John Stossel: Expect more flight delays and thank the US government for impending pilot shortage

A pilot shortage is causing more frequent delays in air travel than normal and, as the summer vacation season approaches, the problem will likely get worse.

The shortage of commercial airline pilots is occurring largely because of the federal government’s decade-plus-old passing of a bill that requires certain hours of required flight time before they can be hired, according to an opinion piece by John Stossel published by the New York Post.

The airline industry’s 2021 layoffs due to COVID-19 vaccine requirements aren’t helping the shortage, either.

“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?” asked Stossel in the op-ed. “Because the government passed another dumb law.”

After the crashing of a Colgan Aircraft in 2009 near Buffalo, New York, the United States government passed a law that required airlines to hire commercial pilots who had 1,500 of flight time; before the Colgan crash, which killed 50 people, airlines could hire pilots with only 250 hours of flight time.

Many people question the logic of the law particularly commercial airline pilot Tracy Price in Stossel’s new YouTube video.

“That never made any sense,” he said.

(Video: John Stossel/YouTube)

Price explained that the legal requirements actually discouraged potential pilots from pursuing aviation careers, leading to a shortage in airline industry pilots…even as the demand for pilots became more rigorous.

After all, the law’s requirements were restrictive, limiting the number of people who have the time or money to acquire 1,500 hours of flight time before they can apply for a paid position.

Additionally, an increase in required hours of flight time would have had no impact on the results of the deadly crash in question, according to Stossel as the pilots of the Colgan airline had more than 1,500 hours of flight time under their belts. The primary pilot had over 3,000 hours; the co-pilot had over 2,200 hours.

The law’s effect on the creation of better airline pilots is questionable, as well, Stossel contended. Today, most pilots are trained in flight simulators, as a computer cockpit provides a more useful training experience than would unsupervised hours of practice flight time.

Some industry professionals feel that these hourly requirements have the potential to leave pilots even less prepared.

“Flight time does not equal experience,” Faye Black of the Regional Airline Association told Congress. “We waste a lot of time in training… breaking bad habits …while trying to quickly get to 1,500 hours.”

“Fewer applicants means higher pay,” Price said, noting that the flight unions didn’t object to the government-imposed restrictions. “If you believe in freedom, though, it’s a bit of an issue.”

In the end, there has been a perpetual shortage of commercial airline pilots in the aviation industry for quite some time; but now, given the airline industry’s COVID-19 vaccine mandates and resulting layoffs late last year combined with the travel season coming up over the summer, airline customers should plan on the possibility of delays and cancellations.

“I spend a lot more time than I want …making announcements to people, apologizing for being late,” Price summarized. “We should be looking for ways to expand the availability of airline travel… so more people can take advantage of this amazingly safe way to get from A to B.”


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