Monday, January 25, 2016

AMC facilitates national discussion about pilot manning

by Capt. Kathleen Ice
Air Mobility Command Public Affairs

1/25/2016 - SCOTT AIR FORCE, Ill. -- Air Mobility Command is participating in a national-level discussion about current and future-projected pilot manning shortfalls.

AMC's commander facilitated a meeting Jan. 7 with representatives from the Federal Aviation Administration, airline trade associations, academia, and several airlines, to include the major carriers.

"Pilot manning is a national issue and not specific to only the military or commercial sector," said Gen. Carlton Everhart, AMC commander.

The group gathered to discuss pilot manning shortfalls caused by mass retirements; stricter licensing requirements for first officers; new crew rest duty rules, and other recent changes, said Merle Lyman, chief of the DoD Commercial Airlift Division. 

In 2007, the Fair Treatment of Experienced Pilots Act, or the "Age 65 Law", extended pilot retirement age from 60 to 65 in order to retain experience, according to the FAA website.  At the time, this extended a large number of pilots' careers.  But recently, that large group has started to hit 65 and retire, Lyman said. 

The minimum flight hours required to earn a commercial airline transport pilot certificate jumped in 2013 from 250 hours to 750 hours for military trained pilots, 1000 hours for pilots with a degree from an aviation school, and 1,500 hours for all others, according to the FAA's website.

This change forced many to invest more time and money to get/stay certified, or choose a different career path.

Another change came in 2014: stricter regulations, which govern how many hours a pilot can be on duty.  With these restrictions in place, pilots started flying less in a given amount of time, requiring a larger pool of pilots to fill in scheduling gaps.

The pilot manning shortfalls have especially hit regional airlines hard, with several rural areas no longer getting air service, Lyman said.

Current and projected shortfalls may impact both civilian and military operations, particularly because many commercial pilots also have military obligations as Reservists.

AMC stepped up to bring everyone together.

"While individual efforts have been taking place in the industry, our aim was to encourage collaboration and go forward with a united solution," Lyman said. "Many interesting proposals were brought to the table for consideration at the meeting,"

They will continue to discuss ideas, and eventually senior representatives from industry and the military plan to meet with the Chief of Staff of the Air Force, possibly as early as spring.

"There is strength in collaboration," said Everhart. "I'm confident that, working together, we'll be able to develop solutions to any challenges with pilot sourcing."

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