Planning to fly this summer? Good luck.
Delays are up. Cancellations, too.
Why? Because of the pilot shortage.
A pilot shortage? How can this be? Flying is a popular job. Some people fly small planes just for fun. Why aren’t there enough commercial pilots?
Because the government passed another dumb law.
In 2009, after a Colgan Air crash near Buffalo, N.Y., killed 50 people, Congress decided that airlines could only hire aspiring commercial pilots who already had lots of flight time.
Instead of 250 hours, now they have to have 1,500 hours!
“That never made any sense,” says current commercial airline pilot Tracy Price.
The sixfold increase wouldn’t have prevented the Colgan crash. Those pilots had many more than 1,500 hours of flight time. The pilot had 3,379 — the co-pilot, 2,244.
That didn’t matter to the politicians. “We need to improve pilot training, address flight crew hours and service,” said Sen. Frank Lautenberg.
Demanding more pre-hire flight time discouraged people from trying to become pilots. It had “the effect of pulling up the ladder,” says Price.
Few people have the time or money to get 1,500 hours in the air before they can even apply for a job. The number of certified pilots fell even as flight demand increased.
The pilots unions didn’t object.