Posted on: 21 April 2016 by Mark Howells
At the World Aviation Training Conference & Trade Show in Orlando, Florida, Regional Airline Association (RAA) director of operations for safety and technical services, Jennifer Sunderman, promoted the organisation’s Air Carrier Enhanced (ACE) pilot training programme as an alternative path to the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Restricted Air Transport Pilot certificate (R-ATP).
Sunderman told delegates to the WATS Regional Airline Pilot track that the available pilot pool between the ages of 29 and 52 is shrinking. Of the applicants for regional pilot positions, only about 25% are considered desirable enough to be hired.
Public Law 111-216, passed by the US Congress in the wake of the 2009 Colgan Air Flight 3407 accident near Buffalo, NY – the so-called ‘1,500-hour rule’ – has reduced the pilot pool by allowing only those pilots with substantially higher hours-in-flight to serve as Part 121 First Officers.
The FAA reportedly claims it cannot review the proposed ACE option without a legislative directive. The RAA is asking lawmakers to clarify with the FAA, or through legislation or report language, the ability to review airline-based programmes like ACE R-ATP under the existing law.
The proposed ACE programme would be a comprehensive, structured, and disciplined airline-delivered training system with both qualitative and quantifiable measures of experience. A major focus will be on pilot screening and selection.
Professor Kent Lovelace, director of aviation industry relations for the University of North Dakota (UND), warned there is also a critical shortage of certified flight instructors (CFIs). “Just like airlines are parking planes, so are flight schools,” he said. “For the first time, we had to limit Fall 2015 flight course enrolments due to a lack of qualified instructors.”
Over the past three years, UND has hired 303 CFIs, of whom 160 have resigned. The average length of employment is 14.4 months. Many CFIs are being hired as regional airline First Officers.
Captain Paul Preidecker, chief flight instructor for Air Wisconsin, added that changes in demographics for new hire pilots and an influx of new hires with non-traditional backgrounds is increasing the training time footprint for regional airlines.
Rick Adams, contributor, Low-Fare & Regional Airlines / laranews.netOrlando, FL, USAPhoto of WATS 2016 General Session by Rick Adams