Airline Group Wants Pilot Training Requirements Cut

By May 8, 2015Aviation Accidents

cockpit.jpgIn a response to a fatal aviation crash that killed 50 people in 2009, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) dramatically upped the number of flight hours required to become a commercial airline pilot. A commercial aviation group now wants those hours scaled back.

The fatal crash involved a commuter airplane approaching the airport in Buffalo, NY. The planed stalled and crashed, killing all 49 people on board and one person on the ground. Investigators determined the deadly airline accident was caused by pilot error.

Prior to the crash, a first officer on a commercial flight was required to have a minimum of 250 hours of flying time. Following the FAA’s investigation of the 2009 regional carrier crash, the agency instituted a new rule requiring 1,500 hours of flying time to become a commercial airline pilot. Also, a commercial airline captain now must have 1,000 flying hours as a first officer.

The head of the Regional Airline Association recently went before Congress to have these safety measures reduced. She argued that the 1,500-hour rule has reduced the number and quality of new pilots available to the organization’s member companies.

Low Pay, Not Flying Hours, Limits New Pilots

But others at the Senate hearing denied her claim. One was Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, the pilot who famously landed his airliner in the Hudson River in 2009 and was credited with saving the 155 people on board. He disputed that the new training minimums were the reason for a lack of commuter airline pilots. Rather, he said the low pay of regional carriers – about $16,500 for the pilot in the fatal Buffalo crash – is the true barrier for attracting quality candidates.

The Regional Airline Association says commuter airlines carry about half of all U.S. commercial airline passengers. Therefore, cutting training requirements for pilots appears to be a reckless request, especially since pilot error is a leading cause of fatal airplane crashes.

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