Pilot Training Issue Sparks Bitter Debate

Posted Dec 9th 2010 10:37 AMUpdated Dec 9th 2010 11:40 AM


After a Colgan Air plane flying as Continental Connection Flight 3407 crashed near Buffalo last year -- following a series of pilot errors -- a broad coalition of safety and industry officials agreed that regional airline pilots needed more training. But that's apparently where the agreeing ends.

A contentious debate has ensued with one of the most divisive issues the proposed increase in the hours of flight experience a pilot must have before carrying passengers, reports USA Today.

The current minimum is 250 hours. An advisory panel to the Federal Aviation Administration recommended in September that the minimum be raised to 1,500 hours.

But the aviation industry, along with universities that teach aviation, oppose the increase, saying there is no evidence that the increase will improve safety.

"What is the magic in 1,500 hours?" Gary Kiteley, executive director of the Aviation Accreditation Board International, which sets standards for colleges that teach aviation, tells the newspaper.

Pilots unions are divided on the issue as well.

Some have joined relatives of the victims of the deadly crash in suggesting that economics may be a factor for those who oppose the flight experience increase -- a charge airlines, universities and other pilot unions say is untrue.

Scott Maurer, whose daughter Lorin died on Flight 3407, says he finds aviation industry opposition to raising the minimum pilot training hours to 1,500 infuriating.

"In the end, it's like a surgeon or a violinist," Maurer says. "You can read and you can study, but until you pick up the scalpel or pick up the violin and play it, that's where ... you put your learning into practical use."

Meanwhile, the FAA is writing proposed new standards for airline pilots that are due out as soon as next month.
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Ron Landis

I learned to fly in 1960. and I was lucky as my boss was a ww2 flight instructor If i remember right his license number had about 5 numbers, these guys new how to fly, For instance my guy put me into a spin abd told me to recover, at the same time it was not required to do the actual recovery, just be told HOW to do it, and I was actually flew under the hood and then on actual instrments flying , such as practice GCA into Tucson in the wee hours of the morning. I met several instructors to taught a student to aquire a License more then to fly.And another thing some instructore flew people for hours and hours and knew they could not ever be a pilot. just because their GI bill was paying.as for the buffalo crash if the shaker was working you should have at once push the nose over to gain airspeed.....

December 10 2010 at 1:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Entirely agree that the low pay is ludicrous. But I would say that's not solely tied to low fares. The regional carrier in our area generally charges about twice what Southwest does on the similar route. That money is getting funneled somewhere besides the pilots, I suppose.

December 10 2010 at 1:16 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

How to you get 20 paying passengers into a Beech 1900 (19 pax plane)?

Fly for Gulfstream International (co-pilot is a paying passenger)

December 09 2010 at 7:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

At 250 hours, a first officer is not even type rated in the aircraft they are flying. They do not even hold an airline transport pilot license.

For all you kiddies out there, and their parents, aviation is the big lie!!

December 09 2010 at 7:35 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Years ago when I got my commercial ticket and was on the road to an ATP, I took work one year as a fill-in for a local aerial applicator and loved it so much that I stalled right there. I still don't have an ATP and am still flying Ag Cats for a living, but for myself now. I am sypathetic to the plight of airline pilots and think they're underpaid, considering the level of skill that's required and the training they have. They should be paid more. When you fly, your life is in their hands just as surely as when your physician provides health care for you. Ultra cheap fares aren't the answer to problems faced by the airlines.

December 09 2010 at 6:59 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Gary H

Did some of you read the entire article? The proposed 1,500 hours is "experience" before flying PASSENGER PLANES, not training!!!! They can fly CARGO PLANES, just not passengers! Pay attention people!!!

As for that idiot Gary Kiteley: Let's see Gary, I'm no expert but, 250 hours is going to give you what? 6-7 weeks flying experience. So, a new aviator can get all his/her flying experience in the summer, Right? Now, how did that aviator learn to fly in winter storms? Fact is, they didn't.

So, if we look at the event which inspired this new ruling. You will see the pilot and copilot crashed their plane because they didn't know how to handle an icing event on the wings, lost control and crashed, killing all on board, and I think 1 or 2 on the ground!

If these pilots were required to fly 1,500 hours before flying a passenger plane, at least one of them would have most likely had experience flying in winter storm weather because they would have had to fly for close to an entire year before holding so many lives in their hands.

The fact that you didn't understand this very simple concept, and considering your position, I feel you have no business holding that title!!!! So, what's so magic about 1,500 hours experience? What are you, an idiot?

December 09 2010 at 6:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Gary H's comment

Gary H...you obviously do not know much about how people accrue flight time if you think that pilots can get 250 hrs in 6-7 months. It can take years to get that much flight time and thousands of dollars, not to mention all of the ground schools, written test, and check rides that are involved.

December 09 2010 at 7:49 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
JP Second

I am a military trained 121 airline capt with over 20K hours 8K plus in the type I currently fly. It is the airline and the pilots commitment to training and safety that make a differance. Not the FAA. The flight collges turn out a pretty good product but not airline ready, most of our FO's come from the Express airlines, after years on the RJ's these pilots are ready for the major sirlines right seat. Pay is now so low when you consider the training costs it is a huge decision to enter the field, $59 tickets might now be the safe answer.

December 09 2010 at 5:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to JP Second's comment

JP Second I understand what you are trying to say but be careful how you are saying it. The fact of the matter is the 250-500 hour wonder kids could just as easily sit next to you as he/she does next to me. Your job does not require years and years of experience flying for a regional airline to become qualified to fly one of your jets. There is nothing inherently more sophisticated about flying for a mainline carrier vs flying for a large regional carrier. My modern regional jet is every bit as sophisticated and often more so than most mainline aircraft. I fly into the same airports under the same conditions as any mainline pilot. I fly at the same speeds, altitude and in the same weather as any mainline pilot. My regional airline flight training is every bit as thorough and demanding as your flight training.

So the point is this: Like any group of mainline pilots the vast majority of regional airline pilots are safe and well trained. The vast majority of 250-500 hour regional airline first officers are safe and very well trained. Given the modern rules and procedures we currently work under; day in and day out under most any circumstance the 250-500 hour wonder kid could sit next to you and fly your jet with the same degree skill and professionalism as any of the pilots currently sitting next to you. I know because over the past 21 years of flying regional jets I have sat next to many many wonder kids.

I will say it again, your job does not require years and years of experience flying for a regional airline to become qualified to fly one of your jets.

December 29 2010 at 12:18 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

JACK NICKLAUS had over 15,000 (approx) hours of training before he entered the PGA Tour. Justa stupid comparison.

December 09 2010 at 4:35 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Training is good, & necessary; however, unfortunately, you need EXPERIENCE, EXPERIENCE, & MORE EXPERIENCE ON EVERY AIRCRAFT YOU FLY.
1500 - 25,000 hrs of autopilot time does not do much good either.

December 09 2010 at 4:32 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

My son, my daughter, my father-in-law, my brother and myself are all pilots. I know for a fact that there is more to being a safe pilot than years of training and hours in a plane at the yoke. The 250 hr. or 1500 hr. requirement are irrelevent to ability. Why with this new rule you could fly in circles around the pattern for the additional 1250 hrs and not gain much experience and meet the silly requirement. Strict testing and establishing time in make and model of an aircraft is what matters. All insurance companies require a certain # of hours in make and model because they study the statistics and they know what it takes to keep claims at a minimum. The FAA should not be adding unreasonable expence to training but rather require proficiency in the plane each pilot is flying. I might be the best c-206 pilot on earth but not be able to fly another plane safely until I have 25 hours or so in it. Low hours in make and model along with low hours or none in conditions should be avoided. My instructors IFR instructor had never flown in actual IFR until he was training my instructor because he recieved all his training in Arizona. Case in point!

December 09 2010 at 4:11 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply