Experience in an aircraft matters more than hours
There was a front-page story in The News last month about the Families of Flight 3407 and a possible change in the requirements for commercial pilots, due to the shortage of pilots. Air Force Gen. David L. Goldfein said that the Air Force is losing experienced pilots to the commercial airlines because Air Force pilots need only 750 hours of flight experience instead of 1,500 hours of experience required by nonmilitary applicants.
As an FAA-certified commercial pilot and former certified flight instructor, I would like to point out that there is no validity with the requirements for a commercial airline pilot to have 1,500 hours of experience. The requirement is simply a round number that is supposed to imply: I have lots of experience.
What is more important is recent experience of the pilot in the manufacturer’s make and model of the aircraft that the pilot is operating.
Flight training for airline pilots should be based on a mandated progression of experience from a simple, easy to fly airplane; to a more involved make and model; to a complex airplane; and finally to the make and model used by the airline. Each plateau would qualify the pilot to progress to the next level. The chain of progression would be formally identified so that once a pilot has mastered aircraft in one level, he would progress to the next level.
Forget the idea that some number of flight hours relates to expertise. I regretfully would like to remind everyone that entertainer John Denver had many hours of flight experience but very low time in the airplane he was operating when he crashed. John F. Kennedy Jr. had recently changed from a high-wing Cessna to a low-wing Piper with little recent experience when he crashed.
The key factor is recent experience in the aircraft you’re flying!
David F. Quagliana