The Pilot Experience Conundrum

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As the passing parade scrolls by, I sometimes find myself asking what's worse; new proposed regulations or our sometimes silly knee-jerk reaction to them. This week, we've got both. Specifically, I'm referring to proposed legislation that would require pilots flying in FAR 121 operations to have a minimum of 1500 hours.

This gem comes from the fertile mind of Senator Charles Schumer, an old warhorse liberal who never saw something he couldn't improve with a new law. If this guy had his way, he would regulate everything from peaches to pajamas and the Second Amendment would be a fading memory. Before breaking down this idea, let me perform the obligatory keying of the pilot chorus: Hours have nothing to do with pilot skill…yadda, yadda, yadda.

On its face, there's nothing logically wrong with the 1500-hour proposal. It's basically saying that anyone flying in air transport should have an airline transport rating. That's hardly a radical idea. Fifteen hundred hours ain't squat anyway in terms of real world experience. And not all experience is the same. All things being equal—which they never are—I'd rather have a 1000-hour pilot who'd beat around flying checks in crappy Northeastern weather than an ambitious CFI with 2000 hours in Tucson. But that's not to say that the Tucson pilot wouldn't be a better pick for an airline job. Senator Schumer is too dense and ill-informed to appreciate this nuance.

And now we get to the knee-jerk portion of our program. The National Association of Flight Instructors argues that the 1500-hour requirement wouldn't improve safety measurably. I'm on board with that. Then it steps over the edge of the precipice and says it has the potential of degrading safety. Really? Show me the data on that. I'm gonna ask you to tell me how you are going to definitively prove that my Tucson pilot isn't the better choice than my Northeast check hauler.

Could be that Mr. I'll-Fly-In-Anything-Check Hauler is good, but with a wild streak that's benefited from good luck while my Tucson candidate is disciplined, professional and engaged, but only has 20 hours of cloud time. If both get the same training, who do you want in the right seat? I submit the choice isn't so easy, because it's driven by the greatest of unknown variables: the quality of the individual. And I'm not talking about stick-and-rudder ability, but the attitude that person brings to the enterprise.

I first noticed this some years ago, when I was editing IFR magazine. We had a traveling seminar series which would draw 50 to 100 people in various cities. Surprisingly, many of our attendees were airline pilots. In one of our seminars in Roanoke, an obviously experienced USAirways Captain soaked up the course like a dry sponge. Despite his years of flying—including Air Force combat time—he knew that we knew things about the finer points of IFR flying that his sterile and procedures-driven airline flying insulated him from. The questions he asked indicated to me that he was curious and engaged and wanted to integrate this knowledge into his own flying because that was his definition of professionalism. It's the difference between employment and avocation. After the course, he thanked us and said "they don't teach us this stuff in our training."

That's the guy I want in the left or right seat.

So my view of this is that the best you can do is cull the deadbeats and train the rest. The 1500-hour requirement is the cudgel version of culling—like doing surgery with a chainsaw. It might work, but it sure is messy.

The better way is to invent a process that both trains and evaluates. I think, to a degree, airlines already do this, but I'm not sure they all do it well, especially at the regional level. With scenario-based training all the rage, the training/evaluation could tilt toward judgment situations that require analytical skills drawn from experience. For example, put the guy in the simulator and run him through the Colgan accident scenario or something similar to see how he (or she) reacts. And do more of this and less of ordinary procedures.

Now I imagine a Chief Pilot reading this might say it's a pipe dream and point out that this outgassing is easy for me to do because I don't have to hire and train pilots. Mea culpa. On the other, the status quo always sabotages progress.

If I were the Chief Pilot and in charge of hiring new F/Os, I'd sort the resumes into two piles and I'd use an hours cutoff of…let's see…1500 hours. I'd pick the promising ones out of that group first, then see if the under 1500-hour group had anything better to offer.

I'll concede that market conditions could make a hash of this process. There might not be any resumes in the 1500-hour pile. But you gotta start somewhere and a knee-jerk response isn't the place.

Comments (32)

I learned a tremendous amount from flying checks in a 135 operation. The 1500 hour rule doesn't seem too draconian to me, since 1200 is the minimum for PIC in a 135 IFR operation. I think recent, actual IMC is much more important - perhaps even 100 hours or so of actual. I've flown with 4000 hour CFI's that can't fly an ILS to save their lives, and flown with 800 hour pilots that are very comfortable and confident flying in the system.

Posted by: Josh Johnson | December 18, 2009 12:09 PM    Report this comment

If a person buys a ticket on a part 121 scheduled airline there should be some assurance of a pilot fit for the task in each seat up front. The FAA minimums were never the true minimums for the job as the airlines sought out the highest qualifications money could buy.

Until the last decade.

As cost controls invaded every aspect of the business the new order was to find the cheapest pilot legal to fill the seat. I was hired by a regional in 1992. I was the low time guy in the new hire class. I had a military background, 3,500 hours turbine time, and had an ATP certificate. A decade later the regionals were hiring pilots with less than 10% of that time, no ATP, and in some cases less than 25 hours of muti-engine time.

I now have over 12,000 hours total time. I will agree beyond a point each additional hour incrementally adds less experience to the bag but looking back, at 1,500 hours I was still adding and still had a lot to learn.

A pilot should bring 4 things to the table when interviewing for a part 121 job:

(1) Aptitude/Professionalism
(2) Training
(3) Experience
(4) Track record

Historically the airlines used various vetting processes to identify top contenders for a pilot career. When you have a revolving door and nothing to offer in terms of salary all those criteria go out the door and you simply look for someone willing to take the job until the next inexperienced pilot shows up with eyes wide shut.

Posted by: m adams | December 18, 2009 12:37 PM    Report this comment

m adams has a very good point. Down another track - has anyone noticed that it is difficult to find a flight instructor at little county airports? I would surmise that this is due to the fact that a person doesn't have to instruct anymore to get enough hours to go to a piston 135 op, then to jet charters, then the regionals. That being said, who wants to pay their dues for a 15k starting wage and a most unpleasant work schedule. Perhaps it is time for re-regulation of the airlines.

Posted by: Josh Johnson | December 18, 2009 6:39 PM    Report this comment

How about we just worry about getting qualified CAPTAINS in the left seat and let the companies decide who should be the FO. Ab initio programs have proved than inexperienced FOs do the job just fine, and given the time and experience develop into successful Captains. If there is going to be a regulation, it's the Captain qualifications that it should focus on.

Posted by: Benjamin Quinby | December 18, 2009 6:56 PM    Report this comment

From the perspective of this former regional airline captain, I can attest to you that hours alone cannot determine the quality of the pilot being hired to fly the line. We had 400 hour wonderkids that I would fly with anyday and upgraded right at 1500 hours. On the otherhand we had our share of hightime senior FO's that were downright dangerous and should have been shown the door, and everyone knew it. The chief pilot would cull them from the herd by forcing them to upgrade against their will, in an exercise of "sink or swim". The downside was that some actually made it through!! I would avoid riding in the back of the aircraft if I knew they were at the helm.

As for the 1500 hour proposal. I am for it for one simple reason - to artificially tighten supply of pilots in order to force starting wages upwards.

I left the regional industry with an impeccable flying record, a thick logbook, experience in several aircraft types, and weather flying experience that the average pilot only reads about in magazines like IFR, simply because I could not make ends meet. I do not regret that decision, because I can now put food on the table for my family. But it was a very sad day when I flew my last trip.

Posted by: DAVID COLEMAN | December 18, 2009 9:51 PM    Report this comment

Paul, I always enjoy reading your columns. I frequently find unintended twists of concepts.

If you really believe "...the status quo always sabotages progress," do you understand the thrust of your composition?

Posted by: Sam Strohl | December 19, 2009 8:43 AM    Report this comment

>>Do you understand the thrust of your composition?>>

Probably not. The point I was trying to make is that there's nothing wrong the 1500-hour requirement, but what's really needed is a better training/evaluation process, with the emphasis on evaluation. In any case, 1500 hours is not a bad place to start.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | December 19, 2009 8:54 AM    Report this comment

You can't legislate good judgement...when will lawmakers realize that? Good judgement by hiring managers/chief pilots. Good judgement by pilots. ...and recognize that once in a while even the best judgement decision ends badly...and new rules/laws can't and couldn't prevent it. a certain degree the more rules, regulations, and laws we put in place the more we eliminate good judgement, talent, skill, and good luck from being used ... abdicate personal responsibility, rely on the rules to keep us safe, and blame the rules when they inevitably don't.

Posted by: Kingsley Hill | December 19, 2009 11:38 AM    Report this comment

"There is scarcely anything in the world that some man cannot make a little worse, and sell a little more cheaply. The person who buys on price alone is this man's lawful prey." John Ruskin, (attributed)

Something to think about when you book that $69 special fare to Florida for vacation!

Posted by: Josh Johnson | December 19, 2009 2:31 PM    Report this comment

Two comments: first, we've had this discussion for almost my entire career. There are anecdotes this way, and anecdotes that way. Back in the sixties, my former employer was upgrading DC-9 captains who barely had the 1200 hours needed to get an ATP. Now, the safety record in those days wasn't what it is today, but it is difficult to know what role experience played in that record, or even what that experience looked like compared to that of today.

On the other hand, consider the actual data regarding experience in Part 121 accidents. Currently, there are 471 events in the NTSB data since 1982 that involve an aircraft with a gross weight of less than 75,000 pounds. In these events, the average reported total flight time for the pilot in command is 8141 hours; the median time is 6937 hours. The average reported total flight time for a "co-pilot" is 3432 hours; the median is 2300.

With respect to time in type, the average PIC time is 2436 hours; the median is 1780. For the co-pilot, the average is 1070 hours, and the median is 809.

Within the same data, there are 32 events reported in which the FO had less than 1500 hours. Of these, the average total flight time is 1033 hours; the median is 1128. There is no particular spike in the data following 1500 hours. Thus, there are fifty events in which the copilot’s total flight time is between 1500 and 3000 hours.

It is very uncertain, then, that 1500 hours in the right seat is any kind of magical threshold.

Posted by: Steven Green | December 20, 2009 7:51 AM    Report this comment

Secondly, perhaps a more carefully considered approach is warranted. In the paper on inflight icing that I presented to the AIAA in 1996, I provided this hypothesis:

Accurate situational awareness is dependent on an understanding of nuance that training cannot provide. For much of its history, aviation has instead relied on experience to provide the necessary understanding. Unfortunately, experience itself often falls short: one thousand hours of experience may turn out to be nothing more than one hour a thousand times.

In contemporary times, the terms training and education have become convoluted. The process of training does not inherently lead to questions such as "What do we know?" and "How do we know it?. The process of education is generally built around these questions. In the absence of these questions, experience which has not been correctly interpreted can be memorialized into axioms or premises which strongly, and often detrimentally, influence attempts to understand nuance and therefore maintain situational awareness.

At the end of the day, as long as we accept a paradigm in which one can fail every single weather question on the ATP written and still pass the test, we are barking up the wrong tree.

Posted by: Steven Green | December 20, 2009 7:53 AM    Report this comment

The grave yard has many 10,000 plus hour pilots crashing perfectly good aircraft as well as 250 hr pilots. In fact insurance companies track extensively these numbers to find the least risk. They find that time-in-type is weighted most for least risk. I like the 1500 hr requirement as I think the indirect boost in new-hire pay would be the greatest benefit. I don't think it will have any measurable effect on safety and may result in some pilots padding their log books. I've been a captain for over a decade with a commuter in the Northeast and I'm now an fo with a major. I feel that the 285 hrs I have in taildraggers in the most quality time I have as far as stick and rudder skills. The 8000 plus hours of airline time is mostly autopilot time and doesn't matter much to me as far as stick and rudder skills go.

Posted by: daniel schultz | December 20, 2009 8:43 AM    Report this comment

1,500 hours is simply no guarantee of 'performance under pressure', so let me point my fickle finger at another culprit: the FAA's POI, and the training manual he signed off on. Yes, he may have been (politically?) pressured to 'dilute' that which he deemed essential for line operations for his assigned carrier, but he signed off on it nonetheless. It is up to the POI to 'fine-tune' and massage the training as he sees fit in order to effect safety for his operating geography and type equipment used. This is called "operational control", and it's not just a 'nice-to-have' concept, but it is law.

Yes, it's true that some pilots 'soak up information like a dry sponge', but there are also those that need some degree of threat to alter their behavior. Why? Because those 'smarter than the average bear' types are simply afraid of being wrong--especially in the presence of their peers.

And then there are those pot-bellied Captains that hold onto knowledge and information like gold, and they simply refuse to groom the junior pilots to their career destinations.

And finally, I reserve my greatest ire for the airlines themselves. What a foolish and risky strategy to not financially reward and make every effort to retain your most experienced personnel. This point has been addressed in these and other aviation forums ad-nauseum, so no need to tread over well-worn ground again.

Aviation seems to continue making the same old mistakes ...

Posted by: Phil Derosier | December 20, 2009 5:09 PM    Report this comment

I was sharing, along with other copilots, in the right seat of a Navy EC-121 with not much more than 250 pilot hours. Everyone says that we were there because we had been screened, tested, and gone through the Navy's Flight School. Well, maybe that is where we should be going; i.e., an ab initio type training program for airline copilots. Someone could probably correct me, but I believe that both JAL and Lufthansa have such programs. Much of it here in the U.S. I flew Navy, briefly was with Pan Am, and finished my aviation career with the FAA (when no airline would take on us older folks). If I had to earn 1500 flight hours out of my own pocket, I would have never been in the industry.

Posted by: Jack Kenton | December 21, 2009 10:46 AM    Report this comment

The real issue is that the major airlines, much less the regionals, do not have the resources given the competitive environment to adequately implement or sustain a quality training program for inexperienced pilots. The United States Navy can carrier qual 150 hour pilots solely because of the intensity and standardization of their training programs, along with the fact that they constantly evaluate and will wash out anyone that isn't able to hack that program.

Posted by: Max Buffet | December 21, 2009 5:01 PM    Report this comment

Experience (read total time) may or may not correct immaturity or a lax attitude toward serious situations.

It could just represent a reinforced inherent complacency. It does show you've survived at least that long somehow though, and OUGHT to have picked up something from the close shave or three that's likely included in that amount of time.

Posted by: Mike Holshouser | December 21, 2009 8:46 PM    Report this comment

Fast-forward 5 years : due to lack of available pilots (who on earth can afford 1500hrs, except military -who are now using drones), airlines will be one-upping one another for any pilot willing to change uniforms. It won't be enough. Old pilots will now stay way after reaching 60. Not enough. Airlines and manufacturers will work towards single-pilot airliners, backed-up by a drone-driver on the groundv(one pilot on duty at the ops center at all times). Another 5 years after that : passengers in the front seat. Yes, I will take your bet !

Posted by: Peter De Ceulaer | December 22, 2009 9:05 AM    Report this comment

Paul, I disagree with a lot of what you write but this time I have to say you got it right. As a former military attack helicopter pilot that had to basically start over when I decided to pursue a path to the airlines I could not agree more with this requirement. I have ridden on jumpseats on my airline's express carrier unit and seen some very questionable decision making and severe lack of professionalism. This new proposal is certainly FAR from perfect but it is a very good start. What those that oppose this do not realize is that the alternative to this hourly requirement is a Lufthansa style airline academy. Certainly a good alternative but also an incredibly SELECTIVE one. I would guess that over three quarters of the people that come down the path to an airline seat in the current manner would not even make it to the second interview at an intense performance driven school as Lufthansas.

Posted by: RANDOLPH PALMA | December 22, 2009 12:49 PM    Report this comment

Experience + excellent training = the best pilot hires. Military pilots have excellent training but have inexperience problems but have excellent and constant resources in thier units. All they have to do is take advantage of same. Regardless, they learn relatively fast or get washed out or die. A tough way to make a living.

If the airlines could eliminate economic situations they would only hire experienced folks and subject them to learn or leave training (without dying, one would hope).

There is no magic about 1500 hours but as stated several times already, they have survived some level of difficulty so far and may now be ready to advance their careers.

Posted by: William Zollinger | December 22, 2009 6:50 PM    Report this comment

I wonder how our stall spin accident statistics measure up to European countries, especially Germany? Anyone ever do a study of that I wonder?

Posted by: Patty Haley | December 23, 2009 1:17 PM    Report this comment

As an outsider (private pilot) I have two observations to share in this cat fight:

1. Those airline pilots I have spoken to seem to have a real attitude problem with the idea of continuing training. They seem to think they know it all and don't need any refresher to keep them on top of their skills. An annual simulator ride is all they ever get. I would rather see them attend monthly safety meetings of the type the USAF requires for both rated pilots and aero club members.

2. I don't like senator Schumer's proposal because I think it is overly simple (like him?) and it probably has unintended consequences like reducing the availability of pilot job candidates to a point where operations are threatened. With the demise of military pilots due to AUVs, the end of paper checks, and the growing world population we need to have more pilots rather than less. If there is no good way for young pilots to reach the threshold of qualification for airline jobs then the pilot shortage will become critical sooner.

I like the idea of improving the quality of all airline pilots, but I worry about the non-military path to pilot qualification. Perhaps what we really need is a clear distinction between flying passengers and cargo rather than a distinction based on scheduled vs. non-scheduled operations. If an air transport rating is required for all scheduled passenger pilots then there might be openings in the cargo world where young pilots could get their first job.

Posted by: PAUL MULWITZ | December 24, 2009 5:34 AM    Report this comment

The military pilot is not he be-all, have-all answer for an air transportation system pure and simple. To prejudge that military pilots categorigally performs better than cililian pilots is an old, stale, prejudicial argument having no applicability to todays operational environment. We're no longer in the dark-ages whereby the typical 25 year-old military pilot was flying an F-105, while the career cap for a comparable civil pilot was a beat up old Beech 18.

Oh sure, the military pilot candidate today usually accesses turbine equipment much faster, but that's about it. In case anyone hasn't noticed, GA and Corporate fleets have as much --and sometimes more -- advanced cockpit platforms that line operators. And with the ever increasing availability of computer and advanced simulators from a wide variety of reputable sources, whatever advantage the military used to have in applying *routine line flying concepts and techniques* has just about vanished. In fact, arguments can be made that the civilian pilot is far more adept at accessing and interpreting FARs that the cloistered, isolated military pilot.

Posted by: Phil Derosier | December 24, 2009 8:02 AM    Report this comment

I think M Adams makes some great comments, and I agree. I'd add, based on a recently ended 30 year airline career, that the quality of the training is of primary importance. Decades ago I soloed the supersonic T-38 with some 80 hours TT. This was done safely because of the regimented, comprehensive, and carefully supervised training program. The same type of program led to a four engine jet command with around 900 TT. I firmly believe the quality of the training coupled with a close watched evaluation program, led to a safe operation.
That is not to say that airlines today, regional or not, have the same kind of training and evaluation programs. As one whose career went from an era of train-to-be-the-best, to train to minimum, cost-effective standards, I can attest to where the problems lie.
Something a little more intangible is the fact that in the past it was expected that new hires were to learn from "Old Head" captains who had a breadth of real world experience and could mentor the copilots and (I'm showing my age) flight engineers. By the time you got to the left seat, you'd learned a lot from them. Today, not so much. How do you learn from someone who might have 18 months on you? Also, there seems to be a cultural change that works against recognition of the fact that someone senior to you might know something you might want to learn. The old Question Authority thing. Not necessarily a good thing for aviation safety.

Posted by: BILL MCCLURE | December 24, 2009 8:20 AM    Report this comment

NAFI would like to thank you for helping further the discussion of the issues relating to House Resolution 3371. We certainly agree with the points you have made in this writing but would like to add clarification on one point that NAFI made that may not have come through correctly. Our indicated concern that HR3371 could potentially detract from safety, was not with airline safety, but relates to the portion of the bill that proposes requiring experience in “difficult operational conditions”.

NAFI is concerned that relatively low-time pilots seeking experience in conditions for which they are not trained will do so in light aircraft that are neither appropriately equipped nor certificated for the conditions.

We agree that experience is an important and valuable constituent of a professional pilot but also recognize that appropriate, high quality training has a demonstrably greater impact upon qualifications to pilot transport aircraft. There is great value gained from real-world experience; it cannot be substituted. However, we feel that the military training experience adequately demonstrates that most of the skills sought to be enhanced by HR3371 can be more directly developed in skills based, not hours based, simulation and training.

Thanks again for your writing on this topic and I hope I helped clarify that NAFI’s concern about potential degradation of safety concern.


Jason Blair
Executive Director, NAFI

Posted by: Jason Blair | December 24, 2009 9:18 AM    Report this comment

Building time has predominantly been flight instructing, military, or flying checks, but there is pressures here that it seems many of the older guys like the crew of 1549 don't get. Maybe I'm wrong and these issues were as bad in their day, but it seems to be a "perfect storm" going on in entry level aviation now.

Most of the check companies aren't flying as much due to the fact that most check transfers are now done electronically. I know my local airport's operation lost their contract recently.

Then there is flight instruction. If you look at the numbers over the past 10 years we had 16k less student pilots in 2008 than we did in 1999 and we have 13K more instructors. Either all those extra instructors are doing a better job pushing through those students to certificates or we are getting less students overall with more instructors out there which includes more low times ones trying to build time. My guess as a 8 year CFI, I bet it's the latter.

On the military side, many of pilots I've known don't have 1500 hours of time until later in their careers when compared to civilians, especially if they are fighter pilots. Throw in the fact that the military's last class of pilots is the first one to reach 50% future drone pilots which will put a even bigger strain on getting time.

Schumer's bill, like most of his work, is just a knee jerk reaction to one media sensationalized incident in a overall safe industry.

Posted by: Matthew Edwards | December 24, 2009 10:00 AM    Report this comment

Why the resistance to the 1500 hour requirement for part 121? You think 400 total and 50 multi is a good choice? Why then do we have to have 1200 hours for part 135. Why not reduce those minimums to the 121 minimums? I don't care how much of a "whiz kid" you are, a 400 hour part 121 FO is insane! This is why the regionals get by with $15,000 salaries; these whiz kids are a dime a dozen. Maybe the 1500 requirement would make things a lot more competitive, and force these airlines to pay a decent wage.

Or is there a political spin from the NAFI's point of view? Duh!!

Posted by: jere gardner | December 24, 2009 10:52 AM    Report this comment

"How about we just worry about getting qualified CAPTAINS in the left seat and let the companies decide who should be the FO."

I can't agree with that at all. Every pilot I ever hired, I hired as a captain, because eventually that's what he'll be. If I can't see the right stuff for command in an applicant for F/O position, I'm going on to the next resume.

As far as hours go, I've had many pilots ask me if it was a good idea to buy an old 310 or Twin Commanche to build up multi time for the airlines. My answer has always been an unqualified NO. The cheif pilots are going to look at that time and know that you only flew the airplane for pleasure. You were never required to go in challenging weather and you probably flew all the time with both engines humming along. Perhaps I'm biased by my years as a freight dog, but I learned things about weather and airplanes that you can ONLY learn in the cockpit, but it's not going to happen if you only fly for pleasure or are instructing.

Posted by: Linda Pendleton | December 24, 2009 11:19 AM    Report this comment

Schumer is just a politician who doesn't know anything about the subject and is after the publicity. N'uff said.

Let's face it, most flying is routine and the number of hours a person has is probably irrelevant as long as they can follow the procedures. When all hell breaks loose though, how a person responds to the stress will determine the outcome more than the number of hours they have. When confronted with stressful situations some people choke, others panic and some just work it out. I want to ride with the person who stays calm and continues to think clearly.

When a person chokes, flying the airplane transitions from instinct to thinking about every move. Reaction times slow. All those thousands of hours do not mean anything as a person becomes a brand new pilot again struggling with controlling the airplane. When a person panics, their focus becomes extremely narrow. ATPs with thousands of hours have crashed airplanes because they become so focused on a landing gear light they forgot to fly the airplane.

Perhaps scenario based training is good way for pilots to find out if they choke, panic or stay calm. It is also a good way to train pilots to work through stressful situations.

From personal experience, staying calm when faced with a bad situation saved my passengers and me. How? A great instructor made me face the situation several times before and when faced with it for real, I did what was instinctual.

Posted by: DANA NICKERSON | December 24, 2009 9:54 PM    Report this comment

My son is a senior a Embry Riddle Aeronautical University. By the time he graduates next month, I will have spent $300,000 on his four year Aeronautical Science Degree and the licenses necessary to work for the airlines. He has a little over 300 hours, but I can tell you he is 10 times the pilot I am with 800 hours! Four years of intense training in the psychology and science of working in the cockpit should be a consideration in setting flight hours. Who would you rather have flying, a young man with a four year degree in Aviation and 500 hours in the cockpit or 1500 hours flying students around the pattern?

Posted by: BILL RADFORD | March 29, 2010 8:41 AM    Report this comment

"I can tell you he is 10 times the pilot I am with 800 hours"


He may well be technically better than you are, but you still have experience on your side. I don't care how many college (or otherwise) courses you take, there are some things that can only be learned in the cockpit. Simulators can't do it. Experience is earned one hour at a time and it's earned in an airplane when you are the only one making decisions.

What I'd like to see in the right seat is a pilot with 1500 hours flying freight every night. He'll be a much better pilot and will deal better with more different types of emergencies than will a young man with a four year degree and only 500 hours. I'm sorry, Bill, if this offends you, but reality is reality.


Posted by: Linda Pendleton | March 29, 2010 10:29 AM    Report this comment

No offense taken. Like with an engineering degree, you can obtain it with a four year degree and two years on the job, or you can forgo the degree and qualify with 10 years on the job. Learning from others is what a bachelor's degree in specialty provides. Droning along at night delivering freight may teach you how to deal with an emergency or two, but isn't preventing emergencies the best course? All disciples have found that education plus experience trump only experience every time. Wikipedia states one fourth of flight captains working for the airlines today are Embry Riddle graduates. If you want to really want safety and professionalism, a degree, such as the one offered at Embry Riddle, should be a requirement to sit in the right seat.

Posted by: BILL RADFORD | March 29, 2010 11:04 AM    Report this comment

Im looking for similar articles on this topic to write a research paper on whether raising the minimum flight hours for part 121 ops will improve safety? If anybody has info please post it here..thanks

Posted by: Darren Moleton | May 19, 2010 11:09 AM    Report this comment

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