Pilots Union Goal: Make Sure There’s A Pilot Shortage, Keep People From Becoming Pilots

The government makes it difficult to become a pilot. And the government pushes pilots out while they’re still able to work. This is done in the name of safety, but has little to do with safety.

Instead it is rent-seeking by pilots unions who want to limit the number of pilots. And they want to limit the ability of airlines to fill pilot jobs quickly. Both of those give them tremendous leverage in contract negotiations with airlines. When there aren’t enough pilots, pilots earn more money.

One pilot, under the guise of anonymity, is saying the quiet part out loud.

[L]imiting supply is key to maintaining job security and high pay. Look what happened to lawyers and dentists – every law school and dental school started pumping them out and now their pay isn’t what it used be.

So whatever bottleneck is creating this shortage for the pilots (the 1500hr rule & high cost of entrance…etc) we need to KEEP IT. Actually, go further do our best to make the entrance even HIGHER is what they recommend. You do not want fresh new labor flooding the market easily by lowering standards.

I understand that unions are well aware of this and they are against lowering the barrier.

When there are fewer pilots, there are fewer flight. It means less service to small cities, and it means higher fares. It also means that it’s harder to start a new airline – especially one with a new business model. So we get stasis in the airline industry. I love that my pilot friends make more money, but it’s far from socially optimal.

To be clear, barriers to becoming a pilot aren’t needed, and aren’t about safety.

  • There is absolutely no relationship between safety and the 1500 hour rule – a rule that no other nation has adopted. The U.S. allows pilots from nations without such a rule to fly here and depart from U.S. airports. And U.S. airline pilots are allowed to fly through foreign airspace, and land in foreign airports, where no such rule exists. Everyone knows that the 1500 hour rule isn’t meant to promote safety, it was a ‘do something’ move after the Colgan Air crash (both of those pilots had over 1500 hours!) and the major airline pilots union was ready with a suggestion and used the opportunity to push it through.

  • And there’s no reason to have a mandatory retirement age when pilots undergo health checks. We need to update those checkups, perhaps, but retirement should be about the ability of the pilot not age per se.

    We should lift the 1500 hour rule and ensure there’s focused training standards instead. Other countries are fine with 250 hours. It’s not spending time in the cockpit, where pilots in search of hours often pick up bad habits. It’s what they’re doing and learning and how well they do during their flight time that should matter.

    And we should focus on pilot health checks, which mean there’s no reason for a specific mandatory retirement age. Many pilots, flying 80 hours a month and building a side business along he way, would still choose to retire. Others would keep flying – especially if offered enough money to make it worth their while. Remember that under union contracts the last years of a career are the best earning ones.

    (HT: @crucker)

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