Skip to comments.A Pilot Shortage Made in Congress: Heavy-handed safety rule causing major problems for air travel.
Posted on 02/12/2014 8:07:39 AM PST by SeekAndFind
Five years ago this month, two pilots aboard Colgan Air Flight 3407 made a series of fatal errors as they descended near Buffalo, N.Y. The plane spluttered in mid-air, tilting unnaturally, then made a terrible grinding sound as it fell near-vertical from the sky. It hit a house, exploding loudly; neighbors could see the flames from blocks away. All 49 people aboard the flight perished, as did one occupant of 6038 Long Street, which was totally destroyed.
Tragedies trigger calls for action. Unfortunately, such pleas are often more emotional than rational, resulting in bad policy. The legislation passed in response to the Colgan plane crash is a classic example.
In direct response to the Colgan crash, Congress passed the Airline Safety and FAA Extension Act of 2010, which mandated that the Federal Aviation Administration require pilots to complete 1,500 flight hours before theyre allowed to fly commercially, up from just 250 before the act. While this new rule does little to improve safety, it is exacerbating an already severe pilot shortage.
Boeing predicted recently that over the next 20 years, the global economy will demand 498,000 new commercial airline pilots. Already, many existing pilots are inching toward the mandatory retirement age, says Kent Lovelace, chair of aviation at the University of North Dakota. Even though Congress has changed the mandatory retirement age from 60 to 65, over the next decade around half of Americas 54,000 pilots will age out of the profession.
Meanwhile, too few pilots are available to replace the ones who are retiring. A historically low number of people are training to become pilots, and of those, only half are seeking a career with commercial airlines, Lovelace says. For many would-be pilots, the consideration is purely financial: While flight training costs between $60,000 and $70,000, entry-level pilot positions typically pay $25,000 a year or less. Furthermore, the financial turbulence thats characterized the airline industry since September 11, 2001, has made the profession less attractive to aspiring aviators.
The existing workforce has been stretched even thinner by new anti-fatigue rules. Pilots were once required to have eight hours of time off between shifts, but now they must be given no less than ten hours. This particular anti-fatigue rule was empirically justifiable, and it may well improve safety, but it also results in airlines needing between 3 and 7 percent more pilots on the clock at any given time.
Together, these considerations have created a perfect storm for the airline industry, and, as major news sources have recently noted, the pilot shortage is beginning even faster than expected.
In that context, the new 1,500-flight-hour requirement is particularly harmful. Both pilots involved in the Colgan crash had far surpassed 1,500 hours of flight time, so it wouldnt have prevented the accident. And the new requirement is all the worse because, as Lovelace says, it was not based on science, but was rather a political decision. And it doesnt matter whether you think its good or not. The only way its going to change is literally an act of Congress.
As Congress considered the requirement, Senator Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) didnt hesitate to trot out the surviving families of Colgan victims. Every time there was a legislative blockage, we sent them to personally go talk to the senators involved, and every time, they broke through, Schumer recently told a Gannett reporter.
But this tear-jerking approach to policymaking wholly ignores the facts. The Colgan crash, however horrific, was an extraordinary outlier.
Before the new flight-time rules for pilots kicked in, plane travel was already the safest it had been in the entire history of aviation. By the latest airline-industry count, theres only one major accident for every 5 million flights on Western-built jets. Even in plane crashes, 95.7 percent of passengers survive, as CNN has reported. The New York Times has reported that in the last five years, the death risk for passengers in the United States has been one in 45 million flights.
Such bad policy has real consequences, which are already playing out. Last summer in my hometown of Cheyenne, Wyo., the tiny regional airport had to temporarily suspend 30 working pilots because they had not yet met the 1,500-hour requirement. And earlier this month, it announced it was suspending service to six airports because it couldnt find enough pilots who met the FAA standards.
Those who once would have flown out of Cheyenne will now be forced to commute to Denver International Airport, about two hours drive away. Perhaps some of them will forgo air travel altogether and take a road trip. Keep in mind that between January and June 2013, 15,470 people died in motor-vehicle crashes in the United States; in 2012, only 475 people worldwide died in plane crashes (in comparison, the World Health Organization has reported that 1.24 million people across the world died in car crashes last year). Globally, fewer people die from air travel than die by using right-handed equipment when youre a lefty, especially when its a power saw; by being crushed by televisions or furniture; or by getting a brain-eating parasite.
Though well-intentioned, the new rule does more harm than good, creating an additional and altogether unnecessary barrier to entry for much-needed pilots. Such are the perils of legislation by emotional reaction.
Jillian Kay Melchior writes for National Review as a Thomas L. Rhodes Fellow for the Franklin Center. She is also a senior fellow for the Independent Womens Forum.
There shouldn’t even be an age restriction. If they can pass the medical, they should be allowed to fly.
Repeat this type of crap for every industry in every sector, and it is not hard to see why the USA is such a business-unfriendly environment.
If we have legislators, it has got to the point where they “justify” their existence with legislation.
Mountains and mountains of it.
Do any Freepers smarter than I, know what the requirements for flight time are for the military?
The Golden Age of being a pilot for the majors is now the stuff of Hollywood and history books.
Let's start with the fact that being a pilot requires not only immense skill and training, but it can be a very, very stressful career. Weather, maintenance, congestion, bureaucracy, burdensome regulations, intense travel, poor rest, and time away from family all take their toll. Let's not even mention the stress that is extolled for maneuvering a muti-ton piece of aluminum into and out of airports and airspace all over the world.
We have killed this profession by a thousand cuts. All the demands of those who never understood the industry took their pound of flesh: the "safety" experts, lawyers, government bureaucrats, TSA, FAA, and an industry leadership that became callous to what they were asking of their own people in the interest of saving a buck here or there.
It almost just isn't worth it anymore to pursue an aviation career. Once you get there, you are subject to re-certification every year (what doctor or lawyer has to go through that?) The flying public has had enough of the harassment, and rightly so. As pilots retire, those replacing them are going to find lower salaries, pensions, and benefits.
Some will stick it out for awhile, but many will come to the same conclusion: it just isn't worth it.
What’s that “road to hell” saying?
It’s going to be hard to get military trained pilots as well. My son is in his second year at the Air Force Academy and plans to fly after he graduates. It is a 10 year commitment and at that point one has to decide to leave or stick out the other 10 years to retirement.
Not sure I understand your question. Each branch of military has its own set of annual/semi-annual flying hour minimums based on aircraft type, mission, aviator assignment, readiness level, etc...that pilots must meet to remain on flight status.
After Dems raise the minimum wage you’ll be able to make as much at the counter at Burger King as if you were an entry-level pilot.
Plus no need to take a drug test...let the grass grow!
Because God knows that the last thing we want in air transportation are safety rules.
Four hours per month for flight pay. Other than that I don’t remember any minimum required.
“Repeat this type of crap for every industry in every sector, and it is not hard to see why the USA is such a business-unfriendly environment.”
I’ve said this before, but here we go again.
THERE IS MORE GOING ON HERE THAN JUST “SAFETY” RULES
Obama and his socialist minions believe that flying is a hobby of “Rich White Men.”
What they are doing is raising the bar for entry so high, that few minorities will ever be able to afford to fly.
Therefore, that situation will have to be “Fixed!”, by allowing under-qualified minorities to become pilots, or subsidizing that training for minorities, while many whites can no longer afford it.
I remember the United Airlines racial discrimination lawsuit from the 90’s. To meet the quotas, they were hiring inexperienced 100 hour female and black students straight out of Purdue to the right-seat, while qualified, experienced applicants couldn’t even get an interview.
This has nothing to do with “safety”, and everything to do with creating a RACIAL QUOTA SYSTEM....
Just because it’s called a safety rule, doesn’t mean it does anything to enhance or otherwise promote safety.
I could name a dozen such CFR’s.
RE: Because God knows that the last thing we want in air transportation are safety rules.
How about HEAVY HANDED safety rules?
Or The Won could just decide that law doesn't count any more.
Looks like time to get some Gray Hound stocks.
You be correct. Very few students at the airport these days, mainly because of cost, about $10k to get your private now. When I got my Instrument and other ratings I already owned a C172, so it wasn’t too much money. Funny think is My Instrument Instructor used to be a Rock Star, and is a famous guitar player. He has been a Mailman for 20 years, when he got his ATP he was seriously considering a career change until he found out the salary was BARELY ABOVE POVERTY levels. with real crappy hours. He still is a Mailman and doesn’t instruct anymore, except in special cases for friends, which is how I got him to be my Instructor 10 years ago.
Flight minimums Semiannual 40 Annual 100
Night and instrument are both 6 and 6.
Additional restrictions on many types of flights. This is th min to get flight pay, and avoid sending a letter to try and get a waiver.