medical
Jet Type, 5000 Hours PIC

You know...like in the old days....
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Old 31st Oct 2010, 12:13
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Now that is exactly how it was in the 70's and it worked quite well then. I ended up flying over 70 types of aircraft and several type ratings to be lucky enough to get an airline job. And I was one of the lucky guys.
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Old 31st Oct 2010, 13:04
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Yebbut
Why bother with all of that hassle and expense to get a boring automated airline job in the USA when you can have a LOT more fun driving a Caravan or a Twotter around Africa.
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Old 31st Oct 2010, 14:07
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Probeusmc

Just 1 revision to your post- JAL closed its Napa cadet facility this month, and closed MWH last year.
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Old 31st Oct 2010, 14:25
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and while you are at it... get rid of ''quota'' systems and let the pilots hire the pilots. human resources can do the paperwork and background checks...even give everyone a psychiatric exam.

and, let the pilots hire the flight attendants too.
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Old 31st Oct 2010, 16:43
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But then all the flight attendants would look like the ones we had in the 70's. They were so inexperienced, young, single and vulnerable. Wasn't it great?
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Old 31st Oct 2010, 23:21
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right on...but we got a really nice crop circa 1985-89....went to hell in the 90's...come to think of it so did the pilots!
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Old 1st Nov 2010, 00:42
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That's a good point: When did we go from older experienced pilots with young flight attendants to old flight attendants and young pilots?
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Old 1st Nov 2010, 13:26
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That's a good point: When did we go from older experienced pilots with young flight attendants to old flight attendants and young pilots?
It's my fault. When I was 8 years old, I found an old Middle Eastern lamp which also happened to contain a evil Genie. He offered me a wish that he gauranteed would be fulfilled in the future.

I was too shocked when he popped out of the lamp to think clearly, so I bluttered out "I want to be an airline pilot and fly with those Stewardresses" as I pointed to the late 1960's poster on the wall with 25 year old babes in their uniforms.

The evil @#stard granted my wish. I am flying with the the same Stewardresses in that poster.
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Old 1st Nov 2010, 15:35
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The Ancient Geek, when was the last time you flew in africa?...
It seems all nice and exciting from the outside. But its about 75% boredom/frustration, 20% sheer terror, and about 5% magic.
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Old 1st Nov 2010, 16:26
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Sounds about right for the swamps, the Mara was a lot better but DRC was only for the brave. When you get tired of Maun try Kenya, it will not have changed a lot.
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Old 2nd Nov 2010, 01:25
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We don't have any young pilots or flight attendants any more. Noone has been hired in 10 years. The 21 year old hard bodies might come back some day when a new hire class happens some time in the future. Meanwhile 50 seems like the average age for pilots and flight attendants. Us old guys timed it right starting 40 years ago.
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Old 17th Nov 2010, 12:44
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The value of hours.

Maybe someone should tell Congress that it was the FAA who legalised the logging of safety pilot time as useful PIC.
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