With A Shortage Of Pilots, Should We Revisit The 1500 Hour Rule That’s Choking Off Supply?

The shortage of pilots is a hot issue. During the pandemic airlines pushed late-career pilots to retire early, and they weren’t hiring pilots. It’s time-consuming to train pilots, and it’s expensive. And they’re also forced to retire at age 65 regardless of health.

Up until 2013 pilots were required to hold a commercial license which required 250 hours of flying (in addition to being type-rated for the specific aircraft they’re flying). The hours requirement was increased in safety legislation which followed the 2009 Colgan Air crash, even though hours of pilot training had nothing whatsoever to do with that crash.

When something bad happens, people take unrelated pet ideas off the shelf and push them – after TWA Flight 800 exploded we got ID requirements to fly because the President wanted something to announce, to show he was doing something. After 9/11, then-Congressman Jim Moran (D-VA) famously said of the opportunity “It’s an open grab bag, so let’s grab.”

We got a 1500 hour rule for commercial pilots even though both pilots of the Colgan Air flight had over 1500 hours and the Captain had 3379 hours.

There are exceptions to the rule,

  • Military pilots can have 750 hours
  • Those with a B.A. in aviation can fly with 1000 hours
  • Those with an Associates degree in aviation can fly with 1250 hours

Except the hours of flight time, on top of the commercial license, don’t have specific objectives or proficiency requirements. It’s just time. There could be better training and testing with more structured flying that’s easier and less expensive to accomplish, but we do not have that because,

  • It sounds like the hours are important for safety and no one wants to oppose safety
  • The Air Line Pilots Association (pilots union) wanted to make it tough to become a pilot, which increases their bargaining power (keeps pilots scarce and difficult to replace)

There’s little work showing that 1500 hours (again, the Colgan pilots met this) reduces accidents. And other safety agencies around the world haven’t copied the standard and pilots with less experience for foreign airlines fly to the U.S. and operate at U.S. airports.

We want pilots who know what they’re doing, but the 1500 hour rule itself doesn’t weed out those who don’t. European regulators and Canadian regulators don’t see a need for 1500 flight hours on top of licensing and type-rating. We want to focus on measures that actually improve safety, and so pilot flight hour requirements can probably be greatly improved. Instead we’ve got rules that primarily make it tough to become a pilot, increasing the bargaining strength of those already in the profession.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. @StrckleyFacts… as One Trippe said, that obit page in the ALPA magazine is mostly retiree deaths. As we all know, Covid was most lethal to that age group, especially before the vaccine became available.
    As far as the airlines go you can compare the situation to the military. Obviously the soldiers who refused the vax had to be let go. What type of military would we have if soldiers could refuse orders based on what they read on facebook or heard on a cable news show.
    The airline groups I’m familiar with did ground a small percentage of pilots who refused the vax. When you take the responsibility of being an Airline Pilot you have to make rational pragmatic decisions when it comes to the safety of others. You have to follow safety procedures and protocols that are in place for a reason. Turns out an inordinate percentage of those grounded were the problem children of the pilot group anyway. Every airline has a few that just have to do it their way and have difficulty getting along with their fellow crewmembers. Their departure was a sigh of relief for some.
    If you have a Doctor that is anti vax you might consider the fact that the best and brightest of the profession as well as the overwhelming majority of the best educated and experienced members of the profession think he is wrong. If you ever have a serious medical issue I would be sure and get a second opinion rather then rely solely on his judgement. He is also breaking Hipaa protocols if he is discussing other patients with you. Passing on unsubstantiated rumors is particularly unprofessional.
    There are screwball Doctors and screwball airline pilots, fortunately they are not the majority and they tend to flock to their own types to confirm their biases.

  2. @One Trippe — ” I suspect what you are referring to as pilots dying is basically an Obituary page in the magazine.”

    Sorry … just got back to my computer to reply (I’m sometimes able to reply quickly while at other times I’m away for a period of time on other duties).

    What you pointed out about those numbers coming from the Obituary page makes plausible sense, being additional reports of previously retired pilots passing away during prior years. I picked up this tidbit from a newsletter that focuses primarily on COVID-19 scandals and frauds and it happened to mention this seeming “anomaly” from the ALPA magazine. Thanks for clarifying this “anomaly”!

    With respect to EUA vs extended Clinical Trials, I absolutely agree with you! We just need to read through those now-exposed Pfizer clinical trial documents that FDA originally wanted to have sealed for 75 years to understand what crimes that Pfizer had engaged in, while seeking its EUA! Pfizer didn’t even need extended Clinical Trials to already realize that their jabs were *Not* safe or effective, yet they “bought” their EUA in order to make huge $$$, anyway, totally disregarding terrible side effects of their jabs that had already resulted in untold sufferings and deaths among those who got jabbed! Such absolute corruption!

  3. @strictlyfacts..there’s a saying that peoples opinions say way more about them than those they are talking about …..just saying, you really don’t don’t have the data, insight and perspective to call fowl on the people that know way more than you.

  4. @John —

    “As we all know, Covid was most lethal to that age group, especially before the vaccine became available.”

    Actually those so-called “vaccines” are *Not* safe or effective, over the long term, as we should all now realize, with “breakthrough” infections and deaths now outstripping those who are not jabbed, and with declining Vaccine Efficacy (VE) metrics over mere months that even drop into the negative realm (meaning that those who got jabbed are now *More* susceptible to getting infected and dying than those who did *Not* get jabbed)! Don’t try to justify so-called “safety” statistics on “per 100K” basis because ICU occupancies do *Not* care about such statistical rates — only about the absolute numbers of people who present for treatment and occupy ICU beds!
    ———————————————————————–
    “Obviously the soldiers who refused the vax had to be let go. What type of military would we have if soldiers could refuse orders based on what they read on facebook or heard on a cable news show.”

    Have you actually read the reports about those military personnel who got jabbed and then suffered the same serious side effects as those in the general populace? Have you informed yourself with what multiple military “whistleblowers” have revealed about what is happening to our military personnel’s physical and mental status for actual combat? There is a huge difference between legacy discipline vs. current informed refusal to accept infliction of known harm upon our military personnel by those higher ups who are now more focused on Woke/C.R.T. agenda than actual training for combat readiness!
    ———————————————————————–
    “The airline groups I’m familiar with did ground a small percentage of pilots who refused the vax.”

    “… ground a small percentage …”? United Airlines essentially told their pilots to choose between jab or job and bragged about that … other airlines may have been less coercive, but they all instituted “strong recommendations” to get jabbed or face some sorts of “disciplinary” actions, at some point.
    ———————————————————————–
    “When you take the responsibility of being an Airline Pilot you have to make rational pragmatic decisions when it comes to the safety of others. You have to follow safety procedures and protocols that are in place for a reason.”

    Of course … but those safety procedures and protocols *Must* be based on sound principles of *Real Science* rather than corrupted political agenda predicated more on helping Big Pharma make huge $$$ rather than protecting the safety and well-being of our populace, as now exposed by various Document Dumps and Government/Big Pharma whistleblowers!
    ———————————————————————–
    “If you have a Doctor that is anti vax you might consider the fact that the best and brightest of the profession as well as the overwhelming majority of the best educated and experienced members of the profession think he is wrong.”

    Really? You need to educate yourself about the *Real* direct and side effects of those so-called (but *Not* real) “vaccines” before making such a totally UN-founded pronouncement! There are world-renowned medical research scientists and epidemiologists from the likes of Harvard, MIT, Stanford, Yale, Johns Hopkins, etc. who totally differ with your pronouncement! But you do *Not* hear about their indictments against those so-called “vaccines” because the media are full-on complicit with corrupt NIH/CDC/FDA to suppress anyone/anything that goes against their totally pro-Big Pharma positions to inflict everyone with those jabs! The CDC has even recently come out and *Confessed* that they intentionally withheld adverse data about the safety and (lack of) efficacy of those jabs, in order to crush “vaccine” hesitancy among our populace!

    The other thing you need to understand is that, when so many institutions and agencies are totally dependent on NIH/CDC/FDA and even Big Pharma for their research funding, the vast majority (like 99+%) will refrain from challenging those who award those funds, so do *Not* be so blindly accepting about what those purported “best and brightest” support in their views about those jabs!
    ———————————————————————–
    “If you ever have a serious medical issue I would be sure and get a second opinion rather then rely solely on his judgement.”

    Just so that you understand — my doctor has treated something like on the order of 1000s of COVID-19 patients successfully *Without* having a single one needing to visit a hospital, so his credentials will stand up against any others in the front line treatment realm! His practice group is so large that they did their own RCTs, rather than blindly rely upon those from NIH/CDC (they did *Not* automatically trust results from NIH/CDC)! And, yes, he did apply off-label uses of *Proven* effective drugs, among many other methods, to accomplish his phenomenal feat in saving so many lives against COVID-19! Those who *Truly* understand those so-called “vaccines” (especially the mRNA varieties) will avoid them like the Plague!

    So just curious — on what grounds do you suggest that I should “be sure and get a second opinion” against my doctor? I’m *Not* against getting second opinions, where/when warranted, but I was just wondering about your indictment against my doctor’s credentials without any facts whatsoever …
    ———————————————————————–
    “He is also breaking Hipaa protocols if he is discussing other patients with you. Passing on unsubstantiated rumors is particularly unprofessional.”

    Wait … you’re suggesting that discussing issues that are *Not* related to his patients’ personal health conditions constitute “breaking HIPAA” protocols? Especially when those issues are *Not* even related to those patients themselves? Really? Are you sure you know what you’re talking about?

    As for “unsubstantiated rumors,” do you actually know exactly what those currently active pilots with major airlines told my doctor? Do you actually know exactly what those pilots personally experienced or know from within their peer networks? Are you saying that those *Professional* pilots are total liars?
    ———————————————————————–
    “There are screwball Doctors and screwball airline pilots, fortunately they are not the majority and they tend to flock to their own types to confirm their biases.”

    LOL! You need to differentiate between *True* “screwballs” vs. those who merely hold “Different* views on issues! Galileo was considered to be a serious “screwball” during his time and got sanctioned (and some say even tortured) for his heliocentric beliefs, but, in the end, was he proven to have been totally *Correct*?

  5. @JW — “there’s a saying that peoples opinions say way more about them than those they are talking about …..just saying, you really don’t don’t have the data, insight and perspective to call fowl on the people that know way more than you.”

    ROFLMAO! Just exactly *What* do you know about what I have in the way of Data and what my Credentials are? You’re engaging in that tired old Progressive Self-Projection practice that has already worn out its presence in our now more Awake (as opposed to Woke) World!

    Try making a more substantive post in the future — like identifying exactly what issues you’re upset over, so that we can properly address them!

  6. Wow, you’ve got a lot of time on your hands Strictly Facts! I can see how you could get sucked down the misinformation rabbit hole as your arguments bore out….just like your original false comment about airline pilots dying on the job. You were mistaken about the list of deaths in the ALPA magazine, you have plenty of other points that are contrary to what people that actually do have the facts and do research for a living, people of all different political persuasions that simply rely on science and reality. Not internet stories that support their biases and inflame those that are vulnerable to conspiracy theories.
    btw your little misinformation attempt using airline pilots as an example is similar to the one that was circulated about athletes supposedly dying from the shot. Proven to be totally false. Same thing about people in senior citizen homes, false many many deaths were prevented once senior citizens got vaccinated, period. Some refused the vaccine based on misinformation and died as a result….I’m all for personal choice on the vaccine but for some reason there are some people that need to resort to lies about this. Bottom line is….when you spread lies about the vaccine you are doing that to try and convince people from doing something that could save their life. The vaccines have saved lives, not taken them.

  7. @John —

    In case you have *Not* read my earlier posts on this thread, I *Did* ask questions about things related to airline cockpit and pilot operations, as I’m *Not* as familiar with airline-oriented operations as I am with COVID-19 scams and frauds; so IFF you were astute enough to notice — I *Did* admit my mistakes or misinterpretations in that arena, where/when warranted!

    With respect to the issue about pilots dying, I’ve already indicated that I’m only relaying what my doctor told me from first hand accounts of what his airline pilot patients told him about other pilots who had died within their airlines, so your attempt to discredit me about that is totally *Irrelevant,* as I’m merely a messenger of that info, and *Not* the originator of that info! As I asked you earlier — are you even qualified to call those active pilots out to be *Liars*? The best you can do, is to say that you’re skeptical about those claims, but you do *Not* have the basis to call them *Liars*!

    Now … everything that you’ve tried to debunk about the adverse effects from those COVID-19 jabs has already been thoroughly *Proven* to be correct, but you have apparently *Not* done your own due diligence to realize that!

    As examples … do you know what Vaccine Efficacy (VE) is, and what it conveys? How have those VEs been trending recently? What does that tell you? Do you consider a jab that has some “positive” indications for the first 1-2 months, but then drops precipitously afterwards, thus necessitating endless boosters, to be considered as “successful”? If so, then why are there such significant numbers of “breakthrough” infections and even deaths after getting fully jabbed? Have you ever looked into the VAERS database and what it actually tells us about jab-induced injuries and deaths? Have you ever compared what CDC claims about deaths from those jabs to what the annual excess death numbers reveal? Have you ever looked into what mRNA jabs actually do to your body’s innate B/T cell immunity functions and why that is of critical importance for future health? I could go on and on, but you should first answer these example questions for yourself!

  8. @ John. One more comment and I’m off the thread. John, I have always been a professional “line pilot” and not a “test pilot” . . . just as I have always been a “patient” and not a “Clinical Trials subject.”

  9. @Johhny — “Does your doc know you’ve gone off your meds?”

    ROFLMAO! You need to be specific about your complaints so that those can actually get addressed!

  10. “Those with a B.A. in aviation can fly with 1000 hours”

    Is there any evidence whatsoever that a BA in aviation improves skills/safety? …or is this just more credentialism for the sake of credentialism?

  11. “… or is this just more credentialism for the sake of credentialism?”

    Or, from another perspective, are passengers safer with a pilot who had accumulated fewer clock hours of flight experiences, but had already endured the rigors of several flight abnormalities (like bad weather events or rare engine failures), versus another pilot who had accumulated more clock hours of flight experiences, but had encountered predominantly uneventful flying situations?

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