Colgan: The Gift That Keeps on Giving

After the 2009 Colgan regional airline accident near Buffalo, we got the FAA 1,500 hour rule for pilot experience. Nevermind that the root cause was botched primary stall training and lack of sleep …

Now, 7.5 years later and counting, the FAA is proposing that “New airline pilots would go through professional development and mentoring programs.”

One might ask what the FAA was doing for almost a decade. Apparently 50 bodies wasn’t enough to motivate them.

There’s multiple levels of irony in the FAA’s two Colgan “actions”:

  1. the 1,500 hour rule has bankrupted all of the regionals, since there’s no eligible pilots now to fly their leased planes – an unforeseen win actually, since there won’t be any more regionals like Colgan
  2. the whole point of the regionals was to reduce costs for the majors, by using inexperienced non-union pilots with minimal training and without mentoring, while the industry hid behind FAA’s “one level of safety” mantra. (Just watch the Senate Colgan hearings to hear the major airline executives refuse to mentor their captive regionals because, “according to the FAA there’s one level of safety.”) 🙂

Ultimately it was the FAA that allowed race-to-the-bottom regionals to exist and Colgan was an easily-forseeable accident.

Since this topic is important enough to warrant reflection:

  • Both USA and non-USA airlines need to deal with the original and as yet unaddressed problems: pilot fatigue (building some pilot dorms is cheaper than an accident) and “bad sticks” (inadequately-trained pilots – so do stall training.)
  • Non-USA airlines: the US regional system saved a few bucks for a while, but at the expense of dead pax and ultimately draconian government oversight that raised pilot wages – US-style regional airlines are not a role model for export.

FAA Proposes Mentoring Programs For Airline Hires
AIN Blog: Torqued: ‘One Level of Safety’ Remains a Myth
Frontline: “Flying Cheap” PBS YouTube

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