According to the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) research of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) statistics, the United States has produced 9,087 newly certificated commercial airline pilots – nearly 2,500 more than in 2019. ALPA is publicizing this information in the hope of pushing back against reducing pilot training standards.

Pilot output climbing


ALPA created this graphic to illustrate the pilot supply is increasing according to FAA data; therefore no immediate pilot shortage. Graphic: ALPA

The ALPA recently created the infographic above showing that the FAA is issuing more Airline Transport Pilot – Multi-Engine Land (ATP-MEL) certificates and now surpassing pre-2020 levels. ALPA also alleges on their website communicating the association’s views on issues affecting pilots’ workplace that,

Some airlines are manufacturing a “pilot shortage” and arguing to reduce training, weaken safety laws and hire inexperienced aviators for less pay.

Safety standards endangered

Nose of SkyWest CRJ - 2017-February-15_0436-Edit

SkyWest’s allegations of a pilot shortage to justify cutting safety regulations is opposed by ALPA. Photo: Joe Kunzler | Simple Flying

US airline executives want to work with deregulation efforts led by Republic Airways to require a minimum of 750-hour flying hours before flying a passenger airliner. SkyWest is also working towards Part 135 commuter air carrier authorization for a charter service having pilots with only 200 or 250 hours flying Essential Air Services connections in all weather conditions.

The US regulatory minimum of 750 hours currently only applies to those pilots who have honorably left military flying service. Otherwise, it’s 1,500 flying hours following the Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act of 2010, which has dramatically increased safety in US commercial flight.

The reasoning behind those hour requirements is partly due to the desire for potential airline pilots to accrue experience flying smaller aircraft and preparedness to fly with the responsibility of other humans aboard before being placed with such responsibility. The hour requirements were also part of the FAA’s regulatory response to the crash of Colgan Air Flight 3407.

ALPA is very concerned

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Capt. Joe DePete, ALPA President speaking at a podium

Captain DePete, in a September 15, 2022, address to ALPA’s 131st Regular Executive Board, expressed that aviation has been transformed into “the safest transportation in humankind.” So, when Captain DePete hears of efforts to change to human pilots with fewer flying hours or even replace human pilots with automated pilots, he and ALPA speak up in public forums.

DePete did say in a September 14, 2022, ALPA statement that,

Since the passage of the Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act of 2010 and the regulations that resulted, we have reduced airline passenger fatalities by 99.8 %. Yet, despite these lifesaving results underpinned by data, some in the airline industry are attempting to distort the facts and manipulate the indisputable data about pilot supply. ALPA will oppose with its full weight these and any other efforts to evade, undermine, weaken, or repeal first officer qualification, experience, and training requirements.

To this end, ALPA engages in a tenacious public relations campaign and created a pop-up website to state its case. ALPA is one of the US commercial aviation unions lobbying airline executives to refrain from further stock buybacks. ALPA also has sponsored ads on news websites and traveling billboard trucks.

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Mobile billboard of ALPA - Flights are cancelled. Passenger safety could be next.

Traveling billboards like these will be deployed by ALPA in Washington D.C. and other areas where ALPA can pressure to retain safety standards. Photo: ALPA via Flickr

Nonetheless, according to the website, as mentioned earlier, ALPA does want a “robust pilot pipeline” where ALPA supports financial aid for student pilots, advertising for aviation industry opportunities, and efforts to increase diversity. ALPA also advocates for “a fair wage” as a tool for recruiting and retaining future aviators.

US Government positions

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US Dept. of Transportation Deputy Secretary Polly Trottenberg: “We fully support Congress’ establishment of the 1,500-hour requirement for commercial flights.” Photo: ALPA via Flickr

For US Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, this is a matter of, “The United States of America should be able to have a robust aviation system without watering down our expectations on safety.” The Secretary’s office also halted SkyWest from removing Essential Air Service connections in March 2022, making clear his office would stand up to SkyWest Airlines.

Deputy Secretary Polly Trottenberg went farther at an ALPA event, saying, according to an ALPA webpage, “We fully support Congress’ establishment of the 1,500-hour requirement for commercial flights.” Trottenberg also supported the ALPA priority of secondary flight deck barriers.

Nonetheless, ALPA intends to remain professionally persistent. In the words of ALPA President Joe DePete;

We select our audiences, we target our message, and everyone involved in aviation policy should feel confident that ensuring the United States maintains these life saving first officer requirements will be and remain the priority of our union as Congress reauthorizes the FAA.

Do you believe ALPA will be successful in upholding minimal hour standards? Let us know why with civility in the comments, please.

Source: ALPA “Trained for Life” Website


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