Airlines claim cancellations due to not enough pilots
ALPA asserts that the supply is adequate
Vituperative debate is a decade old
Below are two articles about pilot shortage. ALPA asserts that there are more than enough qualified cockpit crew members. The opposing opinion is articulated by several airline managements—flights are being cancelled due to inadequate supply of the airpersons. The disagreement is severe with vituperative accusations on both sides. A less caustic view of these differing opinions may be best explained by the term “bias” in its more neutral, scientific use of this word.
The word BIAS is generally considered a negative word. This connotation derives from its most common usage- categorization of a specific person based past experience with someone easily associated with the one being focused on. This phenomenon reflects the brain’s reliance on people or events in its memory. That explanation of “prejudice” gives credence to the person’s or group’s perspective constitutes their/its reality.
This contentious debate has persisted for almost a decade:
DECEMBER 28, 2012
DECEMBER 5, 2013
MARCH 3, 2014
JANUARY 5, 2016
MARCH 14, 2017
NOVEMBER 30, 2017
MAY 24, 2022
SEPTEMBER 6, 2018
MAY 11, 2022
JUNE 26, 2022
The point is that these bitter opponents should shift from exchanging insults and try to comprehend the other’s reality. Whatever the source of the airlines’ scheduling problems may be, the cancellations are a reality. Pilots are experiencing fatigue; so management should offer future flights that can be operated with the current workforce. Both perceptions are valid points of reference.
PUBLISHED 2 DAYS AGO
ALPA says there is no pilot shortage.
The Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) is again publicly alleging there is no US pilot shortage, armed with Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) data that shows 8,402 pilots getting their Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) – Multi-Engine Land (MEL) licenses in the past year. These renewed allegations by ALPA are in the context of efforts by some regional airlines to relax key US aviation safety regulations.
ALPA is closely tracking Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) statistics of pilot production and finds record output of airline-ready pilots.
Graphic: Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA)
⇐As per the above ALPA infographic, FAA data shows that a significant output of pilots has occurred, well surpassing 2019 production of 6,664 with no sign of slowing down. The reason why ALPA put this infographic together is to push back against efforts to claim there is a pilot shortage and then undo key safety regulations. In the words of current ALPA President Capt. Joe DePete in a June 7 statement,
“Distorting the facts about pilot availability is bad enough. But distorting the truth and then attempting to roll back the safety regulations that have reduced airline passenger fatalities by 99.8 percent since they were enacted is reprehensible. And that’s exactly what some airlines and their lobbyists are doing here in Washington.”
In the context of a Republic Airways led lobbying effort
[current Republic Ad and indeed salary quote]
ALPA’s renewed activism is in the context of deregulation efforts led by Republic Airways to have a minimum of 750-hour flying hours before being allowed to fly a passenger airliner. The US regulatory minimum of 750 hours currently only applies to those pilots who have honorably left military flying service; otherwise, it’s 1,500 flying hours following the Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act of 2010 which has dramatically increased safety in US commercial flight.
Granted, Republic Airways trains its own pilots up from the basics to fly Embraer regional jets to provide feeder regional connection services to hub airports for American, Delta and United in an internal pipeline. But the US military has more rigorous flight training and tougher screening than civilian flight schools.
Why does ALPA dispute if a pilot shortage exists?
For ALPA President Capt. Joe DePete, a US Marine Corps veteran who flew C-130s,
“It is important to remember our nation’s extraordinary safety record is because of our collective, unwavering commitment to support aviation safety.”
Furthermore, in a May 18 open letter to the FAA, President DePete made clear,
“ALPA will give no ground—and we will call out every instance of false rhetoric about a pilot shortage for what it is: an attempt to distract and deceive the flying public and lay the groundwork for weakening Congress’s clear intent when it strengthened First Officer qualification and training requirements in 2010. … While our interests with industry may align from time to time, when it comes to safety, our bottom line is always safety.”
ALPA also has FAA statistics alleging that there are one and a half certified airline pilots versus demand – well surpassing retirements. Plus, there are quotes from airline executives such as American Airlines’ Robert Isom and Delta Air Lines’ Ed Bastian stating the issue is less than it seems. For example, Bastian said in a January 2022 Q4 2021 Earnings Call transcribed by Seeking Alpha,
“Really there are no shortage of pilots wanting to come to us or really to our regional partners. It’s a matter of getting them through the training and getting into the right seat with the right number of hours.”
Relevance of the Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act of 2010
According to Congressman Brian Higgins in a July 31, 2020 press release commemorating 10 years of the 2010 legislation, these changes are also in the legislation ⇒⇐ beyond the 1,500 hours before flying for the airlines rule:
- Stall Recovery Training: Requiring the FAA to ensure that pilots are trained on stall recovery, upset recovery, and that airlines provide remedial training to pilots who need it.
- Fatigue Mitigation: Directing the FAA to update and implement new pilot flight and duty time rules to expand rest requirements and mitigate pilot fatigue.
- Truth in Advertising: Mandating that websites selling airline tickets disclose to the purchaser on the first page of the website the air carrier that operates each segment of the flight.
Considering what happens when an airplane stalls plus recent Simple Flying stories about how Delta addresses pilot fatigue, and our many stories about airlines that codeshare; the legislation has deep relevance in 2022.
ALPA has previously denied any pilot shortage
ALPA has historically argued against the premise there is a United States pilot shortage but rather point the figure at low regional pilot pay. For instance, on March 9, 2016, ALPA issued a statement titled, “Airline Pilots in Strong Supply for Right Career Opportunity” decrying,
U.S. regional airlines that dangle one-time hiring bonuses while continuing to offer extremely low first-year salaries are ignoring the truth about what it takes to attract qualified pilots to work at their airlines and stalling the real change that is needed to head off a serious U.S. pilot shortage in the future.
This conversation was initiated when Republic Airways declared bankruptcy and had to restructure plus simplify its fleet. Yet Republic Airways’ bankruptcy filing helped initiate the last conversation.
As per recent Simple Flying coverage; U.S. regional airlines like Envoy and Piedmont are increasing pay for pilots. ALPA also stated back on February 22, 2016, as then-ALPA President Capt. Tim Canoll said;
“False claims of a current pilot shortage are simply no excuse, and ALPA won’t allow aviation safety to be compromised so that a few airlines can boost their profits. … Given the evidence, it’s clear that today’s safety rules have no bearing on why some companies may not be able to attract qualified pilots, because there are pilots available to fly for airlines that provide career growth and adequate work-life balance.”
As per above, one should also note that ATP Flight School is partnering with Delta Air Lines’ Endeavor Air Delta Connection to provide a robust pipeline of pilots for Delta Air Lines from Delta Air Lines’ employees. Most if not all US airlines have incentives for US military veterans to join their ranks to be pilots, flight attendants, maintainers and other roles also.
Furthermore, as previously reported by Simple Flying, Alaska Airlines is partnering with Hillsboro Aero Academy to provide an accelerated, and financially aided pathway from the airport fence to the Embraer 175 cockpit. United Airlines has a similar program with United Aviate Academy – a flight school owned and operated by United Airlines.
These investments by major airlines clearly show that at least some airlines speak with dollars about addressing the pilot shortage with quality pilots – not just seek regulatory relief.
Do you think there are enough pilots in the United States? Why or why not? Let us know in the comments.
There is no easy fix for Europe’s travel nightmares this summer, pilots have warned. They also called on the European aviation safety regulator to take action to help keep passengers safe amid growing pressure on staff.
“As much as I would like to say how we can solve and change it, the summer chaos is here, and it is not going to go away. We are not going to solve it this year,” Captain Tanja Harter, ommented during an online media briefing on July 12, 2022.
While travel demand has bounced back after two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, the aviation industry has been unable to recruit back enough staff fast enough, whether on the ground or in the air.
Across Europe, airports have seen long lines for security, a lack of ground staff has led to delays and baggage being left behind. Airlines have been canceling flights and airports are putting caps on the numbers of passengers they can handle, with London’s Heathrow asking airlines to stop selling tickets.
London’s Heathrow Airport caps summer passenger numbers and asks airlines to stop selling tickets
Fatigue is a key issue for crews, whose rosters are being planned to maximum limits with no buffers, Harter said. The issue of fatigue was raised recently when the head of low-cost carrier Wizz Air said crews needed to carry on working even if they were fatigued.
In addition, they are facing extra workload through having to deal with delays and help out newly hired airport staff who lack experience. Harter said there were examples of fire brigade staff being asked to help with loading bags. While they are trained in firefighting, they are not trained in loading so that puts extra pressure on the captain of a flight to make sure loading is done correctly.
Captain Paul Reuter, Professional Affairs Director at ECA, cited a recent example where newly hired staff were unable to remove a jetbridge until a more experienced colleague arrived, causing a flight to be delayed.
“We have four flights a day, but sometimes each one feels like a whole day. Things are piling up,” Reuter said.
Long time coming
The travel disruption currently on show is a sign of problems that have been building in aviation before the pandemic, ECA said.
“Canceling flights is an option, but it’s putting a plaster on a deeper problem,” ECA Secretary General Philip von Schöppenthau said. The current lack of staff is not just down to the pandemic but years of cost-cutting and mismanagement, which has made people hesitant to join the industry or come back, he said.
ECA has therefore called on the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) to issue a safety information bulletin (SIB) to acknowledge the problems and show it is taking the disruption seriously.
“We need all stakeholders in the aviation industry to take a step back and acknowledge that we have a problem that is very deep in the system,” Reuter said. He said ECA was not happy with the current “nonchalance” being shown by regulators.
“What we have this time is a deep systemic issue,” he said, noting that similar problems had been seen in previous summers, but not to such an extent. “This time this whole system is so overstretched with lack of staff and lack of qualified staff in every position from ground to cabin crew to pilots to ATC to gate staff.”
ECA has also published a safe flying checklist to encourage pilots to take it safely, even when issues are piling up.
Pilots are not delay-managers. Pilots are not a ‘buffer’ for delays, cancelled flights, bad rosters & failed operations planning & management. Pilots are safety professionals.
Our advice to pilots facing overstretched ultra-busy summer rosters: do not fly fatigued!
— European Pilots (@eu_cockpit) June 10, 2022
Harter said ECA wanted to remind pilots that their priority was not making up time lost on delays, but to ensure safety, have a back-up plan and prepare for the unexpected, citing the idiom: “Haste makes waste”.
“These are our core tasks and it’s very easy to forget them when you’re trying to make up for other things. We really need sometimes to take a step back and concentrate on the pure tasks of the operation of the aircraft.”
“It is a chaotic summer, it will remain chaotic, but we don’t want it to be a tragic one,” Harter said.
 In the period cited it is clear that, fatalities have decreased by the % shown. However, unaware of any statistical correlation which shows the that 1,500 hour rule is THE CAUSITIVE FACTOR for all of this risk reduction. The adoption of SMS with its sophisticated safety remedial discipline, fewer flown hours due to COVID, better equipment and other factors may claim some credit for this improved record.
 See FN1 about correlation v. causation. These 3 points may also have contributed to the 99.8 percent cited above
 Tanja currently holds the position of Executive Board Director for Technical Affairs at the European Cockpit Association. In that function she is also a member of the EASA Stakeholders Advisory Body (SAB), the EASA Flight Standards Technical Committee (FS TEC), as well as the Aircrew Training Policy Group (ATPG). Within ECA she has now taken the leading role in the development of ECAs Future Airline Pilot Profession project. As Chair of the International Federation of Air Line Pilots‘ Associations (IFALPA) Human Performance Committee, Capt. Harter is responsible for all training & licensing, human factor and medical issues within IFALPA. In the area of training, she has taken a leading role in the IFALPA MPL workshop as well as the development of the ECA Training Compass.
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