The Regional Air Cargo Carriers Association (RACCA) has raised concerns that a federal regulation that increased the required minimum hours of flight time for commercial airline pilots to receive their certificates has unintentionally created a shortage of trained pilots, which could result in the cancellation of air service to many of the country’s smaller communities.
Following the 2009 crash of a Dash-8 Q400 commuter plane, operated by Colgan Air, the U.S. Congress passed the Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administrative Extension Act of 2010, requiring several regulation changes, including a dramatic increase in the minimum requirement for airline transport pilot certification to 1,500 hours of total flying time – six times higher than the previous standard of 250 hours.
RACCA said that, during discussion of the act, no one addressed the facts that many smaller U.S. communities rely on regional air cargo carriers to carry express packages. The organization also said the FAA rules did not directly address the primary cause of the Colgan crash, which was improper stall recognition and crew fatigue. RACCA said there is little credible evidence to support a reliable correlation between total flight hours and pilot skill or proficiency. Instead, RACCA said it would rather see enhanced pilot training in situations requiring immediate instinctive response, with pilot check rides to verify the effectiveness of the training.
RACCA said air cargo operations have traditionally been the training ground for commercial passenger pilots. To put them in the same group as pilots responsible for a cabin full of passengers prevents cargo operators from allowing pilots on the first rungs of their career ladder to gain valuable flight experience. RACCA said the only long-term solution to the pilot shortage is to revisit public law and FAA regulations that were put in place after the Colgan disaster, focusing on what really caused that crash.