Canada Adopts Multi-Crew Pilot License

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Canada is joining European and Asian countries in adopting the multi-crew pilot's license as a means of keeping the right seats of its airliners populated. In contrast to the U.S., where Congress has decided how many hours a pilot must have before clipping on the tie and three stripes, Canada and the other countries are adopting an International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)-designed program that takes ab initio students through at least 250 hours of airline-oriented flight training and 750 hours of ground school and makes them FOs on airliners in 12 to 18 months. Canada's Ministry of Transport announced last week that the license will be added to Transport Canada's list of approved pilot certification standards and the next step is to start certifying aviation training organizations to teach the courses. That news comes as a war of words develops between airline executives and pilot unions about the cause and effect of new 1,500-hour experience minimum for copilots (1,000 hours if they attend a university course).

As we reported last week, the Air Line Pilots Association claims there is no shortage of pilots. President Lee Moak said there are plenty of experienced American pilots flying overseas who would return to the U.S. if they could make as much money as they do at foreign carriers. While that may be true, in the reality that has evolved into the airline training model in the U.S., regional airlines are curtailing their operations because they don't have enough pilots. Republic Airways mothballed 27 of its 243 aircraft last week for that reason and CEO Bryan Bedford said it will get worse before it gets better. "The short-term answer is the aviation industry is just going to get smaller," he told The Wall Street Journal (subscription required). He said the problem is double-pronged. New pilots must spend much longer gaining the experience necessary to get an airline job at the same time the major carriers are hiring experienced regional pilots faster than the regionals can replace them. Bedford said that means that some marginal regional airline destinations will lose service and fares will go up as airlines increase the pay of pilots to help attract more. Bedford appeared to allude to the multi-crew pilot license when he told the WSJ that other countries have "had to reformulate the whole vocation of the pilot" and that discussion needs to be held in the U.S. "We should have that conversation today and get ahead of it, before the problem that seems difficult today gets a heck of a lot worse," he said.