As reported by ALLIED PILOTS ASSOCIATION ON GAO PILOT SHORTAGE REPORT: “A BROKEN BUSINESS MODEL, NOT A PILOT SHORTAGE”
FORT WORTH, Texas (Feb. 28, 2014) — The president of the Allied Pilots Association (APA), certified collective bargaining agent for the 10,000 pilots of American Airlines, applauded the newly released Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on the regional airline industry’s growing pilot shortage.
“The GAO report reinforces what pilots have known for a long time — there’s a sufficiently large pool of pilots to meet current and projected demand,” said APA President Capt. Keith Wilson. “They’re just not interested in working at entry-level pay in the regional airline industry, which is the typical starting point for new commercial pilots. It’s a broken business model, not a pilot shortage.
“Right now, thousands of pilots are sitting on the sidelines engaged in other occupational pursuits. Considering entry-level pay at regional carriers is comparable to what fast-food workers earn, it’s a rational choice.”
The GAO report notes that in 2012, the United States had a total of 66,000 airline pilot jobs. By contrast, almost twice as many pilots held commercial pilot certificates, including many with an instrument rating.
“Those numbers suggest a ready pool of future airline pilots,” Capt. Wilson said. “The challenge will be to persuade them to put their skills to work. What we’re seeing now is the result of long-term wage pressure on pilots across the entire industry.”
To address the shortfall, some airline executives have advocated relaxing the more stringent pilot hiring standards enacted in the aftermath of the 2009 Colgan Air accident.
“APA was an aggressive advocate for increasing minimum standards for first officers, which became law last year,” Capt. Wilson said. “Sacrificing safety by diluting those standards is the exact wrong prescription. Instead, we should acknowledge that a regional airline model built around low pilot wages isn’t sustainable.
“For bright young men and women considering an airline pilot career, there has to be an appropriate return on their investment. Right now those numbers don’t add up.”
Other countries such as Canada have adopted the multi-crew pilot license to ensure a supply of new-hire pilots. The International Civil Aviation Organization-designed program takes ab initio students through airline-oriented flight training and ground school and makes them first officers on airliners in 12-18 months.
“The multi-crew pilot license approach does not properly prepare pilots for the rigors of operating a high-performance jet airliner in congested airspace,” Capt. Wilson said. “An airliner is not a video game. Pilots carry a great deal of responsibility for life and property with every flight, and there’s no substitute for real-world experience.”