Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Of Knowledge, Experience And Regulations

Going to school doesn’t necessarily make you smarter

At the time this was being written, word was circulating within the aviation community that as the result of the Colgan airline crash in 2009, the FAA is probably going to place new experience requirements on airline copilot new hires. They'd have to have 700 hours, as opposed to the 200 or so hours now acceptable in some quarters.

So, what's the problem? We're all for safer airlines. The problem is that, apparently at the request of Congress, the FAA is reportedly saying that the pilot must have graduated from an accredited academic program and accrued most of his flying time there: In other words, they must have learned to fly in a Part 141 school/academy, not your neighborhood Part 91 flight school. If your flight time was NOT under the umbrella of a Part 141 academy, you'll need 1,500 hours to become a copilot, the limit already imposed on the guys moving into the left seat.

To refresh your memory on the Colgan crash: It was a commuter that slowed to a near-stall on approach. The automatic stick pusher did what it was supposed to do, and pushed. According to reports, the captain, for unexplained reasons, overpowered the pusher and pulled. The airplane stalled, rolled, and 50 people lost their lives.

Congress' knee-jerk reaction to public outrage was to demand 1,500 hours for copilots (not sure why they picked on the copilot). They later let the FAA reduce that to 700 hours, providing the applicant graduated from a Part 141 academy. And therein lies the glitch.

In going through dozens of reports, I can find nothing that tells me that giving that particular copilot any amount of flying time or classroom work would have had anything to do with the prevention or outcome of the accident. I'll freely admit, however, that it's possible I don't have all the information.

The really important point is that I keep running across verbiage in the press releases that says Congress and the FAA don't think current copilot applicants are getting enough training in aerodynamics and flight theory. This must include the really complicated stuff, like lowering the nose when nearing a stall. And apparently they think the only place pilot trainees can get that kind of information is from a really big, academically oriented, Part 141 school. That's pure hogwash!


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