Posted on: 01 November 2010 by Mark Howells
Regional Express (Rex) has voiced its opposition to suggestions requiring all pilots engaged in airline operations in Australia to have a minimum of 1,500 hours flying time, as put forward in a current Australian Senate inquiry into pilot training.
The move follows a similar proposal in the United States which Rex calls as “a knee jerk reaction” to the Colgan Q400 accident near Buffalo in February 2009. The airline describes it as “ironic” that the accident in question involved two experienced pilots with well over 2,000 hours of flight experience each.
From its own cadet programme, Rex notes that results from comprehensive simulator and aircraft proficiency tests have “conclusively proven that cadets in their first year of flying demonstrate equal skills in all aspects tested. In their second year of flying their performance surpasses the more experienced direct intake pilots with over 1,500 hours at point of entry”.
Commenting on the proposal, Rex managing director Jim Davis said, “There is absolutely no scientific basis that a pilot with less than 1,500 hours would be unsafe. If that were the case, the RAAF would not be entrusting our sophisticated fighter jets to pilots with less than 500 hours of flight experience. In fact European and Australian authorities have officially approved training programmes that allow pilots to fly large jet aircraft with less than 100 hours of direct flight experience.
"A minimum requirement of 1,500 hours for airline pilots would be an absolute disaster. It would mean the end of all pilot cadet programmes in Australia and make it impossible for airlines to source enough pilots to cope with planned future expansion,” Davis added. "This would have a disastrous effect amongst small and regional operators as their pilot ranks would get plundered by the larger airlines as we saw in FY08, when Rex lost half its pilots to the major airlines in one year. To stay in operation, the smaller operators would have no choice but to accept pilots from General Aviation with sufficient minimum hours but who may not have the desired skill level to be an airline pilot. This would lead to the opposite effect intended by the proposal.
“What the Senate Inquiry needs to focus on is the quality of training a pilot receives not the quantity of hours a pilot has flown,” Davis recommended.