Pilot Shortages, Record Air Travel, Rapid Advancement of Less Experienced Pilots ALL Creating “Perfect Storm” and Raising Safety Concerns
For More Information Contact:
Lauri-Ellen Smith, APR (904) 219-0977
CHICAGO, Oct. 5, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — As Airline Captains, First Officers, Line Check Pilots, Mentors and Passengers, we have witnessed a concerning and significant rise in close call aviation incidents in 2023. The safety of commercial airline travel has been compromised because of the increasing number of experienced airline pilots being forced into retirement at age 65 and carriers’ ongoing struggles to attract and retain top tier pilot candidates. Factoring in the loss of on-the-job training (“operational experience” or OE) by the more experienced pilots who mentor the less experienced pilots and given the unprecedented level of US air travel following the pandemic, the situation is untenable. This according to members of the Let Experienced Pilots Fly, Inc. organization.
We are witnessing the rapid promotion of pilots into positions of responsibility greater than their training and tenure would historically allow. Current regulations mandate at least two pilots on the flight deck, however in today’s environment it is not unusual for those two pilots to have less combined experience. This is due to the large number of pilots being forced into retirement, the need for carriers to answer travel demand, and the promises made by unions about accelerated career ascension in the absence of more qualified pilots. We risk seeing an end to the historic, long-running safety record in aviation of no fatalities as a result of an aircraft incident. This is due to the (cumulative) growing danger of these circumstances and their impact on the system.
When pilots are forced to retire at the top of their professional competency their skills, knowledge, experience, and leadership leaves with them. There is a viable solution to disrupt the growing danger in travel: raise the forced retirement age of healthy, capable airline pilots from 65 to 67 this year, and keep thousands of qualified pilots on the flight deck immediately, who can help mentor the next generation of pilots.
Attached is an important paper describing the dangers associated with “Green on Green” on the flight deck.
The Risk of Increased “Green on Green” On the Flight Deck
The combination of two inexperienced pilots on the flight deck together is referred to in the aviation industry as “Green on Green.” The increasing number of Green-on-Green flights could be a threat to the traveling public.
As a consequence of increased Green on Green, incident mishap reporting has risen dramatically. As the pilot shortage has grown, lesser experienced pilots are on the flight deck with greater frequency. These are just the incidents that carriers are required to report. Most incidents are rarely known to the flying public because without damage to a person or property, these reports may not be deemed newsworthy, or they fall outside the parameters of reporting mandates. For us in the industry who have delivered the safest flying era in modern history, these events signal danger ahead.
US airlines are aware of this problem and are seeking solutions to protect the traveling public and their employees. Members of the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability have called on the US Department of Transportation to provide information on the “disturbing” trend of aviation and rail safety failures.
Raising the retirement age is an immediate solution to address the growing “green on green” phenomenon.
FAA Federal Aviation Regulations (FAR) part 121 regulates commercial aviation: procedures, policies and standard operating procedures were established and continually improved because of past accidents and loss of life. The pilots that are being forced to retire today helped develop these standards. However, with the recent number of incidents, the future aviators are repeating the mistakes made in the past, largely due to the lack of mentoring of leaders who helped shape the policies. When an industry suffers a dramatic drain on its members of those with the greatest “institutional knowledge” and experience, in record numbers, a dangerous void in skill, leadership, and mentorship is created. Simply put, experience matters more than ever before!
Listed below are a number of serious, recent incidents that may have involved either “green on green” flying or lesser qualified pilots, including the newly hired*:
- December of 2022 – UAL Boeing 777 departing Maui nearly crashed into the ocean. https://theaircurrent.com/aviation-safety/ntsb-preliminary-report-united-1722-maui/ https://www.reuters.com/business/aerospace-defense/us-ntsb-cites-united-crew-failure-boeing-777-altitude-loss-incident-2023-08-10/
- January 2023– DAL A330 while on approach to runway 22, in Amsterdam, touched down 12 feet short of the runway. The airport reported the aircraft touched down in the grass ahead of the runway and damaged several threshold lights, which caused the closure of the runway until repairs could be made. The First Officer, a new hire (green) was flying the airplane.
- July 2023– DAL Boeing 767 departing Milan flies into a major thunderstorm causing significant damage to the aircraft and is forced to divert into Rome.
- July 2023– A United Airlines 767 may never fly again after a rough landing in Houston that caused structural damage.
- August 2023– DAL Boeing 757 Overheated tires and subsequent fire forces passengers to evacuate Delta flight in Atlanta. Witnesses said the airplane landed hard and braked abruptly causing the aircraft to skid.
- February 2023– FedEx and Southwest narrowly avoid a collision because of the quick thinking of the experienced FedEx Captain/Crew. Weather and controller inexperience caused this event however, the seasoned pilots intervened and averted a disaster.
The Solution: Join Pilot Coalition Working to Raise the Age via Federal Law
Language to raise the mandatory retirement age for airline pilots from 65-67 is included in the House-passed FAA Reauthorization bill. Advocates for raising the airline pilot retirement age include the Regional Airline Association (RAA), AARP and AMAC. These groups are working with the thousands of pilots in our coalition to ensure the provision is included in the final law and implementation occurs quickly, to ease challenges in air travel this holiday season.
Changing the retirement age for US pilots will immediately benefit the flying public by assuring travelers a level of experience on the flight deck that has been lost and compromised in recent years. Many experts on the subject of forced retirement of pilots advocate for the complete abandonment of upper age restrictions in favor of continued stringent testing, both medically and cognitively, along with check rides and other assessments.
This coalition, at this time, supports raising the airline pilot age to 67 and pledges to continue its work with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the International Air Transport Association (IATA), and all the international and domestic policy and regulatory agencies to provide the expertise of the most experienced airline pilots in the US.
On behalf of the thousands of pilots in our coalition we are encouraging every member of the flying public to contact their United States Senators and Representative and ask them to ENSURE that America’s most experienced pilots over 65 can continue to fly our commercial airliners and continue to deliver the safest aviation record in modern history.
Captain Barry Kendrick, President
Let Experienced Pilots Fly, Inc.
*Only official carrier and FAA reports or media coverage of incidents is referenced
SOURCE Let Experienced Pilots Fly, Inc.