Commuter Airline Safety; follow the money

Posted on 15. May, 2009 by in Featured

The Commuter Airline industry is no different from any other or modern life for that matter. If you want to get to the root of causal action or motivation; follow the money. I remember when I was being read into “Black Projects” at VX-30 years ago, I asked “what are they working on around here?” My briefer gave me a wry smile and said, “If you can think of it, in your wildest imagination, it is being developed here. The only factor that will determine if it is deployed is money.”

Think about it for a minute; whether it is the Wall Street melt down, corruption in government, or the steroid scandal in Major League Baseball it is always about the money. Follow the money.

According to NTSB testimony, the First Officer (FO) of Colgan Air 3407 was paid 16,000 dollars last year. On average an FO works at least 19 days a month, 3.5 legs per day. With a load factor of 71% that is 39,900 passengers moved per year. Each passenger paid $.40 per flight to that FO (40 cents). Is that what your safety is worth, 40 cents per flight?

The answer to Aviation Safety is a simple one; show me the money! Money not for the minimal training required by the FAA, standards which may be years old. No, money for top notch training that exceeds or sets new standards. Money to draw the best and the brightest and can justify the costs of their education and experience. Pay the crews what they are worth; pay them like the professional standard they are held to.

Pilots have a different sense of humor than most, fatalistic or black; it helps them cope with the daily stress they live under. Below is an example of that humor I found on Youtube.

No Responses to “Commuter Airline Safety; follow the money”

  1. Rick 18 May 2009 at 07:48 #

    Yesterday, Sunday May 17th, the NY Times pubplished an article about regional airline pilots, low pay, long commutes, little rest, sleeping in parking lots or aisles of standing planes. It was very, very disturbing. One lesson I drew from this is never put myself on an evening or night departure. I’ve always preferred to fly commercially in the morning, and I have now vowed to continue that practice and never get on a late day or night flight. This fatigue issue is a very major topic in my view.

  2. Chip 18 May 2009 at 09:55 #

    It is the primary concern of mine. However the article details the symtom. The root cause is these pilots are not being paid enough to survive, let alone get prpoer rest. You mis in a schedule that seems designed to fatigue and it’s a bad place to be. I’m worried that the regulators will be again guided by the industry and put the onus on the crews through regulation. That will cause no change except that even fewer pilots will enter the profession and the safety issues will go underground.

  3. Rick 18 May 2009 at 15:02 #

    I have waited as much as 45 minutes for a departure at Lafayette, IN while watching more than 30 Purdue flight school students trying to land before a t-storm was coming in. Same thing at the University of North Dakota. With all these pilots being spit out of these big flight schools (e.g. Emory Riddle), I don’t think the flow of fresh new candidates for the regionals is going to dry up. The fact that these schools are churning out pilots left and right may be exactly the reason the pay scales are so low. This even before we look at the military as a continuing source of new pilots.

  4. Chip 19 May 2009 at 11:55 #

    You have to remember that most pilots back in the day learned at the local patch. Those local schools are shuttering their doors. The big schools are survivors do to other revenue streams and the students can get student loans. My second son is currently at one (Central Missouri State); he just soloed the other day. Even the big ones are struggling however, St. Louis Univ. (Parks Air College) alomost shut down their flight program. So the schools you mention are becoming the sole source of pilots.

    The regionals were getting so desperate just a few years ago, they were flying jets to the schools to recruit. They were hiring kids with 190+ hours (commercial for part 141 school). A new problem in the industry is many of these low time hires do not have the PIC (pilot in command) time to get an ATP (airline transport pilot rating), so they can’t upgrade.

    The military is putting out only a fraction of what it used to. Once the Cold War ended pilot production world wide plummeted. The WWII/Korean/Viet Nam, build ups are all long gone only the VN guys are left. And again the bottom line is nobody in their right mind would leave a 100K job flying Fighters/Bombers/etc, to jerk the gear on a Q-400 for 16K.

    Even if a military bubba goes to the major airlines, it takes years just to break even financially. The draw of flying the airline “bus” had always been money/schedule, both are long gone. The few that are out there, are going to FEDEX/UPS or South West. Nobody would go to a legacy carrier unless it was a last option.

    The bottom line is the numbers; check out my post on the pilot shortage then look at the numbers for commercial and ATP. Commercial licences have plummeted while the ATP requirements have significantly raised. That means there will be a shortage as us old guys time out.

    Gotta go it is pick up time; headed to ORD then home!

  5. Rick 19 May 2009 at 17:41 #

    That was a very informative post. Private pilots like myself don’t usually look at data like that. One thing I do know is the market will dictate the salaries. If there becomes a shortage, as it looks like there will, then the pay scales will go up again. I’m a businessman. Market forces always win out eventually. Have a good trip.

  6. Chip 19 May 2009 at 21:31 #

    IATA/FAA know it’s coming (shortage); that is what age 65 and MPL are all about. Unfortunately it will be a while before the market forces kicks in. And even then it will take years to catch up.

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