1500-hour airline pilot minimum increases inequality?

Regional airlines were recruiting desperately at Oshkosh (EAA AirVenture) this year. It occurred to me that the newish 1500-hour hour minimum imposed by Congress for airline pilots imposes an access barrier to this high-paying career. In Europe, for example, a young person of modest means can pay for 140 flight hours, plus some sim time, and begin his or her career in the right seat of a Boeing 737 (see previous post on a flight school in Ireland).

In the U.S., however, the aspiring airline pilot has to somehow tough it out through 1500 hours of starvation wage flying, which could take years. The American child whose parents are financially comfortable, on the other hand, can build 1500 hours in the family Cessna or Cirrus, can relocate to a busy flight school and work happily for $15-20/hour, etc.

Thus we have politicians claiming that they’re passionate about reducing inequality, but meanwhile they are writing regulations that ensure its persistence. Intensive regulation has always favored those with the most resources, e.g., big companies or rich individuals.

7 thoughts on “1500-hour airline pilot minimum increases inequality?

  1. Looking at your last paragraph, I think this is a bad example of the issue you raise. The big corporate dollars would like the regulation to be different. This is any example of knee jerk regulation to a high profile accident. With some un-intended consequences.

    I don’t now enough about the plank wing world, but how long do you have to really have to invest in the $20/hour CFI job at some large school in an aviation weather friendly place like AZ where living is relatively cheap? The potential payout of six figure pay (at least until the market changes) in a union job should make that investment worth it.

  2. You’ve also pointed out that American airline pilots have a higher safety record than their foreign counterparts, likely because of the substantial amount of additional experience required of them before they fly for an airline.

  3. What is the pay for becoming an airplane mechanic for an airline? What about the ground crew? I Google’ed it but cannot find good data point. For mechanics it ranges from $45K to $70K and for ground crew it was as low as $13 an hour. If I get those numbers right, it really sucks to be working for an airliner.

    As for the regulation, isn’t it the airplane makers the regulators and they are pushing their agenda to the politicians and the politicians want to be on the peoples side and show they care about safety?

  4. re Mechanics: A top scale (12 years) mechanic at Delta makes $121,000 plus a fair amount of overtime. The hours are pretty bad for a junior mechanic, a lot of maintenance is done at night and on rotating shifts. Hours are better in the depot-style shops and engine shops but less overtime. It is paperwork (tabletwork?)-intensive and some pressure because of the schedules and equipment substitutions.

  5. 1500 hours seems perfectly reasonable to me, given the responsibility and number of lives at risk. It takes more hours than that to become a certified airframe and powerplant mechanic.

    • There weren’t enough accidents in the old days to figure out if hiring male pilots at 1,000 hours and female pilots at 400 less safe than the current system. But remember that the crash that led to this rule was by two pilots with more than 1,500 each (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colgan_Air_Flight_3407 ). And a raw time-in-the-air requirement does not correspond that well to proficiency. One can fly the same hour 1,500 times, essentially.

Comments are closed.