Initiative Will Significantly Raise the Qualifications Level for Entry-Level Regional Airline Pilots
Buffalo, New York- December 13, 2011 – As another Christmas approaches, the family of twenty-seven year old Johnathan Perry, who was lost in the crash of Continental Flight 3407, beseeched the Obama administration, particularly Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood and acting FAA Administrator Michael Huerta, to complete a rulemaking addressing minimum qualifications for all first officers on commercial airlines. As some regional airlines have been hiring pilots with experience levels barely above to the current federal minimum of 250 hours, and paying wages commensurate with that experience, this initiative will take a meaningful step towards achieving the goal of a true ‘One Level of Safety’ between major and regional airlines.
“We remember a Christmas when Johnathan was just old enough to understand the concept of Santa, first saw the presents under the tree, and happily exclaimed ‘He came, he came, he really came!’ Johnathan was four, his twin sisters had just turned two, and their youngest brother had just been born. Our family was complete.” stated Denise Perry of Loveland, Ohio. “Sadly, we are no longer a family of six, we are only five. We still hang Johnthan’s stocking on the mantel, bake his favorite cookies, and remember happier times. All we have now are memories. We have fought for nearly three years to make sure that another family does not have an empty chair at the Christmas table. Of all the positive changes that we are relying on the FAA to make, perhaps the greatest legacy will be the one on pilot minimum qualification. It will be a major step towards increasing the experience level in the cockpit of regional airlines. Johnathan is forever missing from our family gatherings but we hope and pray that Secretary LaHood and Administrator Huerta can deliver this rulemaking for the American flying pubic.”
The NTSB investigation into Flight 3407, as well as subsequent Congressional hearings, cast a bright light on the demographics of entry-level regional airline pilots, many of whom are hired right out of flight school. Many also come from so-called ‘pilot mills’, flight schools where they pay for the minimum training and receive the minimum flight experience necessary to receive a commercial pilot’s rating, which qualifies them to fly commercially. In PL 111-216, ‘The Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act of 2010’, Congress sought to address this issue by requiring all new first officers to possess an Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) rating, which includes a minimum of 1,500 flight hours and several key qualitative requirements. Just as significantly, the ATP rating is the minimum requirement for a pilot to serve as a captain for a commercial airline.
This appeal for enhanced minimum requirements for regional airline first officers comes as part of the Flight 3407 Families ‘Twelve Days of Christmas’ campaign, aimed at highlighting key elements of the family group’s push for ‘One Level of Safety’ for all passengers traveling on the nation’s regional airlines, which account for over half of all flights flown in the United States.