American Morning

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May 28th, 2009
09:33 AM ET

Florida's 'pilot factory'

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="CNN's Allan Chernoff investigates the air school that trained pilots of three fatal crashes."]

By Allan Chernoff and Laura Dolan

(Ft. Lauderdale, FL) – A recent plane crash in Buffalo New York that killed some 50 people led to questions about the training of those in the cockpit. Those questions led CNN to The Gulfstream Training Academy in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

The Academy promises to train amateur pilots who aspire to fly for a commercial airline in just three months. Students pay $30,000 in tuition and in return, the Academy provides cheap, co-pilots-in-training for Gulfstream International Airlines as they work to increase their hours of flying time.

Gulfstream promotes this part of their training on its website saying, "Gulfstream Training Academy's First Officer Program offers airline-bound aviation professionals training and experience at an actual airline flying real flights for Gulfstream International Airlines."

After 12 weeks of training, students serve as First Officers, also known as co-pilots, on Continental Connection flights in Florida and the Bahamas that are operated by Gulfstream International. They get 250 hours of paid on-the-job-training, in addition to the 300 hours they need to qualify for the program.

That's a red flag for veteran pilots like Pat Moore who find the training tactic questionable. "I don't know how they can market that as training for these co-pilots while at the same time providing revenue service for paying passengers."

Most major airlines require co-pilots to have a minimum of 1,500 hours of flight time. That's three to five times the amount of some students entering Gulfstream's First Officer program.

"I really don't want somebody in the right seat that's just learning, that's gaining experience, said Moore. "I want an experienced crew. When I buy an airplane ticket, that's what I'm paying for." He compares it to going to a medical student for healthcare instead of a doctor.

Continental Airlines told CNN, "We expect our partners to adhere to the highest safety standards."

But, there have been other recent plane crashes involving pilots from Gulfstream Academy, including a Colgan Air crash that killed 50 people as their plane neared Buffalo, New York. In 2004, two pilots, both graduates of Gulfstream Academy, died near Jefferson City, Missouri after taking a Pinnacle Air plane on a joy ride up to 41,000 feet. They crashed after losing control of the plane. The National Transportation Safety Board blamed "the pilots' unprofessional behavior" and "poor airmanship." And in 2003, a pilot of a private airplane, who was still training at Gulfstream, crashed into another plane off the coast of Deerfield Beach, Florida, killing all five people aboard both airplanes.

"The one thing that ties them all together is poor airmanship," said Captain Jack Casey, Chief Operating Officer of Safety Operating System, an aviation consulting firm. "You cannot build sophisticated airline pilot skills on top of a soft foundation."

This "pilot factory" as some veteran pilots call the academy, is a quick ticket into the cockpit, which can be very attractive to prospective pilots who want to fly but don't want to spend years building up enough hours flying private planes.

One pilot, who did not want to be named, finds the process alarming. "The captain has to work as a captain and an instructor. It's troubling that they don't disclose it to the public."

Gulfstream Academy defends its program, telling CNN, "Gulfstream does an outstanding job training commercial pilots, and it has done so for nearly two decades and thousands of pilots in an FAA-approved program. Every U.S. commercial carrier has pilots who've received their training here." Indeed, the Academy says over 1700 pilots trained at Gulfstream found work with commercial airlines.

And, graduates of the program speak highly of it.

Still, long-time pilots warn their career path should not be rushed because they believe that could ultimately compromise safety.

"We're talking about lives here," says Pat Moore." "This is not, 'Gee, I like flying airplanes, I think it's cool.' This is – if I make a mistake and I'm not trained properly or my crew is not trained properly people can be injured or die. And I don't know if we're taking this seriously enough in this country anymore."

On Monday, June 1st, Allan Chernoff will report further on Gulfstream International Airlines. Tune in to American Morning for that story and on for more details.

Filed under: Airline safety
soundoff (362 Responses)
  1. jet charter aircraft

    it'z very usefull information. but i expect more details..

    January 15, 2010 at 11:52 pm |
  2. my two cents

    Mr. Propilot CFI:

    I'm appalled about the quality of your writing taking into consideration you claim to be a professional pilot.

    I'd suggest you keep on instructing, at least you can choose your own schedule, choose who you'd fly with, avoid clouds and not having to worry about reporting an hour prior to departure.

    You claim you've paid your dues... Let me tell you something mister... A lot of those Gulfstream International Airline Pilots have paid their dues, and some of us still keep on paying our dues no matter how far we've come along in this industry that has been more than tarnished... has been toiled by greedy management, senseless union grievances and a very corrupt FAA. That's not including the harsh criticism the general public generates and the so often NAIVE, IMMATURE, SENTIMENTAL, GAYISH, UNFOUNDED, GENERALIZED, BIASED and TEARFUL comments CFI's post on pprune, flightinfo, airlinepilotcentral and here at CNN.

    Just so that you know... CFI's make up the highest washout ratio at GULFSTREAM, plainly they don't adapt as easy, they've been logging flight time from the right seat and been told too many war stories by OL'Leroy who soloed in a Cub sometime before VORs even existed.

    Where I fly... We washout CFI's during training, if they make it through training likely during IOE we make them realize they're not cut for the job when they get lost in a small cross country flight (I mean... my scientific calculator that I bought 3 months ago has more cross country time than some of this SCOTTY 250 CFI'S), and the look they give you when they have to fly a DME arc... The look someone gives a cashier when they're short a couple of bucks at the drive thru.

    Remember... discipline is taught at Gulfstream, however... Integrity is something you can't teach a pilot, that's a trait he was raised with and is up to that pilot to carry it on, no matter where he goes.

    October 21, 2009 at 8:56 am |
  3. Propilot CFI

    I see that a lot of people keep saying that its because the American people are to cheap to pay fairs and so thats what they get. We are forgetting that there are pilots out there who are more than qualified and are still getting payed the same to start as these Gulfsteam pilots(term used loosely). This company has just found a way to make revenue on top of what they make operating as an airline. Its an airline and flight instruction all roiled into one flight. I'm an experienced flight instructor who has payed his dues buy giving back to the system and earning experience the long and hard way but still has to compete with these knuckle heads. Which buy the way keep the starting pay real nice and low. Thanks for taking just anything guys. Also stop comparing Airforce training to the Gulfsteam training. the Airforce isn't carrying 50 civilians around for money and there training is at least a year long and very intensive with many checks along the way. Also at any step you fall behind or screw up your out.

    October 20, 2009 at 10:31 am |
  4. G550

    Current GIA Pilot,

    "after paying $145,000 for flight school and college, no way to pay back loans, no chance of getting a real job for years, always being promised that you will have a job when you are done, what would you do? Flight instructors can’t even find students anymore, so thats out of the picture. This economy is tough on everyone, yes, but extremely tough on people right out of college and even tougher on the airline industry. GIA kept me flying, I’m getting good experience, trust me, when is the last time you, G550, flew a 172 in IFR through storms to the the bahamas in a non rdr environment at FL200, oh, never,...."

    FYI, the reason some may believe you to be poorly educated as a GIA roster member is evident in those you address. You did, and continue to offend me and probably most of those able to give you a better position in the future. Your comments continue to prove you missed something in your 145,000 student training/debt. I'll start with your charachter at the expense of mine in a public forum with a frivolous response that, for free, may shed some light on why you may benefit by observation, not participation.

    My carreer started in South Florida, like yours, on the East coast. From Sebastian to Pompano, after many hours instructing from tail wheel to basic aerobatics. I flew, at the peak, for 3 135 certificates out of two FSDO's and 2 Part 91 airplanes concurrently, schedule permitting. I filled out my duty/flight times for all certificates in each pilot record, honestly. All to the tune of 25/hr or 150/day turbine.

    You assume I have never walked in your shoes flying a 1900 in the Bahamas. You are correct about the 1900. You are wrong about the Bahamas. I have been to each of the hard top strips, and one sand top in the Bahamas. Walkers Cay in a BE30 probably the worst fit. On top of my duties as PIC, I did the paper work, manifest, load sheet, gen decs, arrival reports, immigration decs to name a few. Fronted my own cash for fees and flew without WEATHER radar (Miami ZTC radar is good down to 7000 MSL [ceiling of Bahamian airspace]). Unlike your few destinations, I was privilaged to see them all and know the people and stories I delivered.

    For that privilage, I lived in my car, pilot lounges and rented rooms when it was good. I wished I had 145k in the bank. When I was beginning, GIA was pay by the hour of power, so were the other similar "turbine transition/FO programs" of the day at Comair, ACA, Trans-states, Richardson, Colgan, and so on. What I learned in my baptism by fire was patients, people skills, humility and the confidence in my abilities to satisfy those of whom trusted me with their aircraft and clients.

    Your are right about a second thing. The economy and aviation are as tough as I've seen since the mid 80's [I'm not that old]. As for the rest, my last trip IFR in a 172 was to EHAM from KTEB for a ferry flight in FEB 09 (ice/North Atlantic, etc.). I am a full time contract pilot trying making my way on wages far below the boom of JAN 08.

    The point, what is your aviation dream worth and when should you listen, not talk. Wanting to fly for an airline so bad you will pay is understandable. But simply paying your way does not build the charachter and neccessary experience away from the airplane that will make you a bird of the feather. I know you want to stick up for the pirates that own and operate GIA, its your job and I can respect the committment. I can not condone assumptions about my career and integrity. There is one lesson I learned quickly: If you are an a.. on the east coast your are an a.. on the west coast and they are not far apart. Not just for Florida, but nation wide.

    Pilots come in all shapes, sizes, back grounds and sexs with different levels of skill. Mine may not be as good as yours but I do enjoy the fruit of my labor and work at it daily.

    July 30, 2009 at 1:50 pm |
  5. AirCav6

    Factually, the crash referred to above is the XX DC-9 at Detroit and the primary cause of that was Human Factors (intense argument), contributed to by the fact that the company merged two pilot seniority lists and paid them differently, and then the union favored one over the other, causing serious problems in hundreds of cockpits in their system, but that was the only one to result in an accident. Granted, those guys should never have allowed that to effect their performance, and they paid with their lives and and those of their passengers for their mistakes. The 'escapades' you refer to was the same carrier having a known "problem child" and involved no accident, thankfully, but the faa allowed the flight to destination and only then intervened! If it was so dangerous they should have not allowed the flight, so they put those passengers and that airplane 'at risk' also, and are contributarily negligent.

    July 30, 2009 at 8:34 am |
  6. AirCav6

    If you want to statistically compare all civilian pilots to all military pilots accidents (non-combat) I think you will find you are wrong numbers wise. That being said, I do agree with that if they are bad they are bad, period, you are just less likely to find an undisciplined pilot who has gone through all that. However, the selection process for the services alone is rigorous, not to mention the training once you finally get accepted. Then the major airlines used to do astronaut mental and physical examinations in the 70's and early 80's.
    About 10% of those selected were weeded out in new hire 727 training alone in those days. First upgrade to FO wacked another 1-2%. First upgrade to Captain wacked a few more. I flew little airplanes in high school before volunteering for Vietnam, then both civilian flight instructor, military IP, civilian corporate flying, then airline FE, FO, CA DC-10, B-727, B-737, and FK-100 with a few emergencies all successfull, and over 20,000 flight hours.

    July 29, 2009 at 3:01 pm |
  7. Dave Bayo

    I'm a pilot, and I seem to remember a crash where the crew was recorded on the black box talking about one of there escapades the night before with a flight attendant instead of following the checklist and forgot to put the flaps in take off position and crashed into the parking lot. One in MSP haveing a few drinks before takeoff. Landing at the wrong airport. All Military trained!!!! A good civ. pilot is as good as a military pilot and vice versa a bad pilot is a bad pilot where ever they came from. I've flown with both.

    July 29, 2009 at 1:41 pm |
  8. my two cents

    Yeah... put a CFI on the right seat of a 1900, it'll be like having the captain fly by himself.

    Put them to fly 135 single pilot... they're afraid of clouds and can't navigate without GPS. Now... give us a "HIGH TIME" pilot and they're untrainable, they've picked more bad habits than paychecks at their previous jobs.

    For those whom think that Gulfsteam sells the right seat as a contract... you might want to refrain from making comments like those, what it is.... it's a training contract, if you don't make it through training you're not flying the line, plain and simple.

    I understand the anger it creates with some HIGH TIME pilots out there, they claim to be better qualified than the Gulfstream graduates, they also claim that Gulfstream pilots have bad airmanship. This whole situation really boils down to pilots whom are really bitter about the whole industry, pilots whom are not cut to be airline pilots, pilots who want to be home nightly and pilots who converted our profession into nothing more than a JOB.

    June 4, 2009 at 10:03 am |
  9. Current GIA pilot

    Rob, you maybe the most intelligent person on here. And to G550, Im sorry if I offended you, I truly believe some of the better civilian pilots are bush pilots. But instructors, no. I have had my fair share of flame outs, single and duel engine failures, gear up landings and full electrical failures. Whenever I have had an instructor on board in an emergency situation, they freak out, lose their cool. Some people are naturally good pilots, some people aren't and some people just shouldn't be flying at all. I had 8 people start with me in my training class at GIA and 3 of us passed it. Again, if you don't know what you are talking about, please shut up. I'm sure there are a lot of experienced pilots on this site now and I'm sure most you could probably fly circles around me because of your experience. For the most part, I do know what I am talking about and I do have a strong knowledge of aviation, probably stronger than most. No offense, there is a big difference between flying 172 and a 1900 and GIA does weed out the people that can't make up for that difference. If you guys want to see 1000hr plus pilots at commuters and regionals, then pay them what they deserve, otherwise, leave the people who are trying to get started alone. If you were in our shoes, in this economy, after paying $145,000 for flight school and college, no way to pay back loans, no chance of getting a real job for years, always being promised that you will have a job when you are done, what would you do? Flight instructors can't even find students anymore, so thats out of the picture. This economy is tough on everyone, yes, but extremely tough on people right out of college and even tougher on the airline industry. GIA kept me flying, I'm getting good experience, trust me, when is the last time you, G550, flew a 172 in IFR through storms to the the bahamas in a non rdr environment at FL200, oh, never, or are you sitting plush in a G550 at FL510 over the weather. Regardless, its good experience and you have to learn quickly in this environment. Look, the pilots here are pretty good, especially to have to deal with GIA maintenance, rampies, schedulers who change our hours in the books, and perhaps some of the worst looking airplanes I've had the pleasure of flying. I can't account for what happens to a man once he becomes an FO or a Capt flying a jet with over 5000hrs at another company. Maybe they became complacent or lazy, but that is not something you can be at GIA with the equipment we fly. The FAA has it in for us and other people do as well, thats why you hear so many stories about us, but again, NO FATAL ACCIDENTS, and if you want to see a video of good GIA pilots, look up the wheels up landing we did in DuBois in December and tell me you could have done better.

    June 2, 2009 at 12:41 pm |
  10. Kevin

    Want more Aviation news

    June 2, 2009 at 9:19 am |
  11. Line guy

    Gulfstream sells the right seat (co-pilot) by contract. How is this legal?
    It is a shame that airliners as big as 90 seaters are contract carriers for the majors. As has been asked for years "how low does the bar need to be lowered before people die?"

    June 1, 2009 at 8:35 pm |
  12. Rob

    Another example of how poorly the journalistic community has become. Try to sensationalize stories – regardless of the facts. A couple of things missing. (1) This is an FAA approved program, maybe one should be looking into that aspect. (2) The Gulfstream website states everyone entering their program must have a CMEL. That means their basic training has been learned elsewhere, and they have attained a Commercial license PRIOR to going to their program. (3) Gulfstream Airlines has never had a fatal accident. Maybe one should be looking at the training at the airlines these accidents have occured. (4) Pay and duty times should be looked at. When someone has to commute across country because the only way they can survive the pay is to live at home, there is a problem. How is anyone expected to live in a major metropolitan area on 17 – 22k? Could you do it? (5) While I agree wholeheartedly that military training is the best, it is incredibly impractical to think a civilian could ever get that type of training. Yours and my tax dollars donations are endless to pay for that military pilot, civilian pilots have to find a way to get it done without taxpayer funding. (6) You CAN"T teach judgement, some people are well equipped, othes are not – and it can't be taught. (7) Pay for training programs are the norm in Europe – does that mean we should never fly on a European airline? PFT was also prevelant in the US in the 90's, there are alot of PFT pilots out there flying for the majors (in addition to Gulfstream pilots) and they don't seem to be falling out of the sky. (8) You get what you pay for. Passengers will search for an hour to save 5 bucks on a ticket. That means every airline out there (regional AND major) is looking everywhere to cut costs. Raise the tickets, raise the pay, and you'll raise the experience on the flightdeck. (9) EVERY SINGLE PILOT IN THE HISTORY OF FLYING HAS STARTED WITH ZERO HOURS AND ZERO EXPERIENCE. You don't wake up one day and have 5,000 hours under your belt. (10) Degregulation has turned what was once a proud profession into what you see today. Pilots that work their a$$ off, study for thousands of hours, spend time instructing, humping cargo or whatever way to get their time (flight experience) up, to get to a job paying 20k says something about their dedication and desire to becoming a professional pilot. (11) Instructing isn't the beat all end all ticket to safety. There was a 1600 hour CFI on the Buffalo flight, and it didn't help. If one was to review how many accidents their were regarding instructors and students, I'm sure it will open alot of eyes.

    June 1, 2009 at 2:36 pm |
  13. Luke

    "In 2004, two pilots, both graduates of Gulfstream Academy, died near Jefferson City, Missouri after taking a Pinnacle Air plane on a joy ride up to 41,000 feet. They crashed after losing control of the plane. The National Transportation Safety Board blamed “the pilots’ unprofessional behavior” and “poor airmanship.”"

    The Captain of Pinnacle 3701, the 2004 crash near Jefferson City, MO, was NOT a Gulfstream graduate. He was a graduate of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. He worked as a Flight Instructor there before being hired as a First Officer for Gulfstream Int'l Airlines. The Captain was a fairly experienced (6,000 plus hours) pilot and really should have known better. The First Officer was a graduate of the Gulfstream Academy and fairly low time (about 760 hours).

    If you're going to write a new story, get your facts straight please! I got my information from doing a simple search for the NTSB Accident Report and reading the section on the pilot and copilot.

    June 1, 2009 at 10:39 am |
  14. William J. McLean, III

    Forget about cheap fares. Gulstream charges $400 round trip from Ft. Lauderdale to Marsh Harbor – hardly cheap. This isn't a case of the public refusing to pay, especially to the Bahamas where there are too few flights with the "majors." What's really scary about Gulfstream is that people think they're paying to be on a "major" because it's branded with Continental. I fly Gulfstream regularly. There are very few alternatives and none that I consider any safer.

    June 1, 2009 at 9:38 am |
  15. G550

    It is my belief, that Current GIA pilot and Steve, the golden zippered 2000+ trap master (that never saw the navy push commanders to soften a three down policy for your more than qualified recruits), get all you deserve in the civil aviation community. You've made more friends than you know along the way.

    You two of all people should surely know that bush pilots that syphon gas from barrels, fr8dawgs, ex-linemen, fuelers, controllers and instructors all surviving the engine outs in countryfied C172 surely know nothing of skill and aviation. I for one am glad my needs for commercial aviation are in the most capable hands. I'm sure your immediate peers will have a wonder rotation flying with you tomorrow. You truely deserve what's comming.

    June 1, 2009 at 8:45 am |
  16. Cheryl say you worked for GIA, and your comment was about a Beech 1900, but you spoke about the overhead storage being held together with duct tape. There is no overhead storage on a Beech 1900.

    If you have something to say, go for it, but please there are enough inaccuracies in these posts to sink a ship. Don't add to them!

    May 31, 2009 at 8:07 pm |
  17. Mike

    I'm a major airline pilot, but I have flown with Gulfstream grads at a former airline. I can say that the training Gulfstream provides is inadequate, these men and women are thrust into air carrier operations without the necessary tools to act as a competent crew member. At least the Embry Riddle or UND grads had a solid foundation to build upon (although their cockiness and arrogance was sometimes hard to swallow). Gulfstream is truly a "mill." Pay your money, they train you only to pass the test. Next thing you know they're in the right seat at your airline, doubling your workload as a captain.

    The problem with the Gulfstream program lies in their management. They have never focused on training, only the bottom line. Safety is not even an afterthought. Their previous VP of Flight Ops went on to become the Director of Training at Pinnacle... where the NTSB found serious training department deficiencies, after the death of two ignorant pilots. The same man subsequently became President of Colgan Air... and now we have another crash, more loss of life, and another apparent lack of a safety culture under his reign.

    May 31, 2009 at 6:21 pm |
  18. Current GIA pilot

    If you know anything about flying or the airline industry, then you know that this story is pure garbage. Who ever reported it spent no time researching the industry. Most regional airlines and commuters take in pilots with well under 1000 hrs. to fly 50-100 pax jets. I personally was accepted into a TSA training class to fly ERJ-145s with only 300hrs before having my class cancelled. I have many of friends that went to college with me that started flying elsewhere in similar equipment with under 500hrs. Today, many flight schools and airlines are supplementing experience with knowledge and it continues to amaze me how much a "low time pilot" such as myself, knows. I have studied weather, aerodynamics, aircraft performance, aviation business, flight techniques, international and domestic navigation, etc. You would be hard pressed to find many 3000hr. pilots let alone 1500hr. pilots that knows what I know about flying, experience or not. Trust me, this does make me more professional than that goon commercial pilot CNN interviewed. GIA has never had a fatal crash! The training in the 1900 is completely different than the training for an RJ or a Q400. If those pilots weren't qualified to fly such equipment, then the blame rests with Collgan or Pinnacle to boot them out of their training classes. To be perfectly honest, 4 pilots out of 1700 did something wrong, come on guys, use your head, that's excellent training. My school, ERAU, didn't even have that kind of safety record for graduated pilots, and it's the world's leader in aviation education, more than 25 percent of all commercial pilots come from there. Anyone who thinks that ideas like GIA or jet transition courses are bad for the industry is just mad because they couldn't do it. Anyone who thinks that instructing for a 1000hrs builds real experience is wrong. Instructors have an 80 percent failure rate in airline training classes because they are used to chicken hawks and seminoles, not real planes sweet heart! These low hour programs are a perfect stepping stone to anyone who wants to truly accelerate their aviation career and obviously to those who can afford it, sorry if that offended you. Yeah, you can say I paid for my time, but at least Im not stuck in some po-dunk town flying a worn out 172, hoping the engine won't quit. If you want to comment me, feel free. I'm open to anything and believe me, I can dispute anything too!

    May 31, 2009 at 1:10 am |
  19. E Allan Englehardt

    Gaining experience is all part of the industry: Pilots, Air Traffic Controllers and Mechanics. New co-pilots are fully qualified by FAA regulations and not flying by themselves, thet're under the supervision of a fully qualified and experienced captain. There is no problem with the system considering that in the prior 2-years before the Buffalo accident there was not a single fatality in the US Air Carrier industry. Please compare that to any other form of public transportation.

    The Buffalo accident was simply a perfect storm of weather, aircraft, and crew scheduling (fatigue); besides, very likely we are blaming the pilots for something that was the aircraft manufacturers fault. in sombination with other issues that all contributed to the accident. It's always easiest to blame the dead pilots who can not defend them selves. Blaming the pilots saves major financial loss for the industry: The FAA for the certification of the airplane and; of course, the manufacturer.

    So please, don't be so quick to follow the momentum created by industry to blame the pilots. Remember, the system has worked perfectly for many years and we have an incredible safety record for air transportation in this country.

    May 30, 2009 at 12:14 pm |
  20. Joe

    Also These cookie cutter 200 hour pilots are taking jobs away from pilots who were, more qaulified, were flight instructors and have more time. Lets not give those jobs to underqaulified 90 day wonders while pilots who have paid there dues walk the streets

    May 30, 2009 at 8:02 am |
  21. Joe

    To fly in the Charter part 135 Rules there is a requirment for a minimum Flight Hours regardless of how you train, Why not have the same For 121 scheduled air carriers

    May 30, 2009 at 7:59 am |
  22. Mik

    CNN is a little late on this story! There are hundreds of these schools all over the country, and they have been operating for years!

    May 30, 2009 at 1:17 am |
  23. Dennis

    Re-reguation anyone? Sorry you would lose your 10 dollar round trip ticket, but in exchange you would have a more professional crew. De-reg was OK for telephones, but for airplanes?

    May 29, 2009 at 11:41 pm |
  24. disgusted

    Steve you are part of the problem, your ego is part of the problem. Can't believe steve the "professional" is actually suggesting there are no good civilian pilots. Let me enlighten you Steve. A 10 year or so commitment wiith the military is not for everyone and military flying isn't appealing to everyone. Your attitudes appalling. Where did you develop your ego? The fact that you're bashing pilots for taking the civilian route is arrogant. There are plenty of mainline pilots who started civilian and a lot of them have a much more professional attitude than you and are no less talented. I agree completely that we dont need 500 hour guys getting hired, it should be 1,000 minimum. And I trust the 20-30yo pilot more than the old 50+yo who gets tired quicker and will develop more sicknesses with time.

    On a last note Steve. Flight instructors (both military and civilian) make the best pilots. Get off your high horse fella.

    May 29, 2009 at 4:53 pm |
  25. Manfred

    At present, GIA has a program in which First Officers pay for their training in the Beech 1900 and fly for a block of 250 hrs as a line qualified First Officer. This program undermines the airline pilot profession in the view of many, particularly union members. To gain experience, pilots with low experience often pay over $32,000.00 to ride in the right seat of turboprops in duty positions normally occupied by a paid professional; albeit one that receives very little pay. This was also the case with captains early on with candidates paying $15,000 up front starting in 1992 with Avtar International doing the recruiting and advertising. However, these pilots received compensation following successful completion of Initial Operating Experience (IOE). The Captain's Program was initially for the CE-402B/C but later expanded to the BE-1900 and SD3-60 until the latter were repossessed. So called "Pay to work" programs started with Avtar International selling 100 hours of multi-engine time in CE-402s for $8,750 with the assurance from the Miami Flight Standard District Office that this time was loggable. Avtar International was started by Vic Johnson of New Jersey and Bill Veiga, a former Cessna Aircraft test pilot. Initially, most intern pilots were sent to GIA's chief competitor, Airways International as Gulfstream possessed only one aircraft: N200UV, a Cessna 402B. As Gulfstream continued to grow, they took the lion's share of Avtar pilots and the price was restructured to $8900 for 150 hours of flight time. Soon, a turbo prop program was added: $15,000 for 100 hours on a BE-C99; later increased to 200 hours and then 300 hours. Simultaneously, Avtar offered a heavy turbo prop program with Airways on their SD3-330 for $16,000. This program ended with the demise of Airways International and was only briefly restored with Gulfstream's own SD3-360s; a program that sold for $39,500 for 500 hours. The status of the CE402 F/Os was always the most ambiguous. Non-functioning autopilots made SICs a requirement but they were left behind (bumped) if passenger loads or weight & balance considerations dictated [1]. From their outstation locations they were expected to jumpseat home on GIA or other carriers, if necessary, because no return tickets were provided. For these reasons, and the fact that the company was founded and run by strike breakers from the very acrimonious Eastern Air Lines Strike of the late eighties, a few professional pilots refuse to fly on GIA as a passenger though they frequently jumpseat [2]. After complaints of jumpseating abuse by the interning First Officers from pilots at Major Carriers, Gulfstream, to its credit, made this a punishable activity for pilots not considered employed. Interning pilots were issued unique ID badges stamped in bold red "Jumpseat NA." Equally controversial, was the practice of using foreign nationals on student or tourist visas (including citizens of the People's Republic of China). These crewmembers were also recruited by Avtar Int'l which operated until 1997 when Gulfstream took over the practice with a sister company: The Gulfstream Training Academy. Post 9/11, many of these programs have been cleaned up and no international First Officers have been deported or detained by U.S. Customs since. Pilots who have interned with GIA have been hired by many other airlines, including all Major Airlines. Most have not brought any negatives to their new employers, although they have been among the crews of prominent crashes[3]. See also Pinnacle Airlines Flight 3701, Comair Flight 5191 and Colgan Air Flight 3407 . Gulfstream itself has never had a fatal accident.

    In 2009 U.S. Congress investigators and the Federal Aviation Administration accused Gulfstream of falsifying flight time records, making crews fly longer hours than allowed by law [4], and providing below standard aircraft maintenance. Capt. Thomas L. Cooper forbade the photocopying of aircraft logbooks done by some pilots to corroborate the times they logged in their personal logbooks.

    Historically, pilots were paid "segment hours." So called, "segment hours" were based on ideal enroute times as opposed to block times and have been suspected of being part of an inducement for under reporting. Logging of true block hours (actual enroute times plus taxi time) could be detrimental to pilot pay. Whereas, most carriers pay pilots based on block time, since it is what FAA flight time limits are based on, GIA did not. An incentive existed to under report block time by keeping it as close to segment time as possible thereby permitting pilots to get paid for the most segment hours in a week, a month, and a year. Delays that increased block times not only reduced the crewmember's utility to GIA but also limited his pay. This under reporting was most relevant to captains. First Officers were not remunerated until 1995 when a majority of the turboprop co-pilots on the virtual seniority list with U.S. Passports or Green Cards began to be paid $8 per segment hour. Foreign copilots, who were not compensated and merely wished to return to their home countries with as much multi engine turbine time in as few months as possible, had little incentive to abide by FAA flight time limits.

    In July 1997, the airline's entire fleet of Shorts 360-300s were repossessed by the leasing company due, in part, to maintenance irregularities that included the welding of hydraulic lines according to USA Today. Gulfstream faces a civil penalty of $1.3 million U.S. dollars according to USA Today. Gulfstream's affiliated Gulstream Flight Academy the successor to Avtar went into scrutiny since Marvin Renslow, the pilot of Colgan Air Flight 3407, trained there.[3] This is ironic because despite its status as a mere stepping stone in the minds of most pilot employees, the company was able to keep whistle blowing in check through selective disclosure of training documents mandated by the Pilot Record Improvement Act of 1996 (PRIA). PRIA came about in reaction to the crash of an American Eagle Jetstream piloted by a captain with a history of difficulties at prior airlines. It has been criticized because much of the information is subjective and the pilot waives his right to sue his former and current employers when he seeks employment with other FAR part 121 operators. Furthermore, a prospective employer is merely required to request and receive the PRIA material prior to hiring a pilot. No consideration of the material is required and the law does not apply if the applicant's former employer is the military or a foreign operator.

    May 29, 2009 at 4:05 pm |
  26. NYATL

    RJ hit the nail on the head. Cheap tickets. Did you go to or to buy your ticket? People shop for the cheapest thing in sight and then are mortified to find boarder-line safety practices and lack luster service. The flying public voted with their wallets. You are getting what you have demonstrated you are willing to pay for.

    As for Suzanne who thinks you have to go to Riddle to be safe, we all know you think it's the best. Prepare for a career of people making fun of you.

    May 29, 2009 at 3:03 pm |
  27. John

    Gray hair? Suddenly when your hair turns gray-WHAM-you acquire thousands of hours of experience? Naturally all this time was acquired flying over Vietnam, because only military pilots of that era know how to fly. Dropping ordnance on target automatically equates to knowing how to fly in bad weather better than someone else.

    What a joke. Back in World War II a 24 year old pilot WAS old. Next thing you know, that pilot's hair is TOO gray. So, a pilot's career lasts from age 55 to 60? Smart.

    And, this might be heresy, Captain Sullenburg did what any student pilot is trained to do in case of an engine failure-find the best suitable place, drive up to it, and LAND.

    May 29, 2009 at 2:58 pm |
  28. Ken Jackson

    When I step aboard an aircraft, I want to see, as I tell my friends, "gray hair" walking into the cockpit. Meaning a pilot or copilot with years of experience, a library of air knowledge, from the military or whose flown for years in similar aircraft, with a thousand or more hours of flight time. Yes, it's a tall order, but then it should be when lives aboard an aircraft and those on the ground are at stake. A copilots job is not only to assist the pilot with cockpit duties, but also be able to take charge of all commands of the aircraft, if the pilot becomes disable ! Short cuts are only short circuits to the ground !
    Ken J.

    May 29, 2009 at 1:43 pm |
  29. wuhao180

    I can't stand this type of "reporting". Stop trying to hang an entire grouping of people out to dry because of the actions of a few. If anyone had bothered to do a bit of research before writing this article they would know that pilots are required to pass flight reviews and most do take recurrent training.

    To all the people that posted actually using the FARs as a reference and also the military training-thank you! We've got a news station here that tries to make stories like this about once a month. I'm tired of GA being the fallback when nothing else is going on.

    May 29, 2009 at 11:43 am |
  30. Ken Jackson

    When I step aboard an aircraft, I want to see, as I tell my friends, "gray hair" walking into the cockpit. Meaning a pilot or copilot with years of experience, a library of air knowledge, from the military or whose flown years in similar aircraft, with a thousand or more hours of flight time. Yes, it's a tall order, but then it should be when lives aboard an aircraft and those on the ground are at stake. A copilots job is not only to assist the pilot with cockpit duties, but also be able to take charge of all commands of the aircraft, if the pilot becomes disable ! Short cuts are only short circuits to the ground !
    Ken J.

    May 29, 2009 at 11:38 am |
  31. The Old Man

    We should all say thank you to the FAA for what we have today, and remind them to make their side of the bed when they & the Airline Industry get up in the morning. Pilots don't make money, Airline Executives make money.
    Hi Tim.

    May 29, 2009 at 10:50 am |
  32. Dan Smith

    I, flew with GulfStream about 17 years ago and now fly for a major airline. The reqirements to be elligible for a pilot position for the regional airlines in those days were a minimum 2000 hours, ATP rating and college degree. The requirements for the major airlines in 1991 were at a minimum 3000 plus hours most of that time as pilot in command at a regional airline or a military pilot. The competition was stiff and only the best had the PRIVILEGE to sit in the cockpit of that o so coveted job. What happened! The job and duties have not changed. It's still a very demanding job that requires skill, judgement and experience that you only achieve through working with those older and wiser than you. Now, lots of the older pilots have opted to retire and the airlines are replacing them with low cost and inexperieced pilots. Unless this trend is reversed and the wages and working conditions at all the major airlines improve I would expect to see the safety and reliability of our airlines go way down.

    May 29, 2009 at 10:19 am |
  33. fondu

    It is what it is, a cheap way of getting a pilot the necessary credentials to fly commercially. Thats it and woefully inadequate in my humble and professional opinion. These accidents make the case,there is a common theme here.

    You could never convinvce me that these type of training pilots actually have what is necessary for that "quick call" situation that demands experience and sound judgement until they have at least 2-3000hrs of actual flight line experience.

    For this reason I do not fly on Gulfstream flights or any other of these type of airlines.

    After 9000hrs of professional flying I have an idea of what it takes.

    my 2 cents.

    May 29, 2009 at 9:44 am |
  34. BIll

    I am a professional airline pilot that has left the airlines in search of higher pay. Let me first say that I received a four year degree in Aeronautics from a reputable University. The wages that pilots receive today is a huge part of this problem. I am sorry, but people expect experience and professionalism, yet they aren't willing to pay for it. Would anyone dream of going to a surgeon that was paid $18,000 a year. As a result, the experienced and qualified pilots are leaving the airlines and the general public is losing this resource. Yes, the airlines are to blame for placing these inexperienced trainees in the cockpit, but more so for forcing the senior pilots out of the cockpit.

    May 29, 2009 at 12:03 am |
  35. CaptSD

    Last year I've flown with a lot of these low time, get to FO seat quick pilots. All but one are pretty weak. No airmanship. One in particular was so bad that I would be all alone if something goes wrong.

    There are a lot of things that happen during any segment of flight. With no airmanship, skills and that 'second' nature touch, I feel that passengers really get the short end of the stick when they get on those airplanes.

    May 28, 2009 at 11:43 pm |
  36. Roger A

    Its interesting to me (a commercial pilot and CFII for 38 years) that the airline and the FAA call the Buffalo Dash-8 crew "inexperienced." The FAA sets the minimum standards (ref FAR 61). If they had too little experience, its up to the FAA to regulate that.

    All this is a smoke screen to blame the crew instead of the fact that neither the pilot nor the copilot ever actually stalled a Dash-8, or felt its stick shaker & stick pusher. The combination of the stick shaker and stick pusher perfectly simulated a tailplane stall, and the Captain's reactions were exactly correct for a tailplane stall. The problem was, of course, that it wasn't a tailplane stall, it was a wing stall, perhaps brought on by the autopilot stopping the decent and proper power not being applied. That again points, not to flight crew inexperience, but airline training (overseen by the FAA).

    May 28, 2009 at 10:36 pm |
  37. Ryan D.

    I meant "research"

    May 28, 2009 at 10:35 pm |
  38. Ray

    To the person who was suggesting that transportation industry workers be tested annually....Airline pilots probably go through more testing and training every year than any other profession. Captains are required to under go a minimum of 2 checkrides a year where they are drilled on basic, advanced and emergency procedures on top of an annual line check where they are tested on their proficiency to conduct normal line flying operations. This is in addition to recurrent ground training on aircraft systems, operating procedures, crew resource management, etc etc etc etc.

    May 28, 2009 at 10:02 pm |
  39. VNAV

    Riddle pilots are the best – I know because they tell me all the time.

    May 28, 2009 at 9:40 pm |
  40. Ryan D.

    I'm commercial pilot, and those pilots out there know that there is a lot to go into flight training. Reading some of the hundreds comments some good some bad, regardless of where you got trained to fly you have to pass regular test and evaluations to fly, that being said without a doubt in my mind some pilots that have their comm. rating really shouldn't be flying. CNN really made gulfstream look bad without doing a little bit of resurch

    May 28, 2009 at 9:03 pm |
  41. ATP_A320

    If managment was forced to pay Pilots what they are worth and not be able to exploit the work rules at every turn while the goverment and mediation boards do nothing to stop and only help by dragging out mediation for years! I've worked in the airlines for 8 yearsand like many others I'm now laid off (furloughed)! I was also rebased with 18 addresses in those years! try to have a family and life a normal life with that...

    we work in a industry with no respect for its workers, no job security, and asked at every turn to do more withless while continuing to provided perfect record. if the public only knew what it takes to operate an airliner safely with n the laws and operational daily and the things we do daily above and beyond they would strike for us...

    its criminal that regional airlines can actually pay a airline pilot $17,000 a year to start !!!! I believe goverment needs to start taking a hard look a pay and work rule structure, because its like anything else in america you get what you pay for $$ attract quality and professionalism.

    just one Airline pilots opinion...

    May 28, 2009 at 8:56 pm |
  42. Pilotav8r

    I am a pilot for a major airline. Due to this wonderful industry I have six airline jobs. Four went out of business and one I quit. I've been furloughed six times and the last one over five years .Currently, I'm serving in the military as an enlisted aviator for 25 years. Three different flying units in the military. So, are military pilots better ? It has little to do with your training by the military or by civilans. It has to due with attitude, judgement, CRM, and a desire to learn. I seen some terrible military and cilivan pilots, But, the ones that have my respect are the ones who have all the attributes I said. So, the next time you look at your crew, someone felt they had the qualifications to be there. We are all human and make mistakes.

    May 28, 2009 at 8:07 pm |
  43. Jeff

    I think 1,200-1,500 HRs with at least COMM & MEL ratings should be the minimum to sit in the right seat of a Rev. generating flight. I'm amazed at how lax our standards have become. Pilots with less then 1,000 Hrs. are still in pre school as far as I'm concerned. There is a severe shortage of CFIs in this country let these kids train other kids for another 1.000 Hrs. or so. They'd have at least a modicum of experince at that point.

    May 28, 2009 at 7:24 pm |
  44. Norm

    Virtually all individuals who have obtained their commercial pilot's license have done so without ever flying an airplane faster than mach .30, let alone mach .75. Facts are important here!

    May 28, 2009 at 6:40 pm |
  45. AuzzieVick

    All the postings present a good picture of the airlines industry as it is today. 1st., my former Marine son, who went to a private school that is now out of business in S.C. after the service, got all his ratings & I flew with him several times. He was trying to get enough hours to get on with the Majors flying blood/body organs, teaching, flying sky divers, etc. He did anything to build hrs. & needed, at that time, 800 . to get on with a Regional. His wife worked for a Major Airlines & he hoped to get on with their Regional. 9/11 hit & it ALL went out the window. Airports were closing, restrictions were being made, etc. So, his "dream" was over. Luckily!

    He went back to being an electronic engineer, is making an obscene amt. of $, & actually writes his own ticket for his preferences of bennies where he works! And every former company he has ever worked for has an open door policy for him if he ever wants to come back. But what a pilot he would have made!!!!! Sounds like the good old days of yrs. ago when outstanding people were given merit based on quality.

    His former wife, still a member of our family, graduates from Embry-Riddle this July & she's NOT a pilot. They DO have other airline degrees besides flying. And she's a Dispatcher for a Regional mentioned above. The things she tells us pretty much matches what most pilots are saying about lack of quality in airline flying schools & time in the air. Everyone my age always knew the military produced the best pilots, but there just aren't that many coming out of that sector anymore & the ones that reach 59 1/2 yrs. have tio retire..

    My brother-in-law is a check pilot with an airline in Australia & makes @ $200,000/yr., so don't tell me the Majors aren't paying. But he spent MANY yrs. not making much $ until he could build up his resume. It's just the Regionals who are really screwing things up for the entire industry here. We are going "down under" to visit them, & as usual, we will be flying Quantas which has about as good a record as it gets. Why? Because I feel safer...or as safe as it gets.

    May 28, 2009 at 6:29 pm |
  46. Big Red

    There is an old saying..."Judgement comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgement." As a previous Captain and Line Check Airman, I taught many "new" pilots how to be competent line pilots. There is a steep learning curve when teaching younger pilots the rigors of line flying. There are only so many things you can teach a pilot in the simulator. The rest comes from flying the line and working through the endless scenerios that face us every day.

    A check pilot cannot teach judgement. It comes from flying thousands of hours in the cockpit. Mistakes happen in cockpits. The key is learning from those mistakes without becoming a victom or receiving a violation. Total flight hours in not the only measure of quality. It is the type of flying, and evnironment that pilot has been flying in that makes a good aviator. Stick and rudder skills are important, of course, but good people skills, and the ability to manage your crew is also paramaount. On a B747, that flight deck crew are managers and leaders of the equivalent of a small town. One mistake can cost 400 lives in a heartbeat.

    United Airlines, FYI , has not had a pilot caused fatality in 37 years. Not since a nervous DC-8 crew let its stubborn Captain work a gear unsafe indication for too long and ran the plane out of gas just short of the runway in Portand in 1972.

    High time, experienced pilots are the norm at the "Majors." Those co-pilots are former Thunderbird pilots and Captains. They just don't have the seniority yet to be the PIC.

    For the most part, the regional pilots are competent aviators. As the military source for pilots dries up because they are using more unmanned aircraft (UAVs) and the working conditions and pay at the "entry level" carriers remain piss poor, you will continue to see lower quality and lower experience levels in those cockpits because the expreienced pilots will not leave the military to chase those jobs anymore. In fact, we are seeing a severe talent drain at all airlines as pilots get sick of the abuse and leave to do other jobs that pay the same, for much better working conditions.

    The solution? No more pilots should be allowed to fly any commercial aricraft without a higher minimum of flight experience. That takes time and money. The airlines do not have that money. The pilots in training do not want to invest in a future that does not compensate them for that imvestment. Safety, contrary to what the regional airlines say, in my opinion, is, and will always be compromised, until the work rules, and compensation, improve.

    Like Sully said at the congressional hearings...I too, would discourage my kids from persuing an aviation career because of the poor conditions new pilots are forced to work under to acheive that eventual "big league" job of flying a large jet. Even those jobs, and the conditions we are forced to work under, are becoming undesireable.

    May 28, 2009 at 6:28 pm |
  47. Derek

    This artcle says:

    “I really don’t want somebody in the right seat that’s just learning, that’s gaining experience, said Moore. “I want an experienced crew. When I buy an airplane ticket, that’s what I’m paying for.” He compares it to going to a medical student for healthcare instead of a doctor.

    Apparently the commenter has no idea how medical training is done. All doctors go through an internship at a real hospital, under the supervision of doctors, which often involves making life or death decisions about patient care. They are still in training at this point, but they have demonstrated that they can safely act as a doctor, just like these pilots by and large have done.

    May 28, 2009 at 6:16 pm |
  48. Dan ( former airline pilot )

    Ann and others should know: ALL airline pilots recieve at least annual training and full light exam. Captains get it every 6 months. And, complete physical every 6 months. No other profession imposes such strict regulations. Would you bet your life on a doctor who has not had any training/exam in last 5 years? Peopl,e do every day. How about your lawyer? Not to mention your "financial advisor". Reality is, training and experience are what counts, and US pilots are the best trained and best qualified. Yet, let's not forget .... humans make mistakes. It is, and will always be, much more dangerous to drive to the airport than fly the flight.

    May 28, 2009 at 6:11 pm |
  49. Chris

    The public and especially the news service has no idea how the aviation industry works and when the opportunity to make a story out of nothing comes along everyone wants to jump on board. Where do you think most pilots come from? Not the military. You won't find a fighter jock hopping between Newark and Buffalo in a twin turbo prop. Listen people, flying an airplane is not that difficult. Most of the newer aircraft fly and can land themselves. An airline pilot is a glorified bus driver living off of the legend of the airline pilots from the 50's and 60's that actually had to know how to handle an aircraft. Give thanks to the FAA and the modern aircraft you travel in. Safety is much greater now than 20 years ago. After all, you are getting in a tube and traveling over 500 mph at 37,000 ft. Things do go wrong! Do a story about the Truck Driver mills out there. They kill a lot more people than the airlines. And by the way, private pilot hours are nothing like commercial pilot hours. I haven't seen too many Cessna props that do Mach .75.

    May 28, 2009 at 6:10 pm |
  50. frank

    This is why I will not fly commuter planes: most inexperienced pilots, longest hours, smallest pay, lowest amount of onboard safety equipment. ALWAYS ask about the equipment and make sure it is either Boeing, McDonnel Douglas, or Airbus.

    May 28, 2009 at 6:05 pm |
  51. Bill

    Oh yeah...and when was the last Gulfstream Airlines fatal accident you heard of?!?! if you know of one please let me know.

    May 28, 2009 at 6:05 pm |
  52. AE

    We do see student doctors they are called interns/residents. Not full doctors but not still in school. That is the same things at Gulf Stream Intl. These pilots have their commercial ratings and are now in their internship.

    I have flown with many of these pilots from Gulf Stream. Most are good but some aren't. That goes for any profession or industry and I have been in several. The issue is the experience or the lack there of. These Gulf Streamers had about 800 hours or so when they were hired. Then hiring got tough the airlines looked to other schools like Jet University. These Jet U pilots came to the airlines with 200 and 250 hours. The ink on their commercial licenses were still wet. Experience again is an issue and I was spare you the ugly details.

    With all that said everyone has forgotten the commercial pilot back in the 1950's and 1960's were hired at the majors with 250 hours. The DC9's were the commuters of their day.

    Finally, as someone else has already stated, if you want a ticket from NYC to Vegas for $100 you are going to get what you pay for. Greyhound bus drivers make about $45,000 their first year and a pilot makes about $19,000 to $20,000. This is the norm and the pilot generally has a 4 year college degree.

    Pilots are powerless to change their contracts dude to the Railway Labor Act and not being able to strike. Pay is one issue and work rules such as crew rest is another issue. Don't get me started!!!!

    May 28, 2009 at 6:02 pm |

    Regional Airlines are a joke. I am a corporate pilot and can attest to the fact that airline pilots usually preform at sub-par levels at least when trying to compete for jobs in the corporate environment.

    May 28, 2009 at 6:01 pm |
  54. Joe Momma

    May 28, 2009 at 5:52 pm |
  55. Tony

    I am an Airline Transport Pilot with 35 years experience, largely in the Northeast. I have reviewed the Buffalo crash in some detail based on public reporting, which is often in error. However, it is clear that the crash was the result of pilot error. It is also clear that this was not a one-time error, but a pattern of poor pilot performance. No regulation can absolutely protect against that. It takes good management throughout the organizations that have trained and hired these pilots. It is likely that these pilots that caused the death of 50 people were poorly trained and managed.

    May 28, 2009 at 5:51 pm |
  56. Jason Hughes

    Actually, you do go to a medical student for healthcare, you probably just never realized it.

    May 28, 2009 at 5:51 pm |
  57. bruce

    Pay to sit in a cockpit while paying customers are in the back, is Dangerous, and totally irresponsible to say the least !! this is just another way to make a quick buck, and to get sub standard pilots into a job !!

    no way will i fly on them !! you cant buy experience

    May 28, 2009 at 5:47 pm |
  58. Paul Martin

    What about the Lufthansa program? As far as I know, Lufthansa has a good safety record. Can CNN take a look at that as part of this story?

    May 28, 2009 at 5:46 pm |
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