Sunday, December 30, 2012

Old pilots and an inept airline regulatory system

The high cost of training makes learning to fly prohibitive. The low starting pay for airline pilots makes entry into that career field unattractive. Consequently, airlines are facing a shortage of trained pilots. To make matters worse, the FAA is increasing its arbitrary standard of experience and skill (flying hours) for airline new-hires.

A few years ago, the mandatory retirement age for pilots was 60. It was increased to 65 as a band-aid fix for the pilot shortage. Those older pilots are now again reaching the new mandatory retirement age. I hear rumors that the retirement age could be raised again as another band-aid fix. (If Orrin Hatch and Strom Thurmond can serve forever in Congress, why can't a pilot fly forever?) While I support that change for pilots who meet mental and physical fitness standards, I am disappointed that Congress and the FAA are not looking for a better solution.

It seems to me that the best solution for nearly all problems, including this one, is to get government out of the way!

Congress must encourage the airlines, pilot unions, flight attendant unions, and consumers of aviation services to join hands in forming an independent, industry-owned and controlled standards association much like SAAMI (Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers' Institute for the firearms industry), UL (Underwriters Laboratories for a variety of other industries), and ANSI (American National Standards Institute). This private aviation organization would establish training, safety, and security standards that would be agreed to and followed by the airlines, pilots, security screeners, etc. (It goes without saying that the airport security screening process (TSA) must be returned to the private sector immediately.)

Such an organization is very likely to be more responsive to the real safety and transportation needs of the public than the entrenched bureaucrats of the FAA and heavily-lobbied congressmen.

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