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Need --- Airline Pilot Reality Check article

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Clone War veteran
May 9, 2003
Does anybody have that old read on what it really takes to be an airline pilot? The read was about the reality of how easy it is to lose your ticket and get killed, stuff like that. I need it for a non aviation forum I visit.
Can you post an excerpt from an Ernest Gann book? The preface to "Fate is the Hunter" might work well...
BoilerUP said:
Can you post an excerpt from an Ernest Gann book? The preface to "Fate is the Hunter" might work well...

It was one of those "chain e-mails" going around a while back. I'm sure eventually somebody will send it to me again. I just want to find it now.
This one? Part 1

Yes, friends, as the singer said, “the times they are a changin’...” We have entered an era of Pay-For-Training/Pay-For-A-Job. But, I don’t mean the PFT where a pilot pays for his/her airline ground school and flight training. I mean the PFT practiced by US aviation universities. That’s right, our own schools are practicing PFT right before our very eyes. How?? Here are a couple examples:
  • 1. Come to one large mid-western school in the northern plains, and participate in their highly regarded program for selected students. At the end of 4 years, find yourself assigned as an F/O in a 4-engine regional jet with a large regional airline. Yes! You! Mr./Ms. newly-minted commercial pilot. Just sign up with us, pay your money, and away you go. We taught you all you need to know... By the way, several captains with the major airline affiliated with the regional describe this situation as a “CRM nightmare”.
    2. Come to a large beach-front school near the Southeastern branch of Mickey Mouse World, and get a job with a large regional. Maybe even a type-rating on their brand new BE-1900 or B-737 sims (Level D, of course). Again, pay your money, get your degree, we’ll get you “in” with a regional and you can bypass all those poor slobs that are getting real experience...
While I will be the last one to knock giving opportunities to those who have earned them, I will be the first to say “Whoa” when we get ahead of ourselves. The last thing we want to do is create a situation that “sets-up” our future pilots for failure. Let’s step back and examine what we need in this industry. We need proficient, knowledgeable, educated, well-rounded pilots. We need pilots who are well-schooled in regulatory issues, aeronautics, aerodynamics, CRM, human factors, aircraft technological advances, advanced avionics, and safety. These same pilots must also be able to fly, and be able to handle the airplane and manage its systems in all types of weather, ATC/airport congestion, and in unforeseen situations. And these pilots must be able to contribute to the success of the flight as a fully-functioning member of a two- or three-pilot crew.

How do we “create” these pilots of tomorrow? Education, flight training, and CRM training are major elements of this training. First, they need to be educated. While a 4-year degree is not a requirement to be a good pilot, the 4-year degree is the accepted standard used by Human Resource managers at most large carriers (regional and major) to screen candidates for educational accomplishments. The hiring boom that has begun may lead to a supply-and-demand situation that dictates reduction or elimination of this requirement, but don’t bet on it. “Educated” is a broad term, but should mean schooling in the subject areas that I listed as necessary for a good pilot, plus a well-rounded general education. The aviation colleges seem to do a pretty good job of educating our future pilots. The technical education offered by these schools is superb. Secondly, the pilot of tomorrow, like the pilot of today, needs real flight time and experience. The examples that follow are actual situations that have occurred at aviation colleges (large and small) that involve creative (and illegal) logging of flight time:
  • 1. Two pilots in a Multi-engine airplane, with a CFI in back. All 3 logging PIC time.
    2. Two pilots going to NIFA in a CE-150. No “hood”. Neither a CFI. Both logging PIC time.
    3. Pilots logging time in a simulator/FTD as “Multi” and “Total” flight time.
    4. Pilot on jump-seat of a B-727. Pilot’s father is the Captain. Dad signs off “4th in command” time in son’s logbook. Son now with regional carrier. Professor proud of his student and supports this method of gaining B-727 time.
Let’s get real folks! Pilots need to be exposed to actual flying to develop the motor skills, flow patterns, and habits that are used sub-consciously by experienced pilots. While training in simulators is known to be superior in many ways to training in an airplane, at some point, the pilot needs to get out in the real world and do some actual flying. This allows full integration and correlation of skill and knowledge in a real-time flight scenario. The result of such training and experience is the development of the “spare mental capacity” that is required to deal with the situations and contingencies that are inherent to all flights. At the commercial pilot level (new pilot), these skills are well-honed for local operations. But the pilot has very little experience in the IFR system, all weather operations, complex aircraft operations, high-density airport operations, mountain flying, etc. The new pilot will quickly find that all the “simulation” in the world cannot prepare him or her for the tasks at hand.

This rampant logging of questionable flight time hurts not only those who are scrupulously honest in logging their time accurately, but also hurts those who log this “bogus” time. Yes, flight time is one of the means used by airlines to select pilots. This is unfortunate, as flight time does not always reflect quality or breadth of experience, but it is the reality of the current hiring situation. Please, university faculty, make sure you lead the way in promoting integrity in your students’ logging of flight time. If you don’t they may fall flat on their butts when put to the test. If that test is “for real” in an airplane, people will die.

Go back and read that last sentence. If you are tempted to “pad” your logbook with meaningless time, instead of working to build quality experience, go back and read it again until you are convinced. Accidents happen in this business. They happen for a variety of reasons, but human factors (usually pilot factors) are the leading cause. When accidents happen, people die. Training and experience are two of our best defenses against these accidents. You owe it to yourself, your crew, your passengers, your airline, your family, your friends, your fellow pilots, and your profession to be proficient and qualified.

I’ll bet a few of you are wound-up by now and asking the age-old question, “Yeah, but how do I get that experience?”. We’ll get to that shortly, but please don’t try to get that experience as part of an airline crew. The First Officer is NOT a trainee. The F/O is a highly qualified pro who is, by law, qualified to perform the same tasks (with minor exceptions) as the Captain on his/her checkrides. The Captain and the F/O (and F/E, if you’re lucky enough to work with one of these increasingly rare types) are a CREW. While most F/Os lack the depth of experience of the captain (especially in the particular aircraft type), they are light-years ahead of new commercial pilots in all aspects of flying ability, knowledge and experience. The crew interact as experienced operators to create a safe and efficient flight environment. This experience that they possess did not come from attending classes, nor from CRM exercises; it came from years of flying airplanes.
Part 2

Get your experience the old-fashioned way. Go out and fly as PIC in an airplane you can handle. Learn it well. Fly other airplanes. Learn their characteristics. Become a pro (this is a state of mind -- an attitude toward your profession). Flight instruction, while not involving a lot of “stick time”, will teach you more about flying than you have learned while obtaining your commercial pilot certificate. Pipeline patrol, sightseeing, aerial photography, skydiving operations (they jump, you stay in your seat), are all good for building experience. Get on with a charter operator. Fly night freight. Fly in the military. As you transition from one type to a more complex type (at a rate you can handle), you’ll build that elusive experience (which would be better measured by years, seasons and number of flights, rather than by hours).

While we’re on the issue of experience, let’s cut through all the crap that you hear about type ratings. At 250 hours you’ve got as much business being in command of a Citation, Beechjet, BE1900, or B-737, as you do in command of the Space Shuttle. Yup. That’s what I said. “In Command”. That means you’re “it”. You are the final authority as to the conduct of the flight. You help to create a comfortable, well-run flight-deck. You contribute. You listen. You discuss. You direct. You teach. You learn. You fly. You support. You make decisions. You handle problems. The other pilot(s) look to you for mature, seasoned, sound judgment. Sorry, but at your level, you’re just not ready. Anyone who tries to tell you otherwise is setting you up for a big fall, or just wants your money. I realize that you can probably pass the type-rating check, but that is a snap compared to what will be required of you as a captain. After all, that is what that piece of paper entitles you to do -- act as PIC of that type aircraft, with a brand-new low-experience SIC sitting next to you, a bunch of trusting souls in the back, absolutely at-minimums weather at your destination, with an alternate that is no piece of cake either, and handle anything that might go “Murphy’s way”. Don’t be fooled into thinking you are ready for that. Instead, ask yourself why your school is offering that type-rating. Could it be to draw more students? Those simulators cost MILLIONS of dollars, dollars that could be spent on an education you need and flight experience you can use (or maybe not spent at all, with lower tuition the outcome). Tell your school to put away the expensive unusable toys.

Last, but certainly not least, pilots need a solid grounding in CRM. Practice CRM techniques every time you fly. Fly with other pilots. You must be able to interact in a crew environment, and the time to start learning is now. The benefits of solid CRM programs are recognized throughout the world as contributing to a safer flying environment by maximizing the crew’s synergy. I realize this is hard to do in the situation most of you find yourselves in, but do the best you can -- it will pay off in the future. Try to fly with a single-pilot operator. Even if you don’t get much actual “stick time”, you’ll gain important experience by watching and participating. Most of these pilots would be happy to help someone else, and happy to have the extra set of eyes and ears. One last thought, attend a good CRM course.

Now, let me set the record straight. I am not a “Grinch”, nor am I an old curmudgeon. I have seen hard times, but I’ve been incredibly blessed with some very good deals in my career. I merely see us, as an industry, irresponsibly creating some very un-realistic expectations for our next generation of pilots.
To My Fellow Pilots:
  • Keep holding the standards high and protecting the profession. We all know that there is no easy way to succeed. Do all you can to encourage and assist these future pilots, and help them to understand that the “no easy way” method might help to save their ass someday.
To Airline Management:
  • Give new pilots all the breaks you can. But realize that at some point PFT brings you pilots with money (or debt) and does not bring you the best group of pilots you could get. By the way, do you advocate PFT for managers, or do they need to have an established “track record”? That’s what I thought....
To University Faculty and Administrators:
  • Please do not allow the lure of high student volume, or the pressure put on you by the administration to cause you to lose sight of your real job. Your job is to mold, develop, guide, encourage, teach and assist some very talented young (and not so young) pilots on their path to careers as professional pilots. They must be aware that real success is not achieved overnight. They must be well-prepared for the future. “Looking good on paper” doesn’t count. You are their link to reality. You are the industry’s link to the future.
To Future Pilots:
  • You are the future. Please push yourself. Don’t expect a quick route to the majors. You’re gonna work your butt off to be successful. Study hard. Study beyond the required courses. Learn everything you can about your profession, including its history. There’s a lot in our history we don’t want to repeat. Insist on being ”pushed” in your flight training. Set your standards extremely high. Be a pro. Settle in for the long haul -- you’re in a tough career, but one with many rewards. Enjoy the good breaks you’ll get in your career. Display integrity. Demand the best from yourself on every flight. Set a positive example. Learn, and never stop learning. Teach, and never stop teaching. Remember those who helped you in your training and in your career, and be sure to “pass it on” to others who will need your help someday. You’re coming into a great hiring boom, and opportunities will be there. Don’t ever give up. Good luck. God bless. Fly safe.
(Signed) An Anonymous B747 Captain Who Cares
uh ..... you think maybe you could start your own thread? Click on the buttom that says NEW THREAD. Sheez.
islandhopper said:
uh ..... you think maybe you could start your own thread? Click on the buttom that says NEW THREAD. Sheez.

As Iceman21 said, I was just trying to help you. Obviously, it is not the article you were looking for. I apologize for trying to help you.

No good deed goes unpunished here at Romper Room. :rolleyes:

Minhberg the Half-Kike

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