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Airlines Face Acute Pilot Shortage

Soulskill posted about 2 years ago | from the that-guy-from-Wings-probably-needs-work dept.

Transportation 421

Hugh Pickens writes "The WSJ reports that U.S. airlines are facing their most serious pilot shortage since the 1960s. Federal mandates are taking effect that will require all newly hired pilots to have at least 1,500 hours of prior flight experience — six times the current minimum. This raises the cost and time to train new fliers in an era when pay cuts and more-demanding schedules already have made the profession less attractive. Meanwhile, thousands of senior pilots at major airlines soon will start hitting the mandatory retirement age of 65. 'We are about four years from a solution, but we are only about six months away from a problem,' says Bob Reding, recently retired executive vice president of operations at AMR Corp. A study by the University of North Dakota's aviation department indicates major airlines will need to hire 60,000 pilots by 2025 to replace departures and cover expansion over the next eight years. Meanwhile, only 36,000 pilots have passed the Air Transport Pilot exam in the past eight years, which all pilots would have to pass under the Congressionally imposed rules, and there are limits to the ability of airlines, especially the regional carriers, to attract more pilots by raising wages. While the industry's health has improved in recent years, many carriers still operate on thin profit margins, with the airlines sandwiched between rising costs for fuel and unsteady demand from price-sensitive consumers. 'It certainly will result in challenges to maintain quality,' says John Marshall, an independent aviation-safety consultant who spent 26 years in the Air Force before overseeing Delta's safety. 'Regional carriers will be creative and have to take shortcuts' to fill their cockpits."

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Why did they change the requirements? (5, Insightful)

AuMatar (183847) | about 2 years ago | (#41977413)

It didn't seem like we were having any real problems due to inexperienced pilots before. If this is really a problem, let's just roll this back.

Re:Why did they change the requirements? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41977475)

The gov has been having knee jerk reactions to all manner of issues. I just wish they would review their own issues in the same manner.

Re:Why did they change the requirements? (5, Interesting)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | about 2 years ago | (#41977487)

Disclaimer: I am a private pilot, but know several commercial pilots.

Congress decided that regional airlines (who pay pilots $18-22K/year to fly) needed pilots with more experience instead of the previous 800 hours they were required to have, due to accidents such as Colgan Air 3407. Others have argued that pilot fatigue (regional pilots schedules are pretty grueling, and you're only paid cabin door close to cabin door open), as well as pressure from the airlines themselves to meet business metrics are the issues.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colgan_Air_Flight_3407 [wikipedia.org]

Re:Why did they change the requirements? (4, Insightful)

jhoegl (638955) | about 2 years ago | (#41977559)

Well, if airlines are in such dire need, they should raise the pay.
Also, skimming through the article I was looking for when this law was passed (2010) and goes into effect July 2013.
Three years to deal with the issue, they had plenty of time.

Re:Why did they change the requirements? (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41977607)

I remember when pilots would make reasonable salaries (think six digits). Less than $30k for someone with that many hours? That is just wrong, and no wonder why there is a pilot shortage, because for that much training, someone can be a lawyer, IT guy, or some other profession and have a chance at making enough to pay the vills.

I'm sorry, but I have zero sympathy for airlines and how they treat customers like trash, as well as their employees.

If they have a pilot shortage, they need to do like every other business: Whine about it to Congress and hire the H-1Bs. Oh, the H-1Bs don't have the training? Well, go and train them.

Re:Why did they change the requirements? (1)

brad3378 (155304) | about 2 years ago | (#41977615)

I predict that they will switch to autonomous drone technology before they ever raise pilot pay.

Re:Why did they change the requirements? (1)

Cinder6 (894572) | about 2 years ago | (#41977757)

Haven't they practically done that already? I remember a Mythbusters episode where an air traffic controller was able to successfully talk the (untrained) team through an emergency landing in a simulated 747. Now, obviously there are a lot of variables with flying a commercial jet, but with so much of the work becoming more and more automated these days, it seems like the trend would go toward lower minimum hours, not more. Granted, you might then run into serious problems should the automated systems ever fail.

Oh god (5, Interesting)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | about 2 years ago | (#41977941)

Yeah, myth busters in a sim, where the "pilot" was not tired after a long shift and had to land the aircraft already put in line with the runway, was perfectly functional, with a perfect radio connection, with no real life pressure, could land it in perfect weather conditions.

Well, here is a fucking hint, I did that WITHOUT someone talking me through it. It is fucking easy! That they even managed to crash shows how stupid these guys really are. Anyone can try it themselves, you can play with high quality sims as "games" on the PC all you want and most come with scenario's that do put you in line with the runway and all you got to do is land. As long as you don't start freaking out and jerking the controller around, you will be able to land the plane pretty easily.

The problem in real life is that when shit happens, it happens in spade. Bad weather, confusing communication, failing instruments, high pressure, lack of sleep. THAT causes accidents, not having to land fresh on a sunny day with no wind on an wide open runway.

The complexity is going up (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41977973)

Even though the plane does more on its own, the pilots need to know about more systems, and more complicated ones at that.

We've come some way from planes with a flight stick, a couple of pedals, and a rearview mirror.

Re:Why did they change the requirements? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41977715)

It is shitty job, the pay alone may not be enough. I know a airhostess, who thinks of quitting all the time. You dont really have a home. You spend half or more of your "nights" (you dont keep normal nights, what ever time you sleep is your night) in hotels. The rest in the hub city. I wouldnt do it for twice the money they make.

Re:Why did they change the requirements? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41977889)

Exactly how are they supposed to double the enrollment of pilots in training in 3 years time? This is an issue of a greying workforce. Attracting people into any field is something that takes years to see any fruit from whatever the changes they make to entice increased enrollment. Or to put it in words that someone like you can understand, even if they tripled the starting salary the day the law came out, they would still not be seeing significant increases in new pilots the day the law goes in to effect.

Re:Why did they change the requirements? (2)

ridgecritter (934252) | about 2 years ago | (#41977701)

Reading TFA, I see it says that 1500 hours is *six* times the previously required minimum, which would be 250 hours. You say the previous minimum was 800 hours. Would you please clarify? Did the WSJ reporters get it wrong? Thanks.

Re:Why did they change the requirements? (5, Insightful)

cwebster (100824) | about 2 years ago | (#41977743)

250 hours is the minimum for a commercial rating, the theoretical minimum for a job as a first officer at an airline. The practical minimum is dictated by the supply and demand in the job market and I have seen it vary between 1500 and 250 hours over the last decade and across different airlines. The 1500 hour minimum is a good thing. There are still jobs out there for the 250 hour people (part 135 freight) and this gives experience that they need to get on their way to an airline cockpit.

Disclaimer: I flew for a regional airline for 4 years, benefited from the 250 hr baseline (I had 600 hours when hired, 3100 when I left) and I completely support getting more experienced people into those airplanes.

Obligatory reminder (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41977961)

Disclaimer: I am a private pilot, but know several commercial pilots.

That's not a disclaimer. That's a *disclosure*.

Re:Why did they change the requirements? (5, Interesting)

PPH (736903) | about 2 years ago | (#41977517)

Its interesting to note that the crash that seems to have spured Congress into action was Colgan Air 3407 [wikipedia.org] . It appears that both pilot and co-pilot had experience far over the newly mandated limits, ruling the 250 hour requirement out as a reason. There are some questions about crew competence. So its more than a matter of sheer hours of flight time. It also requires training and pilot scheduling. Both of these will cost the carrier money. I can imagine the special interest wrangling that went on behind the scenes as this legislation was being crafted. It doesn't surprise me that the end result skirts around all the issues in which various parties have vested interests.

Re:Why did they change the requirements? (2)

tlhIngan (30335) | about 2 years ago | (#41977557)

It didn't seem like we were having any real problems due to inexperienced pilots before. If this is really a problem, let's just roll this back.

This was in response to a Colgan Air crash in 2009 [atwonline.com] which found pilot inexperience to be a major cause of the accident. In 2010, the Air Safety Act was updated to include a 1500 hour minimum in order to get the Airline Transport Pilot's License (ATP License - required to carry I think 25+ or 50+ passengers. Lesser amounts you can get by with a commercial pilot's license).

Of course, a HUGE problem is "hours" isn't necessarily a good way to measure experience (think of those requirements that say stuff like "10 years Java required"). After all, it doesn't specify how those 1500 hours were obtained - it could bet 1500 1-hour local flights, or combinations of longer flights that give better experience.

The other problem is well, pay. A low-time commercial pilot really earns crap - it's really done more for the love of flying than anything. We're talking about $30k annual salary or less. And now before said pilot is hired, they have to accumulate 1500 hours, usually by giving flight instruction (which pays even LESS), so said student probably ends up in debt.

Of course, the flip side is, the captain of that regional flight might be a new graduate (remember about shit pay? The instant regional pilots get offers by the big guys with better pay, they jump ship), and still fairly green. So as a passenger, you also want some assurance that the guy in front has the necessary skills and experience to make it through whatever emergency might happen, whether it's pilot-caused or other.

Re:Why did they change the requirements? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41977801)

(think of those requirements that say stuff like "10 years Java required")

There are people with over 15 years of Java experience.

(captcha is "parasite")

Re:Why did they change the requirements? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41977589)

Let me start off by saying that I am a commercial pilot and a flight instructor. I know what I'm talking about.

There are some real problems due to inexperienced pilots.
Look up the Colgan Air crash from 2009. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colgan_Air_Flight_3407
Undertraining is also a significant issue.
Look up the Air France crash, also from 2009. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air_France_Flight_447

People are afraid of getting into airplanes because they perceive that they lack any control of the situation and they subconsciously think that the pilots are as poorly equipped to deal with flying as the passengers themselves are. In order to maintain the perception of safe flight the FAA has made rules that only allow for extremely safe flights for the paying population. Commercial aviation is amazingly safe. The FAA is going to do whatever they can to ensure that it remains safe, even when it results in higher prices for tickets. Higher minimum flight time is one of these requirements and they are hoping that this will result in safer flight.
I might not like every rule the FAA makes but they are doing their best to keep the flying public safe and they have done a admirable job of that so far.

Let's talk prices. Let's say that your average pilot makes $100,000 a year. They don't, but it's an easy number to work with. Check this out for additional detail: http://blogs.wsj.com/middleseat/2009/06/16/pilot-pay-want-to-know-how-much-your-captain-earns/
Let's say that after these changes the average pay bumps up to $200,000 a year. What will that cost you for your ticket?
Let's pick some numbers out of the air:
100 passengers for each plane on average.
200 flights a year per pilot.
2 pilots per flight.
That works out to a total pilot cost per ticket of $20 and a cost increase per ticket of $10. How much do you suppose your taxi driver made getting you to the airport? I bet it was more than $10.

Let's address the pilot shortage issue. It's a total load of garbage. There are hundreds of resumes for every pilot job out there, and for pitiful salaries. The pilots are out there but they can't afford to feed themselves let alone have a family and support them on a starting pilot's pay. Pilot training up to the level required for even the most basic job (instructor) is going to cost $50,000 or more. You can't pay that back on a $20,000 a year salary. Pilots do it because they love flying. As the new rules go into place, salaries will go up to compensate. But it won't be that much. Maybe you'll see a 'pilot pay' line on your next ticket for $20 or $40. And next time you are scared and drunk because you are clueless and getting ready to take off you can rest easy. The FAA in it's bumbling heavyhanded manner is doing it's best to keep you safe and they have been amazingly successful. More successful than any other industry in the world.

Re:Why did they change the requirements? (1)

ridgecritter (934252) | about 2 years ago | (#41977735)

Interesting, thank you. Wish I had mod points for you. I have no problem with the concept of paying a decent living wage to the skilled professionals to whom I entrust my life when the cabin door closes. I hope those who are hiring those professionals feel likewise.

Re:Why did they change the requirements? (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41977799)

"That works out to a total pilot cost per ticket of $20 and a cost increase per ticket of $10."

30 bucks total is what I paid for my ticket the last 6 times for a flight from Germany to Barcelona or Malaga.

Re:Why did they change the requirements? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41977863)

Ditto for my flight from San Jose to Las Vegas.

Re:Why did they change the requirements? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41977753)

drone efficiency in spraying chem trails (since they aren't being shot down outright) creating climate change with the bankster reaping of human life for weather derivatives profit, carbon tax, UN Agenda 21, plus the amount of airlines shit is all coming to an end until the monetary system is fixed, nobody but rich thieves has enough money real soon.

There should be a lot of corrupt govt fux on trial, but instead we are on slow motion trial

"Change you can believe in" - Obama
"The best is yet to come" - Obama

Better find out what change , and what best before it fucking kills you this time!

Re:Why did they change the requirements? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41977855)

It didn't seem like we were having any real problems due to inexperienced pilots before. If this is really a problem, let's just roll this back.

No, no. Clearly the free market is working. Obviously. I mean, it couldn't be blamed on government interference, since they were interfering before and things were fine. The only thing that has changed? ROMNEY WON.

oh wait.

what about adding a apprenticeship system into (1, Insightful)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about 2 years ago | (#41977421)

what about adding a apprenticeship system into prior flight experience??

Re:what about adding a apprenticeship system into (1)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | about 2 years ago | (#41977497)

This is already done. You earn your 1500 hours (previously 800) needed to become a regional pilot by acting as flight instructor to new pilots.

Re:what about adding a apprenticeship system into (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | about 2 years ago | (#41977759)

You can get your hours doing anything in a plane.
It doesn't have to be instructing. Crop dusting and towing banners counts, as long as your log book gets filled out.

Re:what about adding a apprenticeship system into (3, Informative)

FormOfActionBanana (966779) | about 2 years ago | (#41977791)

Instructing is not an apprenticeship. First Officer is an apprenticeship, a program which of course already exists.

Re:what about adding a apprenticeship system into (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41977601)

apprenticeship system?

Like having a younger pilot (let's call them a 'co-pilot' or 'first officer') fly right alongside a more experienced pilot (let's call that person the 'captain')?

You are brilliant. Can I have your baby?

Re:what about adding a apprenticeship system into (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41977795)

why dont you just go ghetto and join the usaf?
Your going to harvest souls as a drone pilot, BEFORE you are going to fly.
It's the new initiation.
Blood on your hands.
A trusted oath breaking fascist.

Simple solution (1)

PPH (736903) | about 2 years ago | (#41977423)

Air travel prices go up, demand goes down until they match. The riff-raff will have to travel Greyhound.

Re:Simple solution (2)

lucm (889690) | about 2 years ago | (#41977485)

Air travel prices go up, demand goes down until they match. The riff-raff will have to travel Greyhound.

This plan is already in motion, that's why the TSA has started to search "the bus people".

Re:Simple solution (2)

c0lo (1497653) | about 2 years ago | (#41977529)

Even simpler: deep freeze and tightly packed container transport.

(grin)

Hyperoptimistically, (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41977433)

I would expect this to usher in an era of complete flight automation, right from taxi-ing, to taking off, to flying, and to landing. That would be so cool :D

Re:Hyperoptimistically, (2)

NFN_NLN (633283) | about 2 years ago | (#41977521)

I would expect this to usher in an era of complete flight automation, right from taxi-ing, to taking off, to flying, and to landing. That would be so cool :D

Unlikely to happen for the same reason we don't have robots dispensing pills instead of pharmacists. If a human makes an error you can blame them and end their career and cut ties.

If an automated system makes an error then you blame the company(s) that engineered, wrote, tested and built the automation system. Too much blame pointing back that can't be easily put off on a scape goat.

Re:Hyperoptimistically, (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41977825)

"Unlikely to happen for the same reason we don't have robots dispensing pills instead of pharmacists."

Perhaps true in Buttfuck, Idaho where you live, we've had such robots for years.

Re:Hyperoptimistically, (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41977835)

Unlikely to happen for the same reason we don't have robots dispensing pills instead of pharmacists. If a human makes an error you can blame them and end their career and cut ties.

Apparently you've never been in a modern pharmacy. Robots do sort and dispense pills into containers. A pharmacist does a lot more than just double check prescriptions. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C44zgA6edsA

Re:Hyperoptimistically, (1)

mattr (78516) | about 2 years ago | (#41977571)

No thanks! A robot does not feel their life is on the line.

Re:Hyperoptimistically, (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41977591)

...And will therefore not panic when something goes wrong.

Commercial drone aircraft are coming, the only questions are timing and regulatory regimes.
In this size class (as opposed to tiny surveillance drones) expect them to be proven out in unmanned cargo flights first. By the time they're used for passenger flights, they'll have tens or hundreds of thousands of hours logged on similar platforms.

Re:Hyperoptimistically, (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41977815)

that's exactly what I said
Now you got to be initiated with a drone kill
it ain't about flight hours, it's about points.
the more innocent people eliminated, the more points, can push world war three forward

Re:Hyperoptimistically, (2)

BlueStrat (756137) | about 2 years ago | (#41977903)

No thanks! A robot does not feel their life is on the line.

...And will therefore not panic when something goes wrong.

...And will also fail to react correctly to stimuli it is either unequipped to sense (strange vibration indicating a problem, landing gear lock didn't 'sound' right, indicating another possible problem, strange smell, etc etc) or not programmed ahead of time to handle correctly. Sensors and actuators fail. Software glitches.

It also has no intuition or learned experience. It cannot make a leap of logic and intuition and perform actions "outside the envelope" to save a desperate and logically hopeless situation. If you want to know what I mean, go read up on some of the stories about how many WW2 pilots managed to bring their aircraft home after severe damage when they should not have logically been able to stay in the air. Many private, charter, and airline pilots can tell you about similar seemingly-doomed mid-air situations, especially in places like Alaska, where it was an experienced and intuitive move counter to normal logic on the human pilot's part that saved the day.

If some military drone goes down, oh well, just another item on the next supply req form. When it's a plane full of passengers, people get all excited for some reason.

You'd really need something close to a true human-level AI, IMHO. We ain't there yet.

Strat

2025? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41977437)

Won't most planes be pilotless by 2025?

Re:2025? (1)

Penurious Penguin (2687307) | about 2 years ago | (#41977491)

Precisely when I'll begin wailing hysterically about cyber-security for the first time ever. I already have a phobia of large aircraft, despite them being statistically far-safer than smaller planes. I kind of prefer a human backup. However, I am now confusing myself with questions as to who should have over-ride privileges, man or machine. I suppose some are already (and have been) capable of being over-ridden by remote systems.

If only there was something they could do (3, Funny)

jeff4747 (256583) | about 2 years ago | (#41977451)

This raises the cost and time to train new fliers in an era when pay cuts and more-demanding schedules already have made the profession less attractive.

Golly....if only there was something the airlines could do to make being a pilot more attractive.

Re:If only there was something they could do (1)

lucm (889690) | about 2 years ago | (#41977493)

This raises the cost and time to train new fliers in an era when pay cuts and more-demanding schedules already have made the profession less attractive.

Golly....if only there was something the airlines could do to make being a pilot more attractive.

Creative suggestion: give them a share of the iPads stolen from honest people by TSA agents (aka: the terrorist tax).

Re:If only there was something they could do (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41977617)

Golly....if only there was something the airlines could do to make being a pilot more attractive.

Maybe they could hire ugly pilots, then pay for plastic surgery to make each pilot acute pilot.

Thank you, thank you! I'll be here all week! Try the cheesy bytes!

Re:If only there was something they could do (1)

WCVanHorne (897068) | about 2 years ago | (#41977957)

Well from my travels I'd say that most airlines have already been suffering from acute flight attendant shortage for years... I'm here all week too!

Nice looking pilots wanted (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41977457)

We're tired of all of these ugly ones.

ups and down in the industry (1)

deodiaus2 (980169) | about 2 years ago | (#41977461)

Well, this is certainly an up in the industry. Just 3 years ago, most pilots were complaining that the economy as well as the reluctance of travelers to deal with the security measures were driving travel to an all time low. I guess if we were serious, we could drop the mandatory retirement age temporarily (and replace it with a more comprehensive physical and mental exam which allows able pilots to continue flying) until more pilots become trained.
Or we could have different categories of pilots, full commercial pilots having the full 1,500 hrs of training, and categories for pilots having less training and experience flying small planes with fewer passengers, and ones having say 300 hrs for flying only cargo and staff.

Re:ups and down in the industry (1)

FormOfActionBanana (966779) | about 2 years ago | (#41977807)

All of this already exists. Type rated Captains, First Officers, ATPLs, CPLs

Supply and demand (2)

Tony Isaac (1301187) | about 2 years ago | (#41977467)

This raises the cost and time to train new fliers in an era when pay cuts and more-demanding schedules already have made the profession less attractive.

Well, duh! Cut pay, make schedules more demanding, and whine about a pilot shortage!

Re:Supply and demand (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41977501)

Don't forget being an industry where companies routinely go through a "tactical bankruptcy" to get rid of all those pesky pension obligations and such. Can't wait to start a career there!

Why... (-1, Troll)

J'raxis (248192) | about 2 years ago | (#41977479)

...am I not surprised that this "shortage" is entirely caused by the imposition of government regulations?

Re:Why... (2, Insightful)

jeff4747 (256583) | about 2 years ago | (#41977605)

Why am I not surprised that the libertarian with the malware download link completely glossed over the low pay and bad schedule?

Re:Why... (1, Flamebait)

sjames (1099) | about 2 years ago | (#41977789)

It couldn't possibly have anything to do with airlines dumping on pilots for the last couple of decades, now could it? Less pay, longer hours, training programs slashed, and pension plans reneged on repeatedly. Gee, I wonder why less people find it worth the costs in time and money to become pilots.

The airlines had three years warning about this and they're just now getting around to realizing that some action might need to be taken.

Naturally, they would have us blame the bad 'ol government and it's eeeeeeevile regulations because it couldn't possibly be that the million dollar golden boys at the top are dumber than a sack of hammers and have been eating the seed corn.

price sensitive consumers?? (4, Insightful)

myowntrueself (607117) | about 2 years ago | (#41977481)

"with the airlines sandwiched between rising costs for fuel and unsteady demand from price-sensitive consumers"

I think consumers are sensitive to more than just price. The humiliating experience that flying has become in the USA could contribute.

Re:price sensitive consumers?? (2)

stox (131684) | about 2 years ago | (#41977585)

I have to admit, flying has become very cheap compared to what it used to. Even in unadjusted dollars, flying between Chicago and New York is cheaper than it was 50 years ago. Adjusting for inflation, that route is less than 20% of what it once cost. I really can't blame the airlines, they're giving us what we wanted most.

Re:price sensitive consumers?? (1)

sjames (1099) | about 2 years ago | (#41977823)

Well, yeah, if the deal includes being groped and generally treated like a terror suspect, then crammed into a cattle car it HAS to be really cheap to be even remotely attractive.

Re:price sensitive consumers?? (2)

Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) | about 2 years ago | (#41977685)

I've taken Amtrak or my car for every trip since they began treating passengers like jail inmates.

Re:price sensitive consumers?? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41977751)

I like how the summary acts like cutting supply like a normal capitalist system isn't mentioned since that suggests that companies actually can go out of business through no fault of their own.

How about you pay them? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41977507)

Starting pilots have been woefully paid and live in miserable conditions. The average pay for a regional starts around 20k a year. To get the 1500 hours to get that crappy pay you have to pay to rent 1500 hours worth of airplane time. Oh you might get a discount by instructing for a while but that just turns it into a ponzi scheme.

The market will sort this out over time. Everyone needs pilots so the cost of tickets will have to rise. Some people won't be able to afford to fly. Fewer pilots will be required. That's the impact they should have expected when they passed this new reg.

Re:How about you pay them? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41977781)

The pilot is cheap when compared to the cost to keep tons of metal in the air.

A 747 burns 5 gallons of fuel per mile (12 liters per kilometer)*
That fuel costs 434.0 cents/galon (115 cents/liter)**
For a 1,000 km trip that's US$1,380,000.00 in fuel alone (500 miles: US$1,085,000.00). You also have to account for maintenance, fees, etc.

*: http://science.howstuffworks.com/transport/flight/modern/question192.htm (they say a plane is efficient compared to a car but forget that cars and planes don't use the same fuel so it's bullshit, but I'm hoping their numbers are right...)
**: first result from http://www.nyserda.ny.gov/en/Energy-Prices-Supplies-and-Weather-Data/Kerosene/Average-Kerosene-Prices.aspx

Re:How about you pay them? (1)

DavidClarkeHR (2769805) | about 2 years ago | (#41977865)

The market will sort this out over time.

Yes, it's been doing a lovely job of that lately. If I had to guess, the new rules are increasing the skill requirements, and thus decreasing the current supply. So ... wages should go up, theoretically.

They have to, in fact - if airlines want to hire pilots, anyways.

Don't modern plans almost fly themselves? (0)

zippo01 (688802) | about 2 years ago | (#41977515)

Why do you need more training when you have planes that almost fly themselves? http://www.airliners.net/aviation-forums/tech_ops/read.main/81570/ [airliners.net]

Re:Don't modern plans almost fly themselves? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41977629)

Stupidity.

Flying is extremly safe comparitively speaking. We should be doing more to cut the costs. Eliminate the TSA (even if it isn't in the ticket price we are all paying for it), reduce the hours required to get a pilots license, etc.

Then if you want to do something with the money saved put it elsewhere. Like into curing diseases or something that'll actually give you a return on your investment!

Re:Don't modern plans almost fly themselves? (1)

TheLink (130905) | about 2 years ago | (#41977645)

The senior pilots get the planes that fly themselves.

The junior pilots get the 737s and worse.

Re:Don't modern plans almost fly themselves? (1)

BovineOne (119507) | about 2 years ago | (#41977703)

Although commercial planes do fly on autopilot for most of the flight once they are in cruise, you still need the pilots that are fully capable of controlling the plane and landing it when the autopilot suddenly drops offline because the pitot tubes freeze, wings ice over, a gyro fails, or an engine catches on fire. The routine flights can indeed be handled by most any low-time pilot, but the unusual circumstances are where you need pilots with sufficient experience.

Fuel prices? (2)

Tony Isaac (1301187) | about 2 years ago | (#41977531)

with the airlines sandwiched between rising costs for fuel and unsteady demand from price-sensitive consumers

Really? Actually, jet fuel prices have leveled off [indexmundi.com] in the last six months.

Not all the airlines are doing badly. Southwest--a low-fare carrier--is doing just fine [wsj.com] . Maybe there are other problems at the "traditional" airlines.

huge mistake (1)

lucm (889690) | about 2 years ago | (#41977549)

> [..] John Marshall, an independent aviation-safety consultant who spent 26 years in the Air Force before overseeing Delta's safety.

If instead they had hired someone who spent 26 years in the Delta Force before overseeing Air safety maybe I would not have to step in bare socks on a mat covered with foot sweat while holding my pants at the security checks in airports since all terrorists would have been Chuck Norrised.

Look to the military (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41977553)

The military will train you to be a pilot. You're required to serve with them for a period of time though. What if the airlines just did the same thing? Get them their hours, but the pilot trainee agrees to work under pre-negotiated salary and benefit package for a period of time after training. After that they become "free agents". If that's legal under the labor laws, the only thing holding the airlines back from doing it is their own misgivings. What are they afraid of? Going bankrupt? Yeah, like, that never happens... to. an. airline. Get over it. Just start a training program, and if you can legally bind the pilot to a contract that contract is an asset in bankruptcy? Not sure. Once again. Labor law. Not sure how it works, but they bind baseball players to contracts, so I don't see why they can't do it with pilots. Once again, it's a fair deal--the pilot gets to fly, and then agrees to fly with the carrier that trains him/her. Just don't exploit them with these $20k pay packages and ungodly hours. I don't want my pilot worrying about losing his house. The only thing hard about the training should be... the training. Everything else should be easy. Good dorms, good meals, good pay. I want my pilot worrying about just one thing: the fucking plane.

Re:Look to the military (1)

ridgecritter (934252) | about 2 years ago | (#41977775)

Interesting idea. Don't know enough about labor law to know if your idea is currently legal, but with legislation it could quite likely be implemented. I concur, the only thing I want my pilot to be concerned with is safe completion of the flight.

High Speed Rail! (1)

ThePackager (562279) | about 2 years ago | (#41977565)

Let's invest in a US transportation infrastructure that * Uses less fuel ( air travel has become more efficient - but so could rail if we made lighter trains * Get's you closer to your destination with less traffic - train stations are usually downtown - airports aren't * No 'pilot problem' * No air traffic controller mayhem * Lots more room to move around on board * Makes lots of JOBS!

High speed rail is step 2 at best ... (3, Insightful)

perpenso (1613749) | about 2 years ago | (#41977673)

There is a problem with high speed rail. It requires good public transportation at the end nodes. It works in Europe because they have good local public transportation systems. It will not work in the US because we do not.

High speed rail is step 2, not step 1.
Step 1 is good local public transportation.

Re:High speed rail is step 2 at best ... (2)

sjames (1099) | about 2 years ago | (#41977831)

It requires no more or less good public transportation at the endpoints than air travel does.

Re:High speed rail is step 2 at best ... (1, Insightful)

perpenso (1613749) | about 2 years ago | (#41977891)

It requires no more or less good public transportation at the endpoints than air travel does.

High speed rail is not merely an alternative to air travel. It is also an alternative to driving.

Re:High Speed Rail! (1)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about 2 years ago | (#41977713)

Is there a chance the track could bend?

Re:High Speed Rail! (1)

Brett Buck (811747) | about 2 years ago | (#41977725)

Not a chance my Hindu friend!

Re:High Speed Rail! (1)

khallow (566160) | about 2 years ago | (#41977749)

What's the business case for high speed rail? Airplanes are faster for long distances, cars more convenient and faster for short. So you have this iffy middle case with mediocre ridership numbers.

Makes lots of JOBS!

Just give them spoons.

Re:High Speed Rail! (1)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about 2 years ago | (#41977929)

There are no spoons!

autopilot? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41977567)

i'd rather fly on a fully automated. or remote operated plane, where human errors are less likely.

Re:autopilot? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41977901)

remote operated plane

Flight control in one window. FaceBook in the other. Oh yeah, that'll work out well.

Downsides outweigh Upsides (5, Interesting)

Bitsy Boffin (110334) | about 2 years ago | (#41977573)

The simple fact is that there are just not enough reasons that makes one want to be an airline pilot.

Some of the downsides are:
    Expensive outlay in initial training through to Commercial Pilot Licence level.
    Huge time investment in hour building after that, flying usually as an instructor, hacking about with students doing their best to kill you, for nowhere near enough money to live on without a second job or two.
    Even more expense to get multi engine rating, turbine rating...
    Then you get to sit your ATPL.
    Then if you're lucky you might get offered a job as first officer (copilot)
    Then you have to do a rating on the aircraft you're going to be flying, which you'll have to pay for, and is generally stupendously expensive, or your employer pays for your rating but you are then indentured to the employer for years. All the time earning diddly-squat.
    Ascending to captains chair, or onto larger types, is usually seniority based, and if you want to move to a new employer, you go back to the bottom of the ladder.

Most of the upsides are:
    You get to fly planes for a living.
    You get to wear a pilot hat and put bars on your sleeves.

It's just not an attractive job any more. It's not even an "impressive" job any more, once upon a time, pilots were seen as near enough to gods, today, they are barely a step above your local bus driver.

For some, getting to fly panes for a living is enough,they just love flying *that much*. But there are not enough of those people to meet the demand.

Re:Downsides outweigh Upsides (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41977639)

One more thing they have to look forward to is having their jobs replaced by self-flying UAVs.

Overregulation = poor customer experience (4, Insightful)

michaelmalak (91262) | about 2 years ago | (#41977575)

The shortage of doctors in the U.S. is due to the AMA cartel's control over university accreditation and corresponding rent-seeking state laws requiring accreditation. The result is speed-exams when you go visit a doctor (or maybe not see the doctor at all, but rather a "nurse practitioner").

Similarly, with legislatively reduced supply of pilots, look for cattle class throughout, with even tighter row spacing. Better keep those 747's tuned up, airlines, because you're gonna need to convert them to full economy class the way Japan uses all-economy class 747's between Osaka and Tokyo.

Don't worry, even though there won't be a business class to upgrade to with your frequent flyer miles, you'll still be able to spend your miles on magazine subscriptions.

Re:Overregulation = poor customer experience (4, Insightful)

TubeSteak (669689) | about 2 years ago | (#41977727)

Similarly, with legislatively reduced supply of pilots, look for cattle class throughout, with even tighter row spacing. Better keep those 747's tuned up, airlines, because you're gonna need to convert them to full economy class the way Japan uses all-economy class 747's between Osaka and Tokyo.

Consumers are getting exactly the level of service they are willing to pay for.
It's why airlines have had to soak the passengers in other ways, including baggage fees and overpriced onboard snacks/meals.

Maybe we need to go back to the golden days of regulated airfares and routes.

Re:Overregulation = poor customer experience (1)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | about 2 years ago | (#41977739)

I love how your entire post is moaning about the loss of business class. Suck it, one-percenter!

Re:Overregulation = poor customer experience (1)

boethius (14423) | about 2 years ago | (#41977829)

Uh, no it's not, dummy. He's not moaning the loss of business class, at all, and therefore the "entire post" is not about about moaning the loss of business class, at all. Read again then complain, if you dare.

Can't you read or is a monkey typing for you?

Re:Overregulation = poor customer experience (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41977923)

I feel like neither of the two posts above mine are contributing to the quality of discourse on /. You guys mind suiciding so we can raise the bar a bit? Thanks.

You get what you pays for. (1)

Lisias (447563) | about 2 years ago | (#41977577)

This works for everyone, everywhere.

Ever looked in the cockpit? (1)

Crypto Gnome (651401) | about 2 years ago | (#41977597)

I for one am not surprised....

Airlines Face Acute Pilot Shortage

Most of the pilots I've seen are pretty fugly.

Absolutely a great face for radio!

Pilots... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41977643)

#1. We cut their pay.
#2. We extended their hours.
#3. We jerk them around, hey, stay in Bumfuck, Idaho for a few days because it'll save us a penny. You have to pay for yourself to stay.
#4. We increased the requirements to become a pilot.
#5. We tell them daily that as soon their jobs will be taken over by the lowest bidders due to snazzy autopilot programs.
#6. Higher than ever monetary cost to enter.

I wonder why the number of pilots is dropping?

Talk to my credit union. (1)

loonwings (1519397) | about 2 years ago | (#41977687)

They're the bastards that cut me off of student loans (far short of their advertised maximums) when I was maybe 1/3 through a professional piloting program. I could have graduated by now and I might already have the 1500 hours the article mentions. Fuck it. I'll stick with my B.B.A. program. I'm sure I'll make more money anyways.

Re:Talk to my credit union. (1)

khallow (566160) | about 2 years ago | (#41977787)

Sounds like they made a good decision here. How were you planning to pay back those loans?

Re:Talk to my credit union. (1)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | about 2 years ago | (#41977811)

You probably should thank them. You'll live a better life this way. They saved you from crappy pay and being fired the day before you reach a level of seniority to actually enjoy the job and instead having to start at zero seniority at another exploiting outfit. I looked into it myself - it's for enthusiasts these days. And even enthusiasts are better off getting their PPL and just doing it for fun with a well paying job on the side.

this is the beginning of a pr campaign (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41977747)

This article states:

-there aren't enough pilots.
-the poor airlines don't have enough money to pay for new ones, anyway.

what this really might be: the beginning of a pr campaign to make the masses more comfortable with automated aircraft.

autopilot tech has been good enough to go from takeoff to landing without human input. For a while now. My landings are prettier, but those magic boxes can do the job safely.

The real problem with full automation is that passengers feel creeped out by the idea of flying without a uniformed authority figure sitting above the nose of the plane.

Maybe this is an attempt to get the normal people onboard.

Steve Miller Band - Fly Like An Eagle (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41977841)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c1f7eZ8cHpM

time keeps on slippin slippin slipping into the future
REALLY LISTEN TO IT THIS TIME

Re:Steve Miller Band - Fly Like An Eagle (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41977907)

Airlines FAKE Acute Pilot Shortage

I want to say that in anger. But ..
Instead just really listen to the music.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6a6lAwbE1J4

No, it's not the "government's fault" (3, Informative)

Animats (122034) | about 2 years ago | (#41977871)

There's a shortage of airline pilots because the job doesn't pay well any more and takes extensive training. Training most US airlines are not willing to pay for. The WSJ is whining that the FAA raised the standards for an Airline Transport Pilot rating and requires pilots to get more sleep. That's in response to the crash of Continental flight 3407 on February 12, 2009. [wikipedia.org] The WSJ conveniently does not mention that.

Some airlines do pay for training. Here's the British Airways training program. [bafuturepilot.com] BA pays pilot trainees as employees through the whole training process. Most US airlines expect pilots to work for years for less than a typical city bus driver makes to build up their hours before they fly the big iron.

A First Officer (copilot) on RyanAir starts at $3700 a month. [willflyforfood.com]

I am an ATP Pilot turned computer programmer. (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41977873)

I am an ATP Pilot turned computer programmer. There is no shortage of pilots, just a shortage of pilots willing to work for 18k a year and be treated like crap. I went into the airlines after 4 years of college for a bachelor in Aeronautical Science, several years of flight training and being an instructor and over 100k in debt. What I found out was that the old theory of working for a commuter to build your time was gone. The major airlines outsource over 65 percent of the flying to the commuters who are now flying tons of the majors old routes. So what you have to look forward to someday is maybe making it to a major after surviving several furloughs and years of 18k in pay. Oh yeah the furloughs? They are because the majors move the flying around to whoever is cheaper, and if a commuter starts to get too powerful, they shut them down and open them back up under a different name after filing bankruptcy and selling the assets off to their new company. Over the years it has gone from needing to be super experienced and professional to guaranteeing people jobs if they pay the airlines 70k. Yes that's right people now pay them for guaranteed jobs. Oh and the crash rate? There was years without a pilot error crash, then the airlines started lowering their minimums, and requirements from college degree to heartbeat, and they plowed 3 or 4 into the ground within a few years. The whole thing is really complicated, and the airlines like it that way. On top of all this they put out propaganda that the avg pilot makes $120k a year. Guess what the average pilot now makes $22k a year, has to pay for a dump crashpad, parking, their own uniforms etc... All this for a job that you are never home and on avg is letting you get home to your family maybe 10 days a month after the bitch of commuting. Oh and on top of it, the government bails the bad airlines out every time they go into bankruptcy. United and US Air were out of business in 2005 ish time. Guess what the government came in, wouldn't let the creditors re po their airplanes, and bailed them out. So the next time you say you "won't fly this airline", don't bother. Because your tax payer money allows them to run the crappiest operation they can. Politics gets involved and they say "we have to keep the airline" x amount of people will lose their jobs. Guess what, all the airlines that were doing a good job have planes and pilots ready to go on furlough, and can help the "FREE MARKET" prosper. The problem is it's not free, especially when cities and states fund their pensions on US Airways stock, and the shit starts hitting the fan. Sincerely, a bitter ATP pilot that isn't going back to that crap hole job for less than 200k!

GOP (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41977875)

Let the free market take care of it.

H1B is the answer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41977877)

Just as the US has faced a critical programmer shortage for the past, oh every year since "Information Week" was first published,, perhaps this pilot shortage can be filled with H1B's !!!

Why let the free market work (raise wages enough to garner more aplpicants) when you can just bribe the US government to allow lower wage workers to work those jobs instead. Perhaps these H1B's will go through pilot certification mills...."I have 1500 hours on MS Flight Simulator and a newly printed certificate from the Mumbai Aeroplane Academy.

And if you don't feel 100% safe with two of these guys/ladies in the cockpit, dont' worry instead of just two we'll put in six, that's right six pilots for the price of two...feel better?! Sully eat your heart out...

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