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Looming Pilot Shortage Lowering the Bar???--Article

The Prussian

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Regional airlines lower bar for pilots

By TREBOR BANSTETTER
Star-Telegram staff writer


If you've flown on a regional airline like American Eagle or Atlantic Southeast Airlines with any regularity, you may have noticed that the pilots seem a bit younger.
It's not your imagination. Regional carriers, which operate flights for major airlines like American, Delta and United, have been slashing their minimum hiring requirements in recent years as they grapple with a growing shortage of pilots. The carriers have reduced required flight hours for job applicants by as much as two-thirds, and in a few cases have hired pilots with the minimum experience required by the Federal Aviation Administration for a pilot's license.
Airline executives say recruiting less experienced pilots is necessary because the pool of applicants is shrinking while demand for pilots grows. And many have increased training for new hires and assigned them more time flying with veteran co-pilots.
Pilot union officials, while not citing specific incidents, say they're worried that the trend could make the skies less safe.
"The rush to push pilots through training and into the cockpits raises obvious safety concerns," said John Prater, a veteran Continental Airlines pilot and president of the Air Line Pilots Association.
Prater addressed the issue of less-experienced pilots in a recent speech at a forum on aviation safety and security.
"New pilots today are going straight into the [co-pilot's] seat, and moving into the [captain's] seat in a hurry," he said. "And they're doing it in airplanes that are great machines but can be unforgiving."
Airline executives counter that safety isn't an issue. They say they've augmented training for new hires and have increased the time junior pilots are monitored by veterans in the cockpit.
"Anyone who raises safety as an issue has some other agenda," said Roger Cohen, president of the Regional Airline Association. "The airlines are spending a boatload of money on training and recruiting."
And Andrea Huguely, a spokeswoman for American Eagle, said the airline's new hires are competent and talented pilots.
"We have the best pilots out there," she said. "You can't just walk in from the street and say you want to be a pilot."
The issue has emerged as regional carriers account for an increasing portion of the country's airline traffic. Half the flights nationwide are operated by regional airlines, Cohen said.
Regional airlines include carriers like Pinnacle Airlines, which flies for Northwest; Atlantic Southeast, which transports passengers for Delta; and Republic Airways, which operates flights for United. The largest regional carrier is Fort Worth-based American Eagle, which flies for American Airlines; both are owned by AMR Corp.
Passengers book their flights through the larger carrier, and many don't realize that their flight is being operated by a different airline. The major carriers have substantially increased their use of regional airlines in part because their flight crews are paid less.
Traditionally, many pilots began their careers at lower-paying regional airlines with the hope of moving to a major carrier, and a bigger salary, in a few years. Most regional carriers used to require 1,500 total flight hours before an aspiring pilot could apply for a job. A portion of those hours -- usually about 500 -- had to be flown in a multiengine airplane; the rest could be in a single-engine aircraft like a small Cessna 172.
In the past, young pilots typically built up their hours by renting airplanes or by working as instructors for flight schools. Many would spend years adding to their flight hours before accumulating enough to apply as a commercial pilot.
But the pool of new pilots began to dry up several years ago. Regionals have been competing with fast-growing corporate aviation firms, discount airlines, cargo shippers and foreign airlines for talented young pilots. These rivals often have better pay and benefits and more stable work schedules.
The flow of pilots coming from the military has also slowed, said Paul Rice, a captain for United Airlines who is first vice president for the Air Line Pilots Association. And some young people who are interested in aviation are choosing other professions.
Cohen said pay cuts, airline bankruptcies and other industry problems have "taken a lot of the glamour out of being an airline pilot."
"There are just fewer young people who want to make a career out of this," he said.
For example, a starting pilot at Trans States, a regional airline that flies for American under the name American Connection, earns $22 a flight hour, with 74 hours guaranteed a month, according to AirlinePilotCentral.com, which tracks pilot salaries. That translates to an annual starting salary of $19,500. A pilot flying 1,000 hours a year -- the most allowed under federal rules -- would earn about $22,000.
Less experience necessary
The dearth of pilots has led airlines to lower hiring requirements in order to maintain flight schedules.
In just the past year, 14 of the 21 regional and commuter airlines tracked by the consulting firm Air Inc. have reduced the hours of experience a pilot must have at the controls of any type of airplane. Trans States briefly lowered its requirement to 250 total hours last summer before raising it to 500, said Kit Darby, the firm's president.
American Eagle has cut its minimum flight hours to 500.
"If you have just a few hundred hours and don't have any jet experience, you're looking at quite a learning hurdle," Rice said.
James Magee, an Eagle pilot and union spokesman, had 2,000 hours of flight time when he was hired in 1999.
"Our new pilots are exceptionally good pilots," Magee said. "But they're flying in very challenging environments, and there's really no replacement for experience."
Magee added that many regional airlines fly into smaller airports that often lack the sophisticated technology of major airports. Many of Eagle's destinations are in the Caribbean, so pilots also have to juggle the aviation requirements of different countries and deal with difficult tropical weather.
He said more experienced Eagle captains "are having to do a lot more teaching in the cockpit than they had to do in the past."
Airlines are aggressively recruiting on college campuses and offering signing bonuses to new hires who complete their training.
In Europe, some airlines hire aspiring pilots with no experience and train them in exchange for a commitment to spend a certain number of years flying for the carrier, Rice said. But there doesn't appear to be any indication that U.S. airlines will replicate that training method, which can be a costly way to acquire pilots.
Union leaders say improved compensation and benefits would help more than signing bonuses and lesser requirements for new hires.
"We have to offer them a career path, with pay and work rules, that is going to be attractive," Magee said.
Regardless, airlines and labor officials agree that the pilot shortage isn't likely to improve soon. Eagle has had to cut flights from its winter schedule because pilots aren't available to fly them.
"It's one of several reasons, but that does play into it," Eagle's Huguely said. "The pilots are crucial, and without them, the planes don't fly."
tbanstetter@star-telegram.com
TREBOR BANSTETTER, 817-390-7064
 

Phaedrus

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Any economist out there care to speculate as to why, when there is increased demand for a product and diminishing supply, the compensation/price for said product decreases?
 

The Prussian

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Any economist out there care to speculate as to why, when there is increased demand for a product and diminishing supply, the compensation/price for said product decreases?
An astute observation and most excellent question!
 
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atpcliff

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Hi!

Compensation and pay is going up.

Many airlines, like mine, have increased per diem, dropped training contracts, and done other stuff to make the lifestyle better.

A number of carriers have instituted signing bonuses, both for the new hires, and for existing pilots to recruit new guys. ASA has a much improved contract, and NetJets is voting on one now. NWA changed their contract to pay their pilots more if they fly a lot, and paid bonuses for perfect attendence, along with improved the work rules.

One of the regionals (Eagle?) just started hiring guys with 400TT, but their mins are 500. They put the guys in sim, paid for by the airline, to get them up to 500TT, and then they start class.

Ab Initio WILL happen in the US.

cliff
GRB
 

Jeepman

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There will never be a "pilot shortage".

there WILL be a lack of "qualified, experienced applicants"
 

imacdog

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There will never be a "pilot shortage".

there WILL be a lack of "qualified, experienced applicants"

To take that a step further, I would say that the only real shortage is going to be qualified, experienced applicants that are willing to fly for the crap wages and conditions present at the regionals.
 

ualdriver

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To take that a step further, I would say that the only real shortage is going to be qualified, experienced applicants that are willing to fly for the crap wages and conditions present at the regionals.

Bingo! There is no pilot shortage right now although there might be in the future. Every time I pass through a McDonald's or its drive through, there are signs, stickers on the windows, pamphets on displays, all stating that McDonald's is hiring-constantly. Are there a shortage of McDonald's workers in this country? Nope. Just a shortage of people willing to work for minimum wage. Same holds true for the regionals.

Pay a professional wage and you'll have all the pilots you want. Until I see crappy airlines like Skybus and Virgin paying the going rate to attract pilots, until I see regionals parking RJ's en masse for lack of pilots, until I see small communities losing air service for lack of aircrew, until I see regionals either paying for flight training from day one or raising entry level wages to a point that allows a professional pilot to earn a good living will servicing the debt required to obtain said position, I won't believe there is a pilot shortage. So far, we're not even close to a pilot shortage. And Age 65 will put the kabosh on anything resembling a pilot shortage for at least a few years the day it comes into effect.
 

regionaltard

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Any economist out there care to speculate as to why, when there is increased demand for a product and diminishing supply, the compensation/price for said product decreases?

Because the "products" are fu<&ing idiots both individually and collectively. C'mon, ask me a hard one...
 

Max Powers

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Any economist out there care to speculate as to why, when there is increased demand for a product and diminishing supply, the compensation/price for said product decreases?


GEORGE BUSH.....destroyed any leverage the unions had. Just look at the make of the NMB and legislation that he has sponsored and or supported.

And of course it seems all of the pilots I fly with support his unbalanced and unchecked approach to the free market place.

Just look at the decision his appointed judge made in regard to Trans states/gojets issue. This judge concluded that since Gojets had a different swipe key to get into their offices(which were in the same building as Trans states) meant they were a completely different and unrelated company. Allowing them the power to whip saw and bring already eroded wages down further.

Vote Democrat.....let me guess this message will be pulled because the republican Flightinfo monitors will pull it. Pay 10 dollars for a blog web site with all sorts of revenue driven ads on it.....spells greed and republican.
 
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Phaedrus

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Because the "products" are fu<&ing idiots both individually ...
That sorta disqualifies your response en totale, assuming you are one of the "products". Or perhaps it lends credibility to your response...
 

pipe

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Let's look at the requirements in general:

Degree - you can buy that

Certificates - can be bought

ratings - for sale

experience - can't be bought

The only part of the equation that can't be financed by rich parents or bad student loans is being tossed by the regionals. It sure as he!! isn't coming out of their pockets.

PIPE
 

SDF2BUF2MCO

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Vote Democrat.....let me guess this message will be pulled because the republican Flightinfo monitors will pull it. Pay 10 dollars for a blog web site with all sorts of revenue driven ads on it.....spells greed and republican.

Yes the Dems are incapable of greed - it's impossible. They are truly for the working man. That is why King Hillary sat on the board of China-Mart, I mean, Wal-Mart (until it became a political albatross).

Getting back to the original thread...employers will pay whatever they think they can get away with. If there are no takers they will either up the ante or not play at all. Very similar to what we do in our personal lives with the exception of paying taxes.
 

Andy

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Prussian, no worries. The looming recession will eliminate any perceived pilot shortages.
 

jmreii

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Welcome to the U.S. airline industry, a step below the auto industry and hanging on for dear life with the other under performing industries. I say sell it.
 

AC560

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Though the issue isn't an airline one. The FAA mandates the requirements for being a pilot. If isn't safe for a 250hr pilot to be flying a jet then there should be regulatory changes. The airlines are hiring qualified (by FAA standards) pilots, the problem is those standards are pretty low.
 

ualdriver

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Yeah, that's another good point. Not even counting Age 65, if we were to enter a recessionary period in the near future in the U.S. (not that I'm predicting one- I think "experts" have predicted 13 of the last 3 recessions he-he) that would most certainly kill any "pilot shortage" as well.
 

pilotyip

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And just think with over 10,000 hours I could not get an interview with AE in 1996 because I did not have 500 hours in the last year. I only had around 400 hours in MEL turbine. I probalby would not have worked there anyway. Oh to be 33 again just getting out of the Navy.
 

TV9Driver

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When talking about the Airline industry it is important to remember that you must throw all rational concepts of good business out the window.
 

Andy

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Yeah, that's another good point. Not even counting Age 65, if we were to enter a recessionary period in the near future in the U.S. (not that I'm predicting one- I think "experts" have predicted 13 of the last 3 recessions he-he) that would most certainly kill any "pilot shortage" as well.

Ualdriver, although quotes like that play well on CNBS, they're not based in reality. You will actually find that economists are very hesitant to call a recession because it has a tendency to become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
The unwinding of the housing bubble is wreaking havoc on the credit markets. Risk premiums are shooting through the roof. Hedge funds, SIVs, banks, mutual funds, etc are trying to unwind their leverage. That is going to cause severe liquidity contraction. The economy is only starting to unwind; it's going to get much, much worse.
If you own a house, I highly recommend selling and renting for the next few years. It will save you a lot of money because housing prices have quite a way to fall. Shiller's calling for a 30% drop in housing prices; I think that he's being optimistic.

If you're into the stock market, I'd recommend parking it in short term government securities for a while. It's gonna get ugly.
 

Max Powers

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Getting back to the original thread...employers will pay whatever they think they can get away with. If there are no takers they will either up the ante or not play at all. Very similar to what we do in our personal lives with the exception of paying taxes.

Spoken like a simplistic fool.....there are other factor involved.....Like I said give the unions back their leverage, fix the RLA at a least and overturn recently passed anti-union legislation enacted over the last 7 years. Then companies won't have a choice but to work with us or risk losing all shareholder equity with a shutdown.
 
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