Airlines are making a move to fill pilot ranks that to be honest, really do not make me want to run out and jump into a plane. As a matter of fact, they make me want to avoid them.
Faced with competition for pilots from overseas carriers and private companies, airlines including American Airlines (AMR), United (UAUA) and US Airways (LCC) have announced several measures to address the shortage.
*They are lowering the flight hour requirements for pilots from 1500 to 500, with only 50 of those hours in multi-engine planes.
*Raising the mandatory retirement age for pilots from 60 to 65.
*Partnering with flight schools to offer “accelerated” educational programs.
Now, correct me if I am wrong, but aren’t the most likely people to get into an accident in an automobile the young & inexperienced and the elderly? Is it really the best move to place those very demographics behind the wheel of a DC-10? Perhaps a better move to become more competitive when hiring would be to raise the starting salary from the $24,000 a year it sits at now? Essentially there is not really a shortage of pilots, just pilots that will work for that money when better money is available elsewhere.
When CVS (CVS) needed additional pharmacists in order to accomplish its expansion plan, they began a program that paid for schooling for applicants in return for a 5 year commitment after graduation.
Is there anything stopping airlines from enacting a similar program?
Would you feel safe if CVS lowered the standards for those dispensing your medicine?
Admittedly the younger hires will be co-pilots, not pilots out of the gate but as the airlines continue to lower the experience requirement, these folks will eventually find themselves behind the controls with potentially thousands of hours less flying time than their predecessors had.
If we had a shortage of heart surgeons, would any of us be rushing to get in line for an operation from a doctor who was allowed to graduate with a GPA below 2.0 or only required to have 1 year rather than 3 of residency? Me either.
The move to raise the retirement age alone is estimated to net 1,500 additional pilots in the first year alone. That means 1500 people who last year and this year were considered to have a skill set that the unstoppable aging process would have deteriorated to the point that it was no longer safe to have them pilot airlines.
Now, because we need more folks, we can just move the needle? I am sure the vast majority of these pilots, and let’s not forget, these folks will be pilots, not co-pilots, who will be just fine flying. But, if say 15 of them aren’t, isn’t that a huge problem?
Lowering the standard to accomplish a goal is never the best choice, more often than not the results can be tragic…
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