Tag Archives: airline safety

NEW PILOT HIRE MINIMUM TIME WILL ENHANCE AIRLINE SAFETY

DOES THIS TURBOPROP HAVE A FEATHERED ENGINE?

 

Did you know that the co-pilot on your commercial flight could be hired with only 250 hours total flight time. For some pilots that is three months of flight time. Do you want a pilot who has three months experience piloting your aircraft in to JFK in a snow storm? Many of the regional/ feeder airlines have implemented programs that involve the new hire pilots who are very inexperienced to pay from fifteen to twenty thousand dollars for their training. This concept is very effective for the bottom line of the airline but it is counterproductive to airline safety. This concept along with the pilot fatigue in the cockpit dilemma, are two areas where the FAA should be held in contempt. A copilot has to be able to safely continue a flight and get the aircraft on the ground in event of an incapacitated captain. Many of these very low-time, inexperienced pilots would be incapable of doing so in many of the challenging flight regimes that the regional carrier might encounter. The uninformed passenger books his flight with the belief that he will have experienced well-trained pilots in the big jet. He then gets into the cramped quarters of the “feeder airlines” small turboprop aircraft and the copilot could have less than 500 hours total flight time.

An interesting statistic regarding domestic flights is as follows: Five of the last six commercial airline accidents in the United States were operated by one of these FAA certified regional air carriers. The last accident, the highly publicized Buffalo, NY crash of Continental Flight #3407, operated by Colgan Air, was piloted by a very tired and inexperienced flight crew. The copilot informed the captain as they entered icing conditions that she had never before flown in icing conditions. PBS Frontline produced a revealing expose’ of this accident and the dysfunctionality of the regional air carriers. It is hosted by the veteran aviation journalist, Miles O’Brien and is titled “Flying Cheap.” It can be accessed by going to PBS.ORG. Also, a book titled Squawk 7700 will throw additional light on the “commuter airlines.”

But rejoice for the FAA has stepped forward and will be implementing new minimum flight time standards for new pilots. The new minimum hire time for any FAR 121 airline will be 1,500 hours total time, with a few reasonable caveats. Ex-military pilots are only required 750 hours. In most cases this is a very reasonable compromise. The other exception is for graduates of University or College flight schools. These pilots will only require 1,000 hours total time. Perhaps most importantly, all pilots will have to receive “type-rating” training specific to the aircraft that they are flying. This requires a much more advanced aircraft knowledge and aviator skills specific to that aircraft. Hopefully, this certification will be done with FAA inspectors rather than company check airman who might be pressured to “sign off” the new hire before he/or she might be up to speed. These new regulations will move the safety quotient of commuter airlines up a few notches but I still want to be on the big jet with the 10,000 plus hour pilots.

This blog is prepared by Ace Abbott, author of The Rogue Aviator

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TODAY’S BIG JETS ARE EXTREMELY SAFE

The above viewed aircraft is a stretched “stretch 727” or 727-200. It remains in the heart and souls of many of the older flight crews whose nostalgic strings are often tweaked by this airplane. It is the keynote player in today’s aviation theme: TODAY’S BIG JETS ARE EXTREMELY SAFE! The following information regarding the safety record for commercial air carriers is extracted from an article written by Daniel Michaels and Andy Pasztor and appeared in the December 28, 2011 newsletter published by Curt Lewis and Associates:

The major accident rate in North America, for example, has remained flat at about one in 10 million flights.”

“This year is on course to be the safest ever for commercial aviation, with only
one passenger death for every 7.1 million people carried world-wide.”

“Most of the aviation fatalities in 2011 occurred in Russia, Iran and African countries that have long faced air-safety problems, such as Angola and Congo.”

“With only days left, 2011 appears set to eclipse the postwar record low rate of
passenger fatalities, set in 2004 at one per 6.4 million passengers, according to
Ascend, a consulting firm in London.”

“This year is on course to be the safest ever for commercial aviation, with
roughly one passenger death for every 7.1 million air travelers worldwide.”

Yesterday I commented on what an onerous experience one can encounter as an airline passenger. I now want to point out to all of those folks that harbor even a tidbit of trepidation about getting on the “big jet” to maintain the awareness that there is no safer mode of transportation than the U.S. air carriers. A caveat is as follows: the accident rate in recent years in the smaller jets and turboprop aircraft is much higher than the “big jets.” Although there is a very slightly higher chance of an accident or an incident on the regional airline you still remain hyper-safe compared to travel with a Russian, African, or Indian carrier. Standing applause should be issued to the pilots, air traffic controllers, flight training departments and last, but perhaps most important, the efforts of the many dedicated FAA overseers.

The safety of commercial aviation is verified by the passengers speaking loudly with their wallets and shelling out to get that middle seat (between the two large people). Enjoy it while you still can; we are running out of pilots and running out of fossil fuel is not far behind.