Cockpit crisis: time to act

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Cockpit crisis: time to act

Post  Martin on Tue Mar 04, 2008 3:43 am

Cockpit crisis: time to act
from orient aviation dot come

Tom Ballantyne

As if record fuel prices, threats of over-capacity, congested airport and air traffic infrastructure, terrorism, the environment and global economic instability are not enough, it is clear the airline industry faces yet another critical challenge with the potential to seriously damage future growth and disrupt stable operations.

The harsh statistics from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) hardly need complex interpretation to explain their meaning. As our cover story outlines, airlines have around 16,000 new aircraft on order for delivery to 2020.With that number increasing as the days pass, they will need at least 17,000 new pilots every year to fly them.

That, as IATA’s director of operations, Jeurgen Haacker, flatly points out, is up to 3,500 more a year than existing training capacity can accommodate. More chillingly, the pilot shortage, which shouldn’t come as news to anyone, has already led to a trend that should send shivers of apprehension down the spines of everyone working in the industry.

Some airlines are so desperate to have cockpit crew they are not only poaching from each other, pushing up wages to lure staff aboard – or keep them - they are having to resort to what is certainly a deadly blend: flight decks manned by inexperienced captains and inexperienced first officers.

Recruitment advertisements are appearing offering a path to the captain’s seat with only 50% of the flying hours normally regarded as acceptable. Haacker and others said there have already been incidents as a result.

The industry has to act and act now because the shortage not only involves pilots. It exists across the board; from maintenance engineers to information technology professionals and nearly all areas of this complex business.

But pilots remain the critical element in this skills dilemma. They are, after all, charged with the responsibility of safety in flight for millions of passengers every year. It is shocking that there are no international standard regulations laying down minimum requirements for cockpit crew and that, if they want, airlines can put a low flying-time captain together with an inexperienced first officer, as our story explains.

The industry has a poor record in terms of convincing authorities aviation needs globally standardised rules and regulations. IATA is campaigning to win that standardization, not only in the cockpit, but for the training of the men and women who fly commercial aircraft and maintain them.

Every airline must put its full weight behind that campaign. It is fundamental to the future of the industry.

Martin

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