CAPA Director of Safety
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The Coalition of Airline Pilots Associations (CAPA) respond to the Shepard Smith and Trace Gallagher of Fox News report on pilot training and the “pilot shortage” facing airlines
In response to the recent media buzz regarding a pilot shortage, CAPA’s Director of Safety responds to the various points given in the aforementioned Fox News story.
“CAPA has worked tirelessly to help the FAA create minimum training and experience requirements for Part 121 air carrier operations, via participation on the FAA First Officer Qualifications ARC, and rigorous lobbying for legislative efforts requiring the same.
The minimum qualifications that CAPA has supported are rooted in creating safety levels that the American flying public has come to expect and deserve over the past few decades. In today’s modern airspace system, mainly comprised of high performance, technologically advanced, jet aircraft, in an increasingly more crowded airspace system, training and experience requirements have to be uncompromising.
America has experienced, and continues to experience a shortage of medical doctors. Imagine suggesting that the solution to this problem would be to drastically reduce the training and experience required to become a physician in this country, and then to have this person, who has your life in his hands, working for wages that are below the poverty level. It would not be tolerated, nor should we tolerate the same for a pilot who has a hundred lives in his hands.” ~ Russ Leighton, Director of Safety
The mandatory FAA 1500 flight time rule is to take effect in January 2013. The rule comes on the heels of the 2009 Colgan Air crash that killed 50 in Buffalo NY. The accident was blamed on pilot error, therefore the 1500 hour mandatory rule was voted on unanimously in the House and Senate, to avoid future tragedy.
CAPA President, Captain Carl Kuwitzky adds :
“After watching the Fox story, is there is “NO substitute for experience”. Training is vital, but experience is what brings it all together.”
Opponents to the 1500 minimum rule suggest that lowering the training standards for the First Officer would be adequate, should the Captain be experienced. This theory was tested in Europe, and was found to have been the direct cause of the Air France jetliner crash in the Atlantic. From the crash investigation we find:
The captain returned to the flight deck but was unable to reverse the catastrophic course of events which saw the plane stall and plunge into the sea.
The final report on the causes of the crash of Air France flight 447, which claimed the lives of 228 people travelling from Rio to Paris in 2009, recommends tougher training and certification to avoid repeat disasters.
For the video report: France 24 News
In one fatal decision, the report says, one of the co-pilots in the cockpit at the time nosed the Airbus A330 upward during a stall – instead of downward, as he should have – because of false data from sensors about the plane’s position.
Chief investigator Alain Bouillard said the two pilots at the controls never understood that the plane was in a stall. He said only a well-experienced crew with a clear understanding of the situation could have stabilized the plane in those conditions.
“In this case, the crew was in a state of near-total loss of control,” he said.
CNN Europe coverage and explanation of the Air France 447 investigation
Mr. Leighton goes on to comment regarding the pilot shortage stating;
“Supply far exceeds demand at profitable carriers where pilots are offered compensation packages commensurate with their years of education and experience. To the extent that industry has created the impression of a false shortage, due to a decreasing supply of inexperienced pilots willing to work for salaries below the poverty level, there is a simple answer – restore the profession.”