With Rules In Play, Pilot Training Under Scrutiny

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Are today's airline pilots, churned out by "pilot mills" that train to minimum standards, up to the task once entrusted to ex-military pilots with millions of dollars worth of intense and highly competitive training? That's one of the questions raised by a four-part series this week in The Buffalo News, an exploration prompted by the fatal crash there early this year of Colgan Air Flight 3407, in which 50 people died. As recently as 1992, about 90 percent of new hires at the airlines had military backgrounds, according to Tuesday's installment, while today that figure is about 30 percent. But whether any of that translates into a safety issue is unclear. "The kind of skills you get flying into bad weather into Buffalo you don't necessarily get flying in a fighter plane," one unnamed airline pilot, who did not come from the military, told the News. The series looks into how pilots are trained today, and the difference in safety between the major airlines and the regionals. The FAA is expected to issue proposed new rules for commercial pilots sometime in 2010. Click here to read parts one, two, three, and four of the Buffalo News series.

Training for airline pilots is also the topic of a report in Wednesday's Bloomberg News, which focuses on Gulfstream Academy (no relation to Gulfstream Aerospace, which builds the jets), the flight school where the pilot of Flight 3407 was trained. The last five fatal crashes of commercial passenger carriers in the U.S. involved airplanes operated by regional airlines, according to Bloomberg. Click here for that story.