Thread: Pilot Shortage?
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Old 05-19-2014, 06:04 PM   #1  
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Default Pilot Shortage?

Article from 1989. Pertinent parts (applicable today) highlighted. Do you really believe in the upcoming shortage?

Pilots Scarce, Airlines See 30-Year-Olds as Captains -

Pilots Scarce, Airlines See 30-Year-Olds as Captains

Published: January 11, 1989

Airline executives, concerned about an imminent world shortage of pilots, are taking steps that will place younger and less experienced fliers in command of airliners.

The shortage, most apparent in other countries, is still a few years away in the United States, aviation experts say. But it has already caused a flurry of hiring by American carriers unseen in recent years that points to the coming scarcity.

''Ten years from now every airline in the country will have 30-year-old captains,'' said Capt. Vern Laursen, vice president for crew training at Trans World Airlines. Causes of the Threat

The reasons for the threat of a scarcity are numerous: the boom in the civil aviation industry; a soaring retirement rate among an aging corps of pilots, whom the Government requires to leave the job at 60; a decline in the number of new students taking up flying, partly a result of costs of basic training that have risen with liability insurance rates, and a lack of growth in the airlines' customary supply of aviators from the military, which has raised pay in an effort to remain more competitive with the carriers.

As a result of all these factors, the pool of experienced American fliers is drying up. ''The whole industry's pretty well employed right now,'' said Ed Muir of the International Air Service Company, which recruits crews for airlines. ''It used to be, a large percentage of pilots were unemployed.''

The employment boom is such that one-eighth of the 56,000 pilots flying large jets for United States airlines were hired last year. And these airlines expect to hire 32,000 more pilots in the next 10 years, says Future Aviation Professionals of America, a career information service based in Atlanta. Debate Over Safety

While the notion of 30-year-old captains may sound alarming to a public that has long equated gray hair in the cockpit with safety -two-thirds of major airlines' pilots are over 45 - most executives and other aviation experts contend that a new generation of young pilots is not necessarily a safety threat. Some even argue that younger, less-experienced pilots may be safer than their predecessors, because they will have learned fewer bad habits.

These experts caution, however, that the trend toward less experienced pilots means that the new aviators must be trained better from the first day. Others assert that even the best training is not always an adequate substitute for years of experience in the most demanding cockpit situations, particularly those requiring mastery of an emergency that could lead to an accident.

''If they've got enough training that they are a walking book of knowledge on that airplane, that can make up for experience,'' said Donald D. Engen, former head of the Federal Aviation Administration. ''But when push comes to shove, when everything turns to worms, experience is what really counts.''

The pilot hiring boom now under way is sending a number of ripples throughout the aviation industry, including these:

* Age, vision, height and weight restrictions that once kept many would-be pilots from the cockpits of major airlines have been loosened. Further, until three years ago most big airlines hired only college graduates; now one newly hired pilot in 10 has no college degree.

* Training programs are expanding, and students with little experience, especially women and members of minority groups, are being recruited to seek careers as pilots.

* The use of flight simulators and other computerized training devices is booming, with civilian and military pilots spending more and more of their training time on the ground. Some experts say this trend has gone too far, but officials of training programs are ecstatic at the chance to run rapidly through a series of exercises that would be dangerous in an airplane and that can be tailored to individual pilots' weaknesses. Paid Training a Trend

Paying nonpilots to learn how to fly has not caught on yet in the United States, but it is growing overseas, with carriers like Japan Air Lines, Lufthansa and Swissair training new fliers from classroom to cockpit. These carriers' experience may point the way for airlines in the United States.

In October, China Airlines, of Taiwan, sent 11 flight attendants and 13 other workers to the first class of a new flight school in Grand Forks, N.D., run by Northwest Airlines and the University of North Dakota. Gulf Air, of Bahrain, is sending eight more students this month. The airlines are paying the $67,000 cost for each student.

Capt. Y. L. Lee, director of training for China Airlines, said his carrier's students would spend 18 months in training in North Dakota and four more in Taiwan before going to work on 45-minute flights around the island.

Worried that a shortage is near, United and Eastern as well as Northwest have struck deals with universities or colleges to help run aviation programs aimed at producing professional pilots. The F.A.A. and Northwest split the cost of a new $6 million aerospace center on the North Dakota campus.

T.W.A. is going even further. Joining with Flightsafety International, the world's leading pilot training company, the airline plans to open in March a St. Louis-based program to train recent graduates of college aviation programs for careers with airlines. Captain Laursen, director of training at T.W.A., said the program would produce 300 fliers a year, each with about 500 hours' flight experience, to serve as co-pilots for regional lines.

T.W.A.'s goal, however, is to help meet its own need for pilots, expected to be about 450 this year.

''A number of pilots that graduate from this facility will be hired by T.W.A.,'' Captain Laursen said. A graduate who goes to work at T.W.A. will be a Boeing 727 flight engineer and can hope to move up the ranks to flight egineer on a Boeing 747, co-pilot on a 727 and then captain on a 727.

Each change requires new training and brings more pay. Captain Laursen said a 22-year-old newly minted flight engineer, whose salary would be $24,000 a year, could expect to make captain in eight years, at about three times that salary. His offer is as close as any American carrier has come to guaranteeing jobs to students, and it has already attracted wide interest.

Regional Carriers' Approach

Some regional lines, where pilot turnover is running around 50 percent a year, have already hired pilots with relatively little flying time. To insure that such efforts will be successful, and to address other aspects of rapid turnover among both pilots and managers, the Regional Airline Association in Washington has formed a study group that is to meet for the first time this month.

One such carrier, Atlantic Southeast Airlines, based in suburban Atlanta, has 400 pilots. It usually hires those with at least 1,500 hours of flight time, but its officials feel they may be forced to hire less experienced pilots to fly their 45 planes.

''My intention was to design and test a program that could be used should the situation manifest itself,'' said Tilden M. Shanahan, the airline's director of flight operations.

Last year he encouraged two men and a woman who had just finished basic flight training at a Flightsafety center in Vero Beach, Fla., to continue on with Flightsafety's advanced program in Lakeland, Fla. Six months ago the three pilots, with 375 to 500 hours of flight time, went to work as A.S.A. co-pilots, flying 19-passenger Embraer Bandeirantes into and out of Atlanta, Dallas and the other cities the airline serves.

''The military trains a man to fly an F-18 in a year with less than 500 hours and puts him on an aircraft carrier,'' Mr. Shanahan said. ''So we feel like we can do this.'' Flight-Time Decline Scrutinized

The recent decline in the number of hours flown among newly hired commercial pilots is one trend that is under a lot of scrutiny. Future Aviation Professionals of America says new pilots at the major airlines in 1987 had an average of 4,000 hours' total time, 16 times the Federal minimum for an air transport pilot. In 1988 it dropped to 3,700 hours, 15 times the minimum.

Kit Darby, a vice president of the organization, and other experts say that while the quantity of flight time is important, the quality is becoming even more so.

''With all due respect,'' said Dana Siewert, who directs the University of North Dakota program, ''a pilot with 5,000 hours' crop dusting - all of it low-level flying on good-weather days - is not the same pilot as someone with only 300 hours who has taken courses in meteorology, navigation, human factors, aerodynamics, radar, the airline industry and public relations.''

All training programs are attracting new interest from the airlines. ''If one 747 captain retires, that's likely to cause at least nine different training slots,'' said David Simmon, a pilot who is head of safety at United. ''The wide-body captain retires, a smaller-jet captain moves up, a co-pilot moves over, on down the line.''

''Any time the airline expands, you get the same thing,'' he said. ''And any time you get new equipment, you get the same thing.''

United, with 6,500 pilots, hired 230 last year and expects to hire from 900 to 1,200 this year as it expands its fleet and copes with 200 to 300 retirements annually. This is the second year it has supported an aviation program at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale that takes a few top students through the airline's training center in Denver to qualify them as flight engineers. None of the students are expected to go right to work for United, but the airline says it hopes the program will increase the number of women and minority group members who can eventually join United crews.

Pan American World Airways, which went 19 years, until 1987, without hiring a pilot, expects to hire as many as 200 this year. The airline has set up the equivalent of a baseball team's farm system, in part to insure a steady supply of qualified pilots.

Under Pan Am's agreement with its commuter-line subsidiary, Philadelphia-based Pan Am Express, pilots hired by the smaller line are put on the parent's seniority list; 36 of them move up to the international carrier each year.

Express's chief pilot, Robert R. (Boom) Powell, says he can envision a time when the idea is carried a step further, with a smaller Philadelphia-based line, Wings Airline, feeding pilots to Pan Am Express.
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