The Regional Airline Association is accusing the Air Line Pilots Association of “gatekeeping” to limit the supply of pilots and ensure the continuation of fat contracts for its members. “It is long past time for industry and policymakers to call this harmful tactic exactly what it is: gatekeeping, which stands as an affront to all who work to build greater equity, diversity and inclusion in aviation careers,” RAA said in a blistering rebuttal to ALPA’s claims that there is actually a surplus of new airline pilots in the pipeline. In a news release last week, the union used FAA statistics to show that more ATP-MELs were created in the first 11 months of this year than in 2019 and that there are also more qualified CFIs. But RAA said ALPA’s presentation of the naked facts failed to give context to the numbers.
“ALPA leadership fails to control for or acknowledge a known backlog of disrupted ATP/RATP qualifications from 2020 and 2021 that are now qualifying, which has artificially boosted 2022 numbers,” the RAA response says. “If those backlog certificates are removed from the 2022 figures, the adjusted 2022 production rate would be below average.” Further, the association claims that the numbers of commercial multi-engine graduates, the source of new ATPs, is down by about half and spells big trouble for future pilot production.
The RAA also hits back at ALPA’s claims that airlines manufactured the pilot shortage to cover for their own managerial ineptitude and to pressure governments to relax training requirements for new airline pilots at the expense of safety. The FAA recently rejected a bid by Republic Airlines to reduce the number of hours required for new first officers from 1500 to 750 hours for graduates of its focused training program. The association said no one wants to sacrifice safety but the issues must be addressed. “This includes the importance of evolving pilot training opportunities to enhance, not detract from, aviation safety,” the association said. “However, RAA firmly rejects transparent gatekeeping efforts that mischaracterize proposed improvements to pilot training and career access as anti-safety.”
ALPA is full of it. There is definitely a shortage of experienced (not just qualified, two different things) pilots. But I do believe that the airlines in their short sightedness helped create the problem. Entry level pay has always been terrible. Consider that most airlines hire pilots that have several thousand hours and have already been either professional civilian or military pilots and then they are insulted by starting pay that allows (or used to) a pilot family of 4 to be on food stamps. When I started at my first 121 carrier I took a 25% pay cut from my CFI job. The trend continued at my second and third 121 carrier. Sadly they were all managed so poorly that they kept going out of business or into bankruptcy.
Oh how times have changed! Currently there are regionals where day 1 FO pay is guaranteed at $90k a year.
The industry DID THIS TO ITSELF ! And now is CRYING for having to FINALLY pay a pilot what he/she is truly worth. Stop your whining RAA !
Two responses so far that both point to the industry as the “problem” and both indicating that, somehow, big paychecks will solve the problem. Reality check time folks. Sure, compared to a 30 Captain, all starting pay scales are abysmal, but that’s how it is everywhere. I flew for 23 years in the Military and the “starting pay” there was very low, still is to a point. I then went on to Pan Am and TWA as part of the Ransome Airlines division, again very low, especially if you consider the fact that I was a highly experienced 4 engine wide-body transport pilot with 8600 hours flying all over the globe. Finally got on with Atlas at what was whined about as low pay by some but I upgraded to Captain in 8 months, The pay there never reached the levels of the big three even though I was flying 747s with far more revenue on board that any of them ever carried. Still, I was able to nicely provide for my family and set up for my retirement via a 401K. Many there whined about no “traditional” retirement plan like the big three but then we never lost a cent when they all went through the bankruptcy process.
My point is that businesses are “in business” to make a profit and while almost every top executive at these companies is way over compensated, the company won’t survive paying the entire work force at those same levels. More to the point, why are pilots so special that they have to get Scrooge McDuck level pay while the baggage handlers, etc, mostly get very low wages? While the aircraft can’t go anywhere without the pilot, the is no value in moving it without the PAYING passengers, their baggage, and available freight on board. Think about that when you whine about your pay.
Valid points. On the other hand due to the growing “shortage” of persons who are willing to fly for nothing because of the enjoyment of flying, pilot jobs are now more and more competing with other occupations that pay as much or more without all of the work involved and requirements to stay current. The former owner of the airport where I learned to fly admitted years ago that recreational flying cannot compete straight up with recreational boating due to the extra work and cost involved with aviation. The same is now starting to occur with the pilot profession. No one in their right mind would go through all that is involved with learning to fly and do it for a living if they did not enjoy it.
RAA won’t be happy until it returns to the era when its pilots had to supplement their income with food stamps and live in house trailers. It’s attack on ALPA is quite transparent.
I see the problem from the other end — the people entering the pipeline and progressing through training until they can land that coveted job of driving a bus, under abysmal working conditions, for peanuts, that would have most sane people exclaiming, “F- this, I’m outa here.” (BTW, those were the words my 2nd wife uttered to me one day shortly before divorce proceedings began.) Of course, visions of sugarplum captains’ jobs and salary dance through their heads … until the airline goes broke, gets absorbed by another airline, and their seniority number then changes to 1920502891895901218282899456.
Ok, enough seriousness. Now for some levity. Kids coming out of flight training don’t really know how to fly. How do I know this? I tend to get them at the tail-end of the training, when they are about to become CFIs. I am a long-time pilot (54 years – 12000+ hours), and CFI (25 years), who specializes in spins, Upset Prevention and Recovery Training (UPRT), and basic aerobatics. Once or twice a week I get a phone call that begins like this, “Hi, are you the guy who does spin endorsements? My friend came to you and said that they really enjoyed training with you and learned a lot. I need a spin endorsement before my CFI checkride tomorrow.”
Ok, weak attempts at humor aside, most of these kids really don’t know how their airplanes fly and yet they are probably going to be teaching other kids to fly in a couple of months. My spin endorsement class, which ends up taking a good chunk of a day because I am going to introduce them to things that have never been addressed before, like how the lift formula explains things like stalls, why V-speeds change with weight, how power controls altitude, how power controls airspeed, why when things go wrong you really want to be pushing on the yoke/stick instead of pulling, why the ailerons are your enemy in a stall, why Power/Aileron/Rudder/Elevator (PARE) is how you recover from a spin but that, if you get to that point, you have long since failed to recover the aircraft from an upset when you should have. One thing I can hand to them, they can go heads-down and work a Garmin G-1000 like nobody’s business!
The long and short of it is that I am pretty much the last chance they have to realize that their training is deficient. What’s worse is that, if my little spin class doesn’t get through, they are going to carry that deficiency over into the next batch of kids they are going to turn into professional Garmin buttonologists. They will then proceed through the system to become pilots for the airlines and freight dogs. They will be very good at running the systems in the airplane and at IFR procedures but when something goes wrong and they are forced to fly the airplane in order to deal with a problem that is either caused by or exacerbated by the automation, they will be lost … along with their crewmates, passengers, and aircraft.
So to get this comment back on track, yes, there is a shortage of pilots, if one defines ‘pilot’ as someone who understands their aircraft and can think through problems to extract a good outcome from a bad situation. The current flight training system does not naturally produce that sort of pilot. Only those who recognize this will, on their own initiative, go to the extra effort to rectify their shortcomings. Those who don’t … well, the airlines and the flying public are the losers.
Bad management gets the unions it deserves, and then the unions end up getting the managers they deserve. There’s often a good period where unionization makes an industry better, but given long enough, it ruins what it purports to be saving. Where is the happy and competitive unionized industry today? In the long run, it would be better to let competition alone fix wage and working conditions than to continue under our present labor laws which allow unions to simply add a layer of inefficiency between the workers and customers.
The FAA is just one institution causing the lack of pilots. It’s a huge mess precisely because there’s a legion of forces aligned against those of us who want to fly ourselves around.
Combine a sick GA environment, which must be present to create pilots, with a sick union environment (which demands a risky, expensive and lengthy commitment before one is actually served by one’s union), and you get what you have – a few bunches of highly paid elites (the most senior executives, bureaucrats, union officials, and pilots) making everyone else miserable while holding power over air travel.
They all deserve each other. The voters deserve it for constantly wanting free stuff, and the consumers deserve it for constantly buying price without regard to value. We all know what really needs to happen, but no one will give up anything to get improvements. I’d bet on more of the same until airliners finally start crashing, which they will eventually. Until then, look forward to more airport closings, higher costs for flying, and lots of whining about how everything is someone else’s fault.
In the meantime, enjoy your bread and circuses.
The fact that salaries have gone up in recent years means there’s a shortage.
While the RAA focuses on DIE, they have no hope of fixing the problem.