After the Colgan Air crash in 2009, Congress was looking to take action on aviation safety. ALPA, the largest pilot union, was ready with items from its legislative agenda that it had been pushing for years. They won the ‘1,500 hour’ rule, flight time required before a pilot could be hired as a first officer at a commercial airline.
This was adopted even though both Colgan Air pilots had.. more than 1,500 hours. The rule wasn’t meant to prevent future Colgan Air disasters. It was meant to make it harder to become a pilot.
- Restricting the supply of pilots increases the bargaining power of pilots. A pilot shortage drives up pilot wages.
- When United Airlines faced a pilot strike in 1985 they started hiring replacement pilots. That’s simply not possible today, a huge victory for unions.
- These are unstructured hours.
- Pilots go through training on commercial procedures and on non-normal operations
- Then they spend perhaps a year and a half flying single engine planes in good weather building up hours.
- They aren’t dealing with stalls, storms, de-icing, or numerous other problems that you want a pilot to be experienced in.
The 1,500 hour rule leads to less well-trained, less-experienced pilots not more experienced pilots. They get hired by commercial airlines and go through remedial training to fix the bad habits they get into building up hours for hours’ sake.
According to the FAA the 1,500 hour rule does not promote safety.
The FAA was unable to find a quantifiable relationship between the 1,500-hour requirement and airplane accidents and hence no benefit from the requirement. For most accidents reviewed by the FAA, both pilots had more than 1,500 hours of flight time and for those SICs that did not, there were other causal factors identified by the NTSB.
The NTSB doesn’t think pilot hour requirements prevent accidents, either.
We’ve investigated accidents where we’ve seen very high-time pilots, and we’ve also investigated accidents where we’ve seen low-time pilots. We don’t have any recommendations about the appropriate number of hours….
If you want to ‘improve pilot training’ mere hours aren’t the answer. It should be structured training. Of course they already get that, and airlines provide it too.
ALPA wants higher pay for regional pilots – cynically putting regionals out of business. It’s one thing to spread higher pilot wages across 150 or more passengers on a mainline jet. Spreading those same costs across 30 to 76 passengers means a much higher cost per passenger.
And they push back against air carriers benefiting from rules that allow first officers with fewer hours, and recently-retired senior captains in the left seat, when operating planes with no more than 30 seats.
Combined this makes air travel to smaller cities scarce. Hundreds of regional jets are simply parked in the United States while smaller cities lose air service. This means more people drive instead of flying, and driving isn’t nearly as safe. This is another way the 1,500 hour rule for pilots, by limiting access to pilots, reduces safety.