American Morning

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May 28th, 2009
09:33 AM ET

Florida's 'pilot factory'

CNN's Allan Chernoff investigates the air school that trained pilots of three fatal crashes.

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 cnn.com/amfix for more details.


Filed under: Airline safety
soundoff (362 Responses)
  1. Michael

    Dave,

    Thanks for posting something of value!

    It is unfortunate for the public that the media does such a terrible job of misinforming and distorting reality in regard to airlines and safety.

    As a retired captain myself, I would encourage the public to read FAR part 61, 91, 135, 121 and educate themselves to the training requirements. Maybe they need to be changed, maybe not. I think the public and congress need to be more informed before doing anything.

    While it is true that a 23 year old can join the airforce, and pilot an F-16 in less than 300 hours total time, safely, military flying is not comparable to civilian airlines. Military fighter pilots might only fly a few hours a week, while airline pilots or FO's can work legally up to 16 hours a day, six days a week thanks to the Rail Labor Act which is still in effect today even though trains are much different than airplanes.

    I have personally flown with many different pilots, as a private pilot, flight instructor, commercial, and ATP Part 121 Captain and FO. From this experience, I have learned that there is a wide variety of personalities, experience, professionalism, competence and safety in the flight crews I have flown with. As an FO it was important for me to learn from the experienced and not so experienced Captains. As a Captain it was imperative to be a role model for the rest of the crew and set a good example and sometimes to correct mistakes or errors that any FO knows helps them be a better pilot.

    That said, I have noticed a distinct change in the quality of pilots in the last 10 years, and through discussion with said pilots, have learned where they come from. Generally, I have found the most experienced and safe pilots come from programs that are 4 year programs, military pilots, and especially with those who worked their way up from private pilot – flight instructor – night freight pilot – mail pilot- airline pilot. In other words those who sacrificed the most to get there were generally the best of the best. The worst pilots I have flown with went through the 90 day or less than one year programs. They tended to be more immature, complainers, inexperienced and unprofessional, and thought they should be upgraded to captain even though they didn't merit the responsibility. Basically, it seemed like a bunch of young kids whose parents paid to buy them a commercial pilot license so that they can fly a plane. Not someone I desire to fly with.

    Lastly, there are always exceptions. I have flown with some unsafe military pilots with bad attitudes, and I have flown with some of the best pilots in the world, who learned how to fly on a grass strip and worked flying a jump plane for skydivers to get enough hours to meet the minimums. Those who truly love to fly and it shows! Not just for themselves, but for their passengers as well! Sadly, there are fewer and fewer of the "best" pilots out there, and it will likely get worse, much worse, before it gets better.

    Too bad the media, FAA, and government can't report anything accurately, except the NTSB accident reports!

    May 28, 2009 at 12:01 pm |
  2. Dee Dee

    Annual job checks ARE a part of every commercial pilots life! In fact, every six months their job and license is "on the line" so to speak. Annually my spouse has to pass first a simulator test and, secondly, six months later (on an annual basis) he has to do a ground school again. (That is really a continuing education program as they are retrained at these ground schools for new developments on their aircraft. ) Then third, he is checked out each year to evaluate his health for flying. Those three things are necessary to fly. Then a FAA rep can do a "line check" at any time (surprise!) to check their procedures and flying abilities. Also they get random drug tests at any time. Plus their hours vary greatly each week or day. Sometimes they get in at 12pm and wake at 9 am. The next day they may get in at 7pm and wake at 4am. The schedule fluctuations are hard. Also the next time you see an hourly wage for a pilot remember that it is cockpit time only. They spend many hours per month in the airport and on the way to flights that are not compensated. A 75-80 flight hour month is average, but flight hours are the only hours that count in the pay cycle. The other 80-100 unpaid hours or more per month are travel hours, hours spent checking flight plans, time to wait on weather, waiting, etc. Pilots and the job they do are scutinized and reviewed very much. It takes a special skill set and temperment to be a pilot.

    May 28, 2009 at 11:58 am |
  3. Robert Frederick

    I am a professional pilot with 20 years and over 9,000 hours of flight experience, I was formerly employed by a major US airline, and I am currently employed as a professional pilot for a major US aircraft operator.

    The sad, brutal truth all have us have known since our earliest days in aviation is this; it often takes dead bodies for change to occur in our industry. Some years ago after fatigue was sited as a factor in an American Airlines crash in Little Rock AR, the FAA made a subtle change to the rest requirements for pilots. We in the industry saw it for what it was, window dressing. The FAA of course made it sound as though they were on top of the problem and this would fix it, but in truth they simply tweeked the existing rules in a way that might effect 5% of all operations. Now we hear of course from the FAA and the airlines how all the pilots met the industry standards. Really? A captain with 150 hours in type and a history of five (5) check ride failures??? I've never failed one, most of my friends haven't, or perhaps one at most. Frankly I've nver heard of anybody failing more than two. The First Officer apparantly said on the CVR that she'd never or rarely seen ice. WOW! I've got almost as much time flying in potential icing conditions as she had total flight time.

    So why is this so? Two things really, first the FAA. The FAA has largely done a stellar job throughout it's history, however they have one glaring weakness; they are both the arbator of safety and the promoter of the industry. On one hand they make flying safe, on the other they help ensure the economic viability of the airlines. If they truely had done something more than window dressing after the Little Rock crash, the airlines would scream because they would have to hire 10-15% more pilots to cover and new realistic rest requirements. The FAA and NASA have reams of studies that tell them in unambigious terms pilots need more rest but they simply cannot or will not overcome the airlines objections (in the form of the ATA)

    The second factor we have is the race to the bottom in the US. Our quest for ever cheaper products has forced an addiction to cheap imported goods. Since we can't outsource pilots to China or India, then we outsorce them to ever cheaper and cheaper operators. Sure they "meet the industry standards", but frankly the industry standards have traditionally been irrelivant. The FAA requires 1500 hours to be a Captain. I was hired as a first officer at my first airline job with 2700. There I went through DASH 8 (!) training at one of the finest regional airlines in the country, Allegheny Airlines. This was no pilot factory, or puppy mill as we call them. I was trained by pilots with 20 years just at that airline alone with 10 years flying Dash 8's. You see, once upon a time, not very long ago, the major airlines were served buy the best regionals, Allegheny, Henson, Mesaba, Air Wisconson, ASA, etc. Unfortunately each became too expensive in this modern world (largely because they paid pilots a decent wage), so airlines like Pinnacle, Mesa and Cogan exploded from little operators to major players for one reason and one reason alone, they were the cheapest. No longer do 50 year olds with 25 years experience teach the ropes to the new guys, now 27 year old captains teach 22 year olds straight from these pilot factories . That is not hyperbole, it is reality. Look in the cockpit of that Cogan flight at each crew member and tell me I'm wrong. Still don't think so? Google Pinnacle airline crash flight 3701, then search out the CVR, read it in it's entirety. Children flying with children, the weak flying with the inexperienced in planes far larger, faster and sophisticated than ever before (Some of these airlines are flying fly by wire 100 seat jets ) Cogan and Pinnacle are not alone in this, but please note that Pinnacle owns Cogan.

    Allegheny airlines, now merged with Piedmont Airlines (formerly Henson) fly 100 and 300 model (37-50 seat) Dash 8's for US air. Under their contract if they flew the 400 model like Cogan, the Captains would make close to $100K year, the F/O's about $55K. At Cogan thew Captain made $55K and the F/O $25K. Piedmont is staffed by a senior cadre of Captains that average nearly 50 years old, each has flown the Dash Eight for 12+ years.

    Knowing that, would you want to pay and extra $10 for your ticket???

    A regional pilot averages about 400 hours per month on duty. If they were paid minimum wage for those hours they would make about $35K per year. An F/O at all these second rate regionals belongs on food stamps. It is time for the FAA to put up and the ATA to shut up. For God's sake please pay pilots at least the US minimum WAGE!. Until we do so, we will continue to get what we pay for. All we have to do to connect the dots is look at the Pinnacle crash, look at the Cogan crash, then look at the US Airways plane in the Hudson River. The contrast could not be more clear. Two perfectly good airplanes were crashed by the inexperienced, while one was saved by experience.

    I am not suggesting that money is the only answer, but bear in mind a decent pay breeds stability and experience. In aviation there truely is no substitute for experience. I have flown with many young pilots, all perfectly competent, and very professional. However time teaches you one thing above all else in aviation, what can go wrong will go wrong sooner or later. You see, a young pilot may even fly the plane better than the old, but you see the old doesn't care about flying the plane. He/she cares about what might go wrong, what could go wrong. In fact this very relationship is enshrined in most emergencies training at most major airlines- the F/O flies the plane while the Captain manages the emergency. The following saying isn't just humorous, and it will always be true- there are bold pilots and old pilots, but no old bold pilots. Experience in the cockpit is as vital as fuel, wings and engines.

    May 28, 2009 at 11:58 am |
  4. Johnny Pilot

    The post about a "get rich quick" example is unfounded here. I have spent almost 20 years as a commercial pilot and flight instructor and I can attest that graduates of this program make less money a month than someone working at the mall. There in lies the problem with this industry. Flight Instructors and right seat co pilots are paid so little that you have to be nuts to follow this career. Not too mention the fickle nature of airlines and their employees. I chose to make my living in Technology, although I still yearn for the cockpit. I am not definding Gulfstream but I know as an instructor at an FAA approved school like Gulfstream that they are required to follow and adhere to very strict standards of training. Nothing is short cutted. These pilots are being trained as well as any program out there, I am certain of that and would fly with any of them. Human error will always exist when a human is in the seat.

    May 28, 2009 at 11:56 am |
  5. John

    You get what you pay for folks.

    May 28, 2009 at 11:56 am |
  6. Kyle

    I'm just going to throw this out there....
    You can throw it right back if you want....

    Skydiving is amazing.
    peroid.
    try it.
    right now?
    yes.

    anyway.
    I believe that there should be a higher standard for Pilots, especially when there are so many lives that are at risk on say a commercial airline.
    I do not think that 550 flight hours is enough to get anyone fully capable to manage and fly with the responsibility of other people's lives in their lap.

    May 28, 2009 at 11:56 am |
  7. Ryan

    Really? In today's deregulated industry, there's really no other option. You, the flying public, have made it this way. Without schools like Gulfstream, ATP, Delta Connection Academy, Regional Airline Academy, etc, etc, etc – you would have no pilots, and airlines would have to cover training expenses for pilots from start to finish, and it would be the end of commerical aviation in the US. You think the hours would be any different? No. Airlines would spend 6 months tops. You think these schools are any less than programs at Western Michigan, Embry Riddle, Spartan, etc? No. Just because those programs are masked with a university's name, they are still trained the same way at the same airports.

    Very poor reporting, and very irrelevant information.

    May 28, 2009 at 11:56 am |
  8. Some Jet Pilot

    And Patrick is correct on this subject. You will make a lot of us suffer for someones lack of responsibility if you just assume that no one from these schools can fly safely

    May 28, 2009 at 11:55 am |
  9. BrandonM

    I have to make this known. I do not necessarily vouch for Gulfstream or the quality of their pilots, but what Im seeing a lot of here, are the "veteran pilots" coming in here and throwing a total fit over how "those upstarts could get into the cockpit with so few hours"

    Whats wrong boys? ELITIST MUCH!?

    Everyone thats been around flying, knows becoming a commercial pilot relies heavily on how much you can spend. Not everyone is born with money or a had the foresight to TRY and join the Airforce or Navy academies and get trained for free. Those thousands of hours is requirement by the big leagues because people with money to burn will rack up hours and hours and hours and then decide "hey Ill fly commercial" while people who would have made very good career pilots but couldnt afford 100,000$ in prepaid flight time (or had the GIFT of serving a military pilot) get the shaft.

    This is the same delusion professional stock car drivers suffer. "Oh Im at the top of my sport because IM JUST THAT MUCH BETTER than everyone" No youre not, you had access , either through family or friends to get into a car at some point and you lucked into a ride and then when you GOT that ride, you didnt suck.

    Personally I think we need to expand public funding for pilot training, it would be a very small investment for a huge payoff.

    Get these spoiled elitist private pilots out of the mix.

    May 28, 2009 at 11:55 am |
  10. Captain J

    The two biggest shortcut takers in my flight school went to Gulfstream because they didn't want to pay their dues and instruct, learn, and come up the right way.

    May 28, 2009 at 11:55 am |
  11. Ali

    To the comment below from Ann,

    Professional pilots ARE required to go for annual testing. The captain must attend a checkride every six months, and the first officer every 12 months. Theese checkrides/training events are very stringent and consist of multiple adverse emergency situations, and well as a check to make sure that the pilot is knowledgeable about the operations, systems, regulations, and emergency procedures of the particular aircraft that they are flying. Just so you know.

    May 28, 2009 at 11:54 am |
  12. V

    in the military the training is everything, the pilots don't get anywhere near the planes without learning every little thing about it. on top of that training is everything for flying; period. On top of that the pilots in the Air Force only risk their lives. German schools, including the Lufthansa training school is very disciplined. You can send out people who don't know what their doing to learn but not when other people's lives are in your hands. that is just stupid to say the least

    May 28, 2009 at 11:53 am |
  13. Mike

    Please build a passenger rail system. I hate flying and looked for a train from Louisville KY to NYC on my last trip. The trip by rail would take 30 hours plus. I think it would be quicker on a bus. We need alternatives to flying and rail would seem to me the be the best.

    May 28, 2009 at 11:53 am |
  14. Some Jet Pilot

    I love how some people do not know anything about the training process and automatically assume the worst. I worked for Gulfstream Airlines while I was going to school in Jacksonville at Delta Connections academy. I got to meet most of the pilots that had that run from tampa to jax and they were very knowledgable of their aircraft. The school I went to did the same thing except it was a 4 year program because we also were tied to Jax University. The flight times were about the same if you got hired on after being an instructor to get the minimum hours for the interview itself. If you look at any flight school there will be problems, not everyone is meant to pilot and yet they don't figure that out until someone gets hurt. I have been flying for 15 years now (and am only 26) have my ATP, CFI, MEI and am a copilot on a private jet. I dont have as many hours as the captians on airlines do but with the proper training you can easily avoid these situations that apparently these pilots got into. Its not the amount of time you have, its the experience you have...lets say you learn to fly but have to deal with engine problems and storms during some of your lessons...theres the experience. Lets say Joe Blow learns to fly but has no problems during his training...how is he going to react during an emergency since he has only practiced and never had a real one? So please do not go about thinking young pilots or low time pilots are unsafe..that would be assinine of you to do so. Most of the pilots trained are very safe at the flight schools around the country...but there are a few that cannot handle the stress when something happens in the air.

    May 28, 2009 at 11:53 am |
  15. Andy A

    Not much more than sensationalism. Yes, safety is paramount, but why didn't you talk to the FAA? They set the rules.

    May 28, 2009 at 11:51 am |
  16. Greg

    I've been a commercial pilot for more that 30 years and fly freight for one of the largest overnight package companies.

    Gulfstream is not even close to being the only commuter airline to have "pay to fly" first officers. Many of the commuter airlines have similar programs. The ones that don't still hire first officers with as low as 350 hours and pay them somewhere between $18,000 and $22,000 per year to start. Chances are that the next time you board a commuter flight you'll have a captain that is making somewhere between $30,000 to $90,000 per year and a first officer making between $18,000 to $30,000 per year. It's always been this way, you pay a small fortune for training to get a commercial license plus an instrument license and then try to make enough to stay alive (while paying off your training) while you build hours to fly for the "real airlines". Part of the problem now is that very soon there will be no "real airlines". It used to be that you'd build experience and hours with the commuters, while starving and camping out in a small apartment with three other similar pilots who were never around because they were out on trips (did I mention that the schedule is lousy too?). You'd spend all your free time sending out resumes to the "real airlines" where the pay scale was MUCH better, and topped out at about $230,000 per year for a senior captain with the majors. These days only FedEx and UPS, and maybe one or two others, have that pay scale. Most of them have been suffering pay cuts and layoffs, if not total shutdown. Now many people are spending their whole careers in the commuters, since the top pay has gotten better and the majors aren't hiring and increasingly look much like the commuters.

    Much of the carping about "pay to fly" is that it further erodes an already tight job market and further depresses an already abysmal pay scale for commuter pilots. If I were a young pilot looking for a job and had the resources, such a program would look attractive and make economic sense, so I understand why people do it.

    All this does NOT mean that it's necessarily unsafe, it depends on the airline and the program. Smaller airlines have always had lower time pilots and poor pay. No one that works for a living can afford to pay for all the time it takes to make a well trained and experienced captain

    The bottom line is, that if you want to fly for the airlines, you'd better love flying, since the training is expensive, the starting pay very low and the employment prospects iffy at best.

    I love flying boxes and I make a decent living doing it, but I starved and drove $200.00 beaters for years to get there.

    I still love it!

    May 28, 2009 at 11:50 am |
  17. Jack Lord

    Chinese business practices meet US mainland. Sure, most people could fly a plane with minimal training, but for the .01% of occassions where non-routine things happen, I want a pilot with demonstarted experience whether it is flight simulator or real. These buy and fly resorts are scams: pure and simple.

    May 28, 2009 at 11:50 am |
  18. PDX Dave

    I flew for Gulfstream as a Captain back in the early '90s. No matter how appalled you are at this story, trust me - the reality is worse.

    As a Captain, I came to the job with about 3,000 hours (if I remember right - it was a long time ago) and an Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) rating. The FOs (first officers) generally had Commercial tickets with wet ink and around 300 hours max.

    Gulfstream markets this program as a way for FOs to get experience, but what kind of experience do you think they get? My FOs loaded the bags and briefed the passengers. If they were good, they'd get to take the controls en route. They NEVER touched the controls during the critical taxi/takeoff/departure climb/approach descent/landing phases of flight because they just weren't safe. This is not a judgement of the people involved, but an assessment of their levels of experience and, therefore, skill and airmanship. Most were young, cocky, and dangerously over-confident. (Which most sub-5,000 hour pilots are, to be fair.)

    One other thing to consider: if Gulfstream is cutting costs in training, what do you think they're doing to maintain their aircraft? I quit Gulfstream after about 6 months on the line because of thier horrible maintenance program. One time I was told to fly a load of passengers to Miami after the breaks had failed on the right side of the aircraft. I refused and got in trouble.

    Another time, the horizontal stabilizer (the flat part in the tail) actually broke - the structures under the exterior skin that give it it's aerodymanic shape had failed after a pilot overstressed the aircraft while flying too close to a thunderstorm. My FO found the problem during the pre-flight inspection, so I called Operations told them that the aircraft was down and that I needed a replacement. They told me there were no other aircraft, and that I needed to take that one. I got on the crew bus, rode to Ops, turned my ID and quit. I later heard that the aircraft kept flying for 6 WEEKS before the tail folded itself in half during a takeoff run. Fortunately, no one was hurt.

    Where was the FAA, you may ask? I called the Miami FSDO to report these problems - they weren't interested.

    May 28, 2009 at 11:49 am |
  19. Ron

    Has it occurred to anyone (particularly the author of this article) that the pilot academies don't make the policy? That would be the FAA...hello! The academies are providing a service, that simple. And if they're providing the training required by the FAA, then why isn't this article pointed at the FAA?

    May 28, 2009 at 11:49 am |
  20. Tim

    Wasn't one of the pilots of the Comair crash a Gulfstream graduate? They took off on the wrong runway a couple years ago.

    May 28, 2009 at 11:49 am |
  21. Bob

    'Pilot Factory' –> hahaha!!!

    According to this article we should also be afraid of the FAA who hires people off the street to become air traffic controllers and who learn on the job after only 3 months. Sorry, there's no other way around it.

    Also, if the author would have the slightest idea about the airline industry, he would know that over 90% of pilots enter the airline industry 1 of 2 ways: Military flying experience OR regional airlines. You can't compare regional airline minimum qualifications with 'major' airlines. Pilots 'upgrade' from regional or military, hence they have more experience.
    This is like comparing a CEO salary with that of a high school drop out. Apples vs. Oranges. Sorry, no merit behind this article.

    May 28, 2009 at 11:49 am |
  22. Bob

    Trying to compare Military training and what goes on at Gulfstream is comical. The military spends upwards of a Million dollars per pilots on training. They also have a rigorous selection process to ensure that those that are selected will be able to handle the tough pace of training.

    Gulfsteam seems to have but one requirement, that you bring money. They provide just enough training to get you out the door and the next chump in.

    May 28, 2009 at 11:48 am |
  23. srk

    to old school:

    Do you have ANY idea of what it costs to train in a commercial jetliner? The per-hour cost of fuel alone runs into the thousands. Once you get beyond a certain size aircraft, they absolutely have to train on the job. Do you seriously think anyone would rack up a half million dollars in debt renting commercial airliners to become a professional pilot with a starting salary of $17-22k? Do you know that first year pilots are paid so little that they actually qualify for food-stamps? In many cases, the taxi-cab driver that takes you to the airport makes more than the pilot... ...and you'd blaming the get-rich quick mentality of the 'young people'? Do your research before you pontificate.

    May 28, 2009 at 11:47 am |
  24. Travis

    I think practically every comment on here is missing the real point. With flying and practically every other occupation there is a learning curve where "experience" is gained. BUT how does one get that experience because no one can GIVE you that experience? You have to DO the job. What I do the govenment reqires you to have 2 years apprenticeship before you gan get a license, that is fine, but practically every company I actually do the work for work for says they will only take work from someone from a license. So in reality how do they expect ever to have new people come into the field? It is impossible, unless you let the people learn on the job.

    To the person who commented on Dr's. Any University Medical school is where the Dr's are PRACTICING on you. Ever heard of the show ER? Half the Dr's on there were RESIDENTS – they are learning! Yet we let them cut and poke on us every day. Does that not seem a bit odd if you think experience is the only measurment of comptency?

    So if someone needs experience – and the only way to get it is to do the job – then you have to let them get the practice. Remember the right seat is the co-pilot. The PILOT is in command of the aircraft and so the person that is building hours etc is not actually flying the plane with every responsibility, they are learning. So these people who puff out there chest and say "they need more experience," what the heck do you think they are doing????
    It's not money, or cutting corrners, or lack of training. It is simply how humans learn. If they stuck two people who just graduated last week in the plane and said go fly it then that is one thing, but these graduates are co-pilots just as they should be. They build hours and then more over time. Sure the large airlines may cream off the people with the most hours but the only way to get to 1,500 hours is to start at 1 There is no other way to do it, so don't be such hypocrites. Every job has a learning curve and we have to expect and give people a chance to learn or any skill will die out.

    So unless someone can prove they put two new pilots into a plane and said "fly it" and neither had ever flew that model before then get over it. They were doing what they were supposed to do.

    May 28, 2009 at 11:47 am |
  25. Luke

    I am a pilot with 350hrs and a certified flight instructor all single engine. I do think that Gulf Stream has a good program even though i got my ratings through an accredited university. The problem that most people dont understand is, you cant train a regular pilot like me to fly jet airplanes without putting them into a jet with passengers. Yes initially you train in a multimillion dollar simulator but guess what people, every FOs first flight in an actual Jet is with a load full of paying customers in the back. Training Costs being so high and airplane tickets being so low contribute to this fact. I would say that 99% of pilots flying jets, either brand new FOs or very experienced Captains are ready to handle any problem in the cockpit. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the flight... DING.

    May 28, 2009 at 11:42 am |
  26. Hi

    How many crashes have been from Embry Riddle graduates? How about former military pilots? May as well tally it all up to be fair.
    Most importantly – where is the evidence the training program at Gulfstream causes crashes?

    May 28, 2009 at 11:42 am |
  27. EJ

    As ex-Navy and major airline pilot, now retired, agree with those surprised and leery of the story's subject, and I will not fly them as well. But there is a far more important note to this, as well as the revelations a couple weeks ago that both pilots had made long commutes and were likely not well rested... due low pay had to live at "home", or even work a second job. That being our need to admit that Deregulation has just not worked!

    May 28, 2009 at 11:42 am |
  28. Ontario Canada

    In the case of Gulfstream International Airlines they are "hiring" their own graduates. However, in the case of any other commerical carrier, the responsibility to ensure pilots are fully qualified and experienced falls solely on the carrier and not Gulfstream Academy.

    The focus here should not be on how inexperienced or poorly trained Gulfstream's pilots may be, but rather on the companies who hire them. What does that say about their standards? Let's also not forget that these pilots meet all FAA requirements to fly commercially.

    May 28, 2009 at 11:41 am |
  29. Jamie

    Capt'n Sully they are not... is that what you're trying to tell me?

    May 28, 2009 at 11:41 am |
  30. Bryan P - Atlanta, GA

    This is what you get when you deregulate an industry.

    No experience, cheap fares and low wages.

    May 28, 2009 at 11:40 am |
  31. chris

    This is why I go to Embry Riddle.

    May 28, 2009 at 11:40 am |
  32. Patrick

    @ Ann: Any airline pilot does go through rigorous recurrent training, simulator checkrides every 6 months (like an exam you take to see if you can keep your job...every 6 months !!)

    @Frank: Experience is very helpful but pointing out the hudson event does not show anything about that, but just a whole lot of LUCK ! Sure, a pilot with only 1500 hours (minimum for Airline Transport Pilot License) might not have done as well, but to point out an incredible remote chance of luck, which many of my fellow airlinepilots have said they would not have been able to replicate, is futile.

    Knowing some of the pilots from Gulfstream, and having flown in the same area as their routes for years, I can say that they are not that different from schools from the past : Pay for a seat was in the mid-90's a normal way to work yourself up through the ranks, get experience and find yourself marketable in the ever growing pilotmarket. The pilots I know, are hardworking, professional, experienced guys. They went through a lot at Gulfstream, Like every company, there is always something to complain, but they endured to get to where they wanted to be.. a seat in the flightdeck of an airplane.. and mostly they had themselves to thank for it.

    Frankly, I am surprised that Gulfstream still uses those tactics like pay for hours.. I would have thought that that system was outdated. Also many pilots to be need the most and best training/flight hours/ experience in a type of airplane to compete with eachother in this difficult time with so many pilots sidelined.

    Please CNN, I hope you will dig deeper than just the surface; use all the tools that are available like the FAR regulations, to get a clear picture accross to the public. If you don't, you will do a disservice to my industry and the people who I see daily as passengers.

    May 28, 2009 at 11:39 am |
  33. Real Live MD

    Pay less for your airline ticket, you get a trainee pilot. Pay less for your medical care, you get a nurse practitioner or physician's assistant. And then you hope for the best. It's not complicated.

    May 28, 2009 at 11:38 am |
  34. DeltaV

    As far as military pilots being better...some are, some aren't. I deal with the zipper-suited sun gods on a regular basis..some are first rate, some should not be trusted on a big wheel, much less a jet.

    May 28, 2009 at 11:37 am |
  35. Paul

    Companies that provide driving lessons with a trained instructor use a car marked "Student Driver". Perhaps the airlines that are giving lessons should mark "Student Pilot " on the fuselage.

    May 28, 2009 at 11:37 am |
  36. melissa

    The individual writing this article should have done more of their homework. Gulf Stream does not take any person of the street with 0 flight time and have them sit in the co-pilots seat. This article is a severe misrepresentation of the program. After completely various licenses, new pilots have to build time and experience. As you correctly noted they need a minimum of 1,500 hours and much of this needs to PIC (pilot-in-command). Yet, where do you go to build up time? Who will hire you to build up? Places like Gulf Stream and others all along the country are legitimate avenues for pilots ot beef up their time and experience before going on to the major airlines. I also question whether or not you are correct on Gulf Stream using these co-pilots on flights with passengers! I have had a number of close friends go through these types of programs and they have not carried paid customers. I suggest you do more homework and be a more sophisticated write. Yes, air traffic has its problems. Humans are prone to error regardless of the industry and unfortunately when error occurs in an airplane many lives are at stake. Regardless, proper journalism should not seek to run company names into the mud in order to find out the exact reason for which a plane crashed. All this does is irriate the populatio of pilots around the world who do their job properly everyday and it does nothing but spread anger into the families who are victims of lose. Be more senstive to everyone involved!

    May 28, 2009 at 11:36 am |
  37. DeltaV

    Ann– Pilots are tested regularly, and your praise of license holders in other fields is a bit off base. Doctors, nurses and paramedics just have to take training hours, no test is given after a license is gained so long as continuing education hours are maintained. Pilots are tested annually at least. Given than building time in a jet can cost over 1000 dollars an hour how else is someone going to get trained with the several hundred hours required? Not too many people I know can afford to fly regularly in a 4 seat light plane, much less a jet. Military pilots fly jets with just a few hundred hours in combat. They say the school has turned out 3 pilots out of more than 1700 involved in fatal accidents....I wonder what the rate is for other training pipelines? This is tabloid journalism at it's best, but then I am used to reporters not knowing anything about the subject they write about.

    May 28, 2009 at 11:35 am |
  38. Art Ahrens

    This article starts to point to the problem, but does not address it. It is true that the major airlines, as well as many corporate flying departments require a minimum of 1500 hrs of time. That time must also include hours that consist of multi-engine and turbine time. The minimum numbers for a commercial license, is 250 hrs. This allows pilots to fly for hire, but NOT to carry passengers. The FAA still requires 1500 hrs to fly Pilot in Command with a scheduled carrier. Therefore, this creates a gap in hours that is a challenge for non military pilots to fill. In my opinion, there is really nothing wrong with the first officer having low time as long as the captain has the experience and the maturity to mentor the co pilot to fill his "gap." What needs to be investigated is the pay level of the regional carriers to make sure that the captains are paid well enough to get the cream of the pilot crop to train and mentor the co pilots and prepare them to move into the left seat.

    May 28, 2009 at 11:34 am |
  39. doris

    I am deeply troubled that such a program exists, but not surprised. Quality is not considered a necessity in anything anymore in this country. Even more troubling is that a political bent is being put on it by some of your responders. This group has been "training" pilots for years. Why would anyone blame Bush for it when several presidents have served in office during its existence? I am not a Republican. However I find it very distasteful that a vindictive political bent is placed on EVERYTHING today. Let's get politics out of it and get down to what is important to keep America viable and successful!

    May 28, 2009 at 11:33 am |
  40. ja

    this is the result of greed, and shortcuts to riches

    May 28, 2009 at 11:31 am |
  41. marilyn

    I find this information appalling...as a mother of a young pilot, I do not understand how you can get "on the job" training with passengers in the plane...my son has spent long hours training to become a pilot at Embry Riddle University earning his degree as well as completely understanding flight and its implications...he also spent many hours being a flight instructor..all of this before he could even sit in the co-pilot seat...he is still earning his hours so that one day he could sit in the captain's chair...People shouldn't be allowed to pay their way into that position...lives are at stake...you wouldn't let a doctor pay his way into the operating room..

    May 28, 2009 at 11:30 am |
  42. snowbird

    It is cheaper to deal with lawsuits after the accident then to to pay for properly trained pilots, My entry level 737 Jet pilot (right seat) fully trained and certified at the airline's expense, including salary during training was 80K. The cost of doing bussines !!! . Of course not in the USA, different countries have very different airline regulations and the USA is on the low end of the scale.
    Inocent passangers pay with their lives, this is criminal, they get away because the flying public is not aware of what goes on behind the scenes.
    It's not safe as it could and should be !!!

    May 28, 2009 at 11:29 am |
  43. Westchaser

    Is this the same outfit that provided training to the terrorist team of "9/11" Sept 11, 2001?

    May 28, 2009 at 11:29 am |
  44. Kate

    Worrisome, but I have a question:

    Everyone wants experienced pilots, but how are they supposed to become experienced if no one wants to hire them because they don't have enough hours?

    May 28, 2009 at 11:28 am |
  45. Stacy Rogers

    What do you expect when you are paying these commuter co-pilots less than $30k/year?!?!? I mean seriously, if you want a highly skilled pilot with thousands of hours, you are going to have to pay the price, and hence, the price of the ticket will increase too.

    May 28, 2009 at 11:27 am |
  46. thomas klein

    Well folks, we elected a new President of the United States and he didn't have the required time in office for experience. What's the Difference ???

    May 28, 2009 at 11:27 am |
  47. Mike

    Really? That's the best scare story you can come up with? Let's try some news. Every professional program requires apprenticeship, it's not like they're flying solo with a plane full of people after a 3 month program. Lowest common denominator...what do we call this..."reporting"?

    May 28, 2009 at 11:27 am |
  48. EM

    Trust me, there are plenty of pilots who hold a commercial pilot certificate who are amateurs. In fact, pilots should have extensive experience beyond the commercial pilots certificate to be allowed anywhere near an airliner.

    However I do agree that the quality of training does make a difference. But the programs you speak of also have a rigorous screening process. No screening is required to be accepted into Gulfstream International's program. The only requirement is money. I also can tell you that the "training" that Gulfstream provides is not comparable to military or the European programs you speak of.

    May 28, 2009 at 11:26 am |
  49. Donna

    CNN ....while you are in Florida...go check out Delta Connection Academy. Are you brave enough to expose the problems???????

    2nd year students teach 1st year students....the entire system is flawed. The crash at Delta that killed a student and instructor this past winter...check out the ages of the people involved...they were missing 8 hours before Delta noticed they were even up with a plane.

    Research the plane that they use, the Cirrus SR-20...it was never intended to be a trainer, even experienced pilots have trouble controlling a spin. Explore the bus loads of foreign students who return to fly in their country with as few as 250 hours.

    May 28, 2009 at 11:25 am |
  50. Brian

    I do not understand why all the finger pointing to the actual flight school. The school is there to provide "TRAINING". They also provide the opportunity to earn flight hours with a "QUALIFIED" captain in the left seat.

    I do not agree with blaming Gulfstream for the mishaps of pilots that graduate from their program. It would be like blaming Harvard University because your attoney lost your case and happened to be a Harvard Graduate.

    Most airlines, if not all, provide their own training in simulators prior to putting new pilots on flights. They are trained to fly the specific plane the airlines uses. They are also put through scenarios, including fatal crash environments when in the simulator. Most are also required to do check flights to ensure they know how to fly their specific aircraft.

    Lets be honest here. Not every pilot should be a pilot just because they have a license or because they went to a prestigiuos school. You can go to the best schools money can buy, but if you can not retain what you have learned, you will fail.

    May 28, 2009 at 11:25 am |
  51. maddawg

    lmao.....spoken like a TRUE IDIOT rj.......

    'Plane' and simple...(pun intended) it is the PILOTS FAULT...PERIOD!

    if you act as PIC, Pilot In Command, of any airplane, glider, blimp, etc. it is YOUR responsibility ALONE to assure the safety of all people on board.

    for a pilot to even consider being PIC, he/she MUST know all there is about the operation of that craft..!!!

    the pilot who crashed over buffalo was at the very least, an IMBECILE!

    he took command of a craft that he KNEW he was not fully knowledgeable on....it is his fault ONLY!

    you don't believe it......READ THE F.A.Rs!

    as i stated in my first sentence....rj is an idiot that can barely spell airplane let alone know all the requirements, responsibilities and safety a PIC MUST put into the job of flying.

    most of you guys comments on here are pathetic at best....like the one that blames the politicians....NOPE...IT'S STILL THE PILOTS FAULT!

    or the first idiot to comment that blames the airlines attempting to make cheaper seats....NOPE...IT'S STILL THE PILOTS FAULT!

    or the lady that says going through embry riddles program would have made the pilot qualified to fly....NOPE...IT'S STILL THE PILOTS FAULT!

    or eric who is an airline employee blaming the flight school....NOPE...IT'S STILL THE PILOTS FAULT!

    did the flight school FORCE the pilot to act as PIC? NOPE...IT'S STILL THE PILOTS FAULT!

    the PIC has the ultimate authority over the craft he/she is in command of....not ATC, not the GOV, not the president, not his training school....ONLY THE PIC!

    and having that authority the PIC can decide to do, or not do, any action required to keep the craft airworthy and it's occupants safe!

    in the case of a pilot not trained enough or knowlegeable enough....yep you guessed it.....IT'S STILL THE PILOTS FAULT!

    May 28, 2009 at 11:23 am |
  52. Gerard

    It's simple really.
    The airlines have manipulated the bankruptcy system and the Railway Labor Act, with the support of an anti-labor government, to reduce pilot wages so low that no one with a brain or ability wants the job anymore.
    Be a plumber, make more money, home every night, no random drug and urine tests. No long layovers at airport hotels, getting up at 3 AM and getting home the next day at 3AM. No pay cuts while airline executives steal obscene bonuses, no TSA weenies sniffing your breath, etc, etc,
    The profession has been destroyed and we, the public, are just beginning to pay the price.

    May 28, 2009 at 11:23 am |
  53. Maureen

    This is yet another example of sensationalist reporting. The only one getting rich quick here is CNN, which has basically become a tabloid publication.
    The training program described is the same basic program all non-military pilots follow. Whether Gulfstream is a poor teaching facility is a different question. There is no way a pilot can become 'experienced' ie accrue significant flight hours without – flying. So the career path generally looks like: training-flight instructor-regional-major. In 2007, the regionals had a 1000 flight hour minimum hiring requirement.
    The airlines invest thousands of dollars in the hiring process for each potential pilot, then $30,000+ for each type of plane they will fly.
    They are seriously not going to hire yahoos – not that yahoos are likely to make it through training.
    The safety issue rests more with the NTSB and FAA – who need to take responsibility for their many outdated, irresponsible standards. The Buffalo and Lexington crashes were partially a result of pilot fatigue. Maximum flying hours and minimum rest standards should be tailored to the short flights that regional airlines provide., totally different schedules from mainline flights.
    Regional pilots are completely overworked and grossly underpaid. What about having 'salary commensurate with responsibility'?? A large part of the blame for that rests with public expectations of cheap airfares.

    May 28, 2009 at 11:23 am |
  54. coopervane

    And for Ann. Captains are required to perform proficiency checks twice a year, along with an annual recurrent ground school.

    May 28, 2009 at 11:20 am |
  55. J

    This is why I always travel via hot-air balloon. It's fool-proof.

    May 28, 2009 at 11:20 am |
  56. Bob Newkirk

    Ann-Airline pilots are re-qualified every 6 months. Class 1 Physical, Written / Oral Testing and Simulator Training

    May 28, 2009 at 11:20 am |
  57. Dave

    Many of your posters are misinformed. Ann, FAR Part 121, 125, 135 pilots test to keep their jobs every 6 months and annually. The military's training takes "0" time pilots to fledgling combat pilots using schools perfected since 1911. They've cleaned up a lot of deficiencies in those programs using large amounts of taxpayer money. They're fine programs no doubt. Many airlines use pilots from many programs like Gulfstream's. All airline pilot's receive at least 25 hours of Initial Operating Experience (IOE, line training with passengers on board on revenue flights) after completing their Airline's Basic Indoctrination ground school (2 to 3 weeks), aircraft specific ground (1 to 2 weeks), and aircraft specific simulator training (1 week to 2 weeks). I've been the Line Check Airman who conductd IOE with people from some of these programs for a Regional Carrier. I've had students come to me with as little as 280 hours total flight time and do it in regional jets. As with the military's program, the safety of the situation depends on the basic training received, the maturity of the individual, and the quality of the advanced training at each level. Consistent problems traceable to an individual source raise the red flag of problems/

    May 28, 2009 at 11:17 am |
  58. Randy

    I guess my brother-in-law chose the wrong school. He went to a school owned by Delta that is also based in Florida. He spent two years, $100k and now works a part time gig at a party store due to the lack of jobs. I sure hope these companies continue to take peoples money and line the pockets of their execs while the newly trained pilots come out owing thousands in student loans while they flip burgers and struggle to support a family.

    May 28, 2009 at 11:17 am |
  59. Bob Newkirk

    The statement in the article about having low time pilots is like seeing a medical student instead of a doctor rings a bell. When I go to my HMO I usually see a Nurse Practitioner instead of a doctor. It all boils down to everybody trying to get by using the cheapest way possible. It doesn't matter about the quality of service anymore, just how much money companies can make while providing the minimum service required.

    May 28, 2009 at 11:17 am |
  60. Kenneth

    Those of you citing the military and European carriers ... those pilots are handpicked and selected to receive that training. The difference here is that anyone with a commercial license and $30k can fly for Gulfstream. The USAF and Navy screen their applicants. Gulfstream pilots buy their way in.

    May 28, 2009 at 11:16 am |
  61. Latigo

    If you dig deep enough into almost everything in this country today, you come up wiith MONEY – how to get it, how to scrounge it, how to steal it or con it from those who have it, and how to keep from paying it, .e, cheap training will produce cheap salarie..

    Who certifies Gulstream's school in Florida? Who monitors this school and its instructors? Is it real certifiation or just a license bought and paid for – again MONEY?

    If you're smart, you won't fly in bad weather or fly the cheap-seat arilines and hope that the big airlnes aren't trying to cut costs by hiring badly trained pilot s for less MONEY. The savings of a couple hundred bucks isn't worth your life or that of your loved ones.

    May 28, 2009 at 11:16 am |
  62. coopervane

    I am a regional captain, and anyone who compares military training to these "corner cutting" pilot mills know NOTHING about the military. Do you REALLY think GIA even compares to air force training?

    In the real world experience absolutely does matter, and we should not be building hours in an airliner flying paying passengers around!

    I fly with brilliant first officers all the time. They predominently came from a background of flying cargo in smaller airplanes, or flight instructing and teaching others how to fly. Sometimes I fly with one of these pilot factory guys, and I feel like I am all alone in the cockpit. I have to teach them how to fly. I am tired of taking responsibility for an entire aircraft with one of these arrogant, spoiled "I want to be an airline pilot NOW" wannabees.

    Look it is very simple.... ask any pilot. The ONLY ones who think that GIA or other pilot mills are a good idea are the ones who took the short cut and attended them. Thats all.

    May 28, 2009 at 11:16 am |
  63. Larry

    To bad journalism (such as this) is'nt held to any standards. Spreading miss information as an occupation should result in time behind bars.

    May 28, 2009 at 11:14 am |
  64. george

    Potential pilots should go through Embry Riddle’s program. Then they would be qualified to fly.

    Ha Ha. That got a good laugh from me

    May 28, 2009 at 11:14 am |
  65. Mark

    This is a result of deregulation. If the government has the right to license automobile drivers, then they can increase the requirements for commercial pilot licenses.

    May 28, 2009 at 11:13 am |
  66. Renee

    Umm...US Air Force pilots train for 2 years before flying at a real base. They might be instructed in-flight, but they're not carrying passengers and the instructor is fully focused on training the student.

    May 28, 2009 at 11:13 am |
  67. Eric

    No comparison should be made to military pilot training. The intensity, the focus, and the high attrition of military pilot training is beyond reproach by civilian pilots. A monkey can get a pilot's license, but only a very intelligent monkey can make through military pilot training.

    May 28, 2009 at 11:12 am |
  68. Leah

    How does one know that a flight is operated by Gulfstream International? Although I try to avoid commuter flights whenever possible, I do have to fly them sometimes. Yet I have never seen Gulfstream indicated on any of my flight itineraries.

    May 28, 2009 at 11:11 am |
  69. JETPILOT

    First... I am an airline pilot and I am familiar with the GulfstreamFirst Officer program. I have no affiliation with them nor have I worked for Gulfstream.

    All the pilots at Gulfstream Airlines have to pass an FAA checkride with an FAA examiner. So if you can pass the FAA's requirments then why shouldn't you be able to fly passengers around.

    Pilots of european and asian carriers are often hired with zero time and come out of school with approx 300 hrs and then receive trainig in large jets and fly the line. So what is happeneing at Gulfsteream is happening at Virgin Atlntic and Asiana.

    There are good pilots and there are bad pilotts. If you meet the FAA requirments on a checkride and then don't hold your daily flying activities to the same standard ange get lax you will have problems no matter hwo much time you have.

    We should look back even further to where these pilots got their initial training. There are big differences in the education you receive at a good proffesional fligth academy or college and one you will get at a small local school. But in the end it just comes down to the individual and how he/she conducts themselves while in the cockpit.

    I've seen horrific pilots with thousands of hours and I've seen great pilots with low time. Low time is not the issue!.

    May 28, 2009 at 11:11 am |
  70. John Scott

    Direct result of Airline deregulation. Too much competition leads to these kinds of results. No different then the trucking industry, the phone companies or any other business sector that was deregulated.
    You cannot expect greedy businesses to properly manage safety.
    At the most what you see these low hour pilots do is become a third seat pilot with the ability to gain experience through at least the minimum hours of 1500. I certainly think military flight time should be considered but only if that time is directly related to piloting. Everybody is right that says the cheap air fares have directly affected this kind of training. As a society we should not try and bring costs down just for the sake of more people choosing flight instead of other transportation.

    May 28, 2009 at 11:11 am |
  71. Mathew

    No, Embry-Riddle just puts you $120,000 in debt and ensures you're still a flight instructor when you're in your 40's.

    Suzanne May 28th, 2009 10:36 am ET

    Potential pilots should go through Embry Riddle’s program. Then they would be qualified to fly.

    May 28, 2009 at 11:10 am |
  72. Kevin

    Our country treats pilots as second class citizens. Not only from the airline industry, but from the "pilot factory" mentioned here. I remember my first instructor. He was from New Zealand. He once said that in his native land, a pilot and/or a flight instructor was hailed as a professional. Someone that was noticed for their commitment and dedication to their selected career. Someone that has paid a considerable sum, not only in monies for training, and then more training, but also for the amount of time and effort to become a professional, competent, and safe pilot. A complete pilot. We may do this for a love of avaition but it would be nice to get paid a reasonable wage as well.

    May 28, 2009 at 11:06 am |
  73. George Kastanes

    The number of hours of pilot time is irrelevant. The major airlines arrived at their requirements because of a history of having an almost unlimited pool of over qualified pilots to pick from. The military trains pilots and puts them into combat with only a few hundred hours of flight training. If someone can pilot an F-16 in about 500 hours why would anyone reasonably argue that it takes 1500 hours to qualify someone to sit in the right seat of a commuter airline. Focus on duty hours instead. The practice as outlined in the NTSB Colgan hearings of pilots living hundreds and even thousands of miles away, commuting the day or night before a flight and then getting into the cockpit is far scarier than a 250 hour co-pilot who, unless the captain collapses, essentially has no more serious responsibility than putting the wheels up and down when told to do so.

    May 28, 2009 at 11:06 am |
  74. Collin Roche

    I hate it when reporters write about things they know little about. People commenting below (the ones that know something about FAA procedure and requirements) make good points. Oh, and Suzanne: GO RIDDLE!!! Class of '07!

    May 28, 2009 at 11:06 am |
  75. PD

    I agree completely with Mr. Moore's take on the airline industry and the medicore training that is occuring. This is one industry that really does require that each airline operator hire the best and the brightest. This simply does not occur any more. Co-Pilot's salaries when starting out are far less than even a city bus driver's pay. Some airlines Captain's salaries are dismal also. Unfortunately, it seems that little can be done to attract quality airmen to the business, because the regulations of commercial airlines, cost of fuel, etc. make top quality pilots fall out of the budget. Oh well. I can drive or take trains from now on. Afterall, the new GE Eco Locomotive is far more environmentally friendly than an Airbus 380.

    May 28, 2009 at 11:06 am |
  76. David Arnold

    Having been a pilot for 30+years It's my opinion the media will sensationalize a tragic event, daily there are numerous events that could turn out tragic, but don't and are not reported. It's because they are not reported no one knows and all is well.
    Any pilot that has flown has made mistakes, some are more costly, and create media attention which sells. My flight instructor said that making a mistake is OK, Compounding your mistakes will kill you, and I have carried that little bit of information through life.

    May 28, 2009 at 11:05 am |
  77. Jeffrey Mullins

    The difference with military training is that it is much more intensive, selective and competitive. Not everyone can go pay $30,000 dollars and end up in a F/A-18. Also, every minute in the cockpit is spent training – very few of the trainer aircraft have any form of autopilot which ends up doing most of the flying civilian side.

    May 28, 2009 at 11:05 am |
  78. Bill

    I am an airline pilot, I fly an MD-80. This article is absolutely true, but it doesn't go far enough. There is more concern with Gulfstream than simply lack of experience. These pilots are essentially buying their jobs for $30K. The school has pressure to pass these students and offer them jobs flying passengers otherwise students would not pay the money for their training. It is a huge conflict of interest which is compromising your safety.
    The problem is inexperience is found in all regional airlines. New pilots earn less than $20,000/year and due to the low pay, they can only attract the least experienced pilots. All of the regional airlines are gambling with your safety. This practice needs to stop. You need to write your congressman about the problem or this will never end. The public is quick to forget.

    May 28, 2009 at 11:05 am |
  79. Brian

    Do you really think that Continental Express drives the fares for the whole country? As far as I know, no other airline does this, so it's not about low fares. There are plenty of low-fare airlines that have properly trained pilots. We're not talking about an industry-wide practice here, we're talking about one really bad airline.

    May 28, 2009 at 10:59 am |
  80. Beth

    I wouldn't call the fares they charge from Ft. Lauderdale to Key West cheap – I looked yesterday and it is $315/person for a 1-hour ride – give me a break, can fly from NJ RT to Ft. Lauderdale for much less than that on a real plane.

    May 28, 2009 at 10:59 am |
  81. John L, Wesley

    Flight training not only at Gulfstream but a lot of the other so called training acadamies is abysmal at best. These airplane drives, I will not call them pilots, are a ticking time bomb and the system is getting worse all of the time. there are a lot of factors involved but the biggest is money. Unless this system is changed, look for more Colgen Airs.

    FYI, I have been an FAA certified Flight Instructor for 41 years.

    May 28, 2009 at 10:58 am |
  82. Frank

    The "get used to it" way of thinking does not apply here – a pilot needs a great deal of experience, both practical and theory, when it comes to dealing with the many split-second decisions that can face them.

    The USAirways landing in the Hudson River was on good example of how years of experience do matter...

    On the other side of the coin, the crash in Buffalo was another...

    any pilot knows that without a lack of experience in all types of situations (if not in person, at least in a simulator) will almost likely result in a usually-fatal accident...

    I've been around aviation off an on for many years, and know too well what it means for a person to have – or not have enough – experience...

    May 28, 2009 at 10:58 am |
  83. A Consultant

    As a professional who must utilize air travel on a weekly and sometimes daily basis, this is not only alarming but downright scary.

    I frequently fly Continental from Newark, and did so on the day of the Buffalo incident, and this does make me think about my airline alliances.

    I hope the NTSB, Continental, and all airlines review their training partners – and the airline partners (Colgan) – to ensure the safety of their passengers.

    May 28, 2009 at 10:56 am |
  84. The Duke

    These guys do OK in VFR weather. Just don't fly with their airlines in bad weather and you'll survive the trip almost every time.

    May 28, 2009 at 10:55 am |
  85. Cassandra

    I would not want these wanna-be's in the right seat of my airline flights. This is truly a scary thing.

    Hence, that's why I fly only on the major carriers & not on these fly by night companies...

    May 28, 2009 at 10:53 am |
  86. Kevin

    We need quality pilots and aviation experts, but colleges are shutting down their aviation programs (mine did) leaving the bulk of airliner candidates to come from rural airports and these pilot mills. If you want degreed aviation professionals, tell your legislators to support collegiate aviation programs.

    May 28, 2009 at 10:52 am |
  87. R.Lord

    Why does the FAA approve this program even though it has much lower standards than other programs? Are the owners friends (campaign contributors) of the Bush family?

    May 28, 2009 at 10:51 am |
  88. Eric

    As an airline employee, I expect that my flight crew is well trained and experienced to handle all situations that may come up during a flight. To me, it is rather disturbing that this "flight school" would actually put trainees in the cockpit with a Captain and unknowing paying passengers. Personally, I would never get on a plane with a First Officer that has that few hours in the air of experience. Certainly the majority of the flying public would likewise be horrified and consider flying another airline.

    May 28, 2009 at 10:49 am |
  89. Michael

    Instead of blaming the airlines why don't you report on an American public who is too cheap to pay for the full fare prices that would be required to train proffisional pilots. You get what you pay for. Get over it

    May 28, 2009 at 10:45 am |
  90. Kenneth

    You're forgetting that the FO on the Comair flight that took off on the wrong runway at Lexington was also a Gulfstream grad. I'm a pilot and Gulfstream is the only carrier in the United States that I won't fly, and won't put my family on. These students buy their way to the right seat in the cockpit – and Gulfstream fails to notify its passengers of this practice. It's like having a med student do your open heart surgery, without the hospital telling you or charging you any less.

    May 28, 2009 at 10:38 am |
  91. Ann

    I believe that just like other professional jobs that require licencesure especially those in the transportation fields should be tested annually! And like many other professional positions regularly attend required continueing education that other professionals ( doctors, nurses, attorneys, pharmacists) MUST attend to keep their license. This would weed out the incompetent fools who somehow slip through. End of Story!!!!!

    May 28, 2009 at 10:37 am |
  92. Scott

    Give me military trained pilots every time.... All other training is without a doubt inferior.

    May 28, 2009 at 10:37 am |
  93. Suzanne

    Potential pilots should go through Embry Riddle's program. Then they would be qualified to fly.

    May 28, 2009 at 10:36 am |
  94. John

    Just another example of how our government and all its agencies are killing people.The whole USA is one big rip off to the taxpayers.Lets hope one of these tea parties is a march on DC to get rid of all the SCUM that run this country!!!

    May 28, 2009 at 10:35 am |
  95. Siegbert Tarrasch

    Oh...my...GOD!

    May 28, 2009 at 10:34 am |
  96. Charlie the Tease

    This article takes pilot training at Gulfstream totally out of context. If the issue is only time in terms of months or years, then how is it that military pilots get their "wings" in one year – ONE YEAR!!- and then transition to fighters and one year later (that's two total my friends) they are certified to fly F16's, F15's, FA18's, etc in COMBAT? The issue of pilot training is not time in terms of months, but focus, good instruction, and hours flying. Lufthansa has a pilot training program headquartered in Arizona, and they take raw recruits and put them through similar (to Gulfstream's program) training as a pathway to flying big commercial jets. Getting basic flight instruction, including up to a Commerical rating (which Gulfstream does), then a lot of time as copilot under a captain's oversight, is an excellent way of training. Gulfstream is rated very highly by all American airlines and their pilots have proven over the years as among the top.

    May 28, 2009 at 10:33 am |
  97. Old school

    This is just another example of the deteriorating mindset of America. Get rich quick at all costs. Everybody wants something for nothing and nobody wants to take time to do things right anymore and America is suffering for it. The mindset of young people that we are turning out into the workplace today is get something for nothing. Set a goal to get rich by 25. I mean really. It is this mindset that got us in the economic turmoil we're in now. I think we have lost sight of what really makes this country great. We're missing good core values that are needed to create a sturdy foundation on which to build the future.

    Gulfstream methods are inexcusable and they should be held accountable for the lost lives of their passagers if they are found at fault. Punishment should be severe enough to make an example out of them in order to discourage others from doing the same.

    May 28, 2009 at 10:31 am |
  98. William Thurston

    After reading the story on the pilots training I found several glaring errors in your report which could have been avoided with a little research of Part 61 of the FARs.

    May 28, 2009 at 10:29 am |
  99. Howard

    Many major overseas airlines, like Lufthansa take a non-pilot and provide all the training. These new pilots start flying the line with only a few hundred hours. By the way, the US Air Force does the same thing and those pilots are flying single engine fighters...

    So, you can't go by hours alone. It is more about the training process.

    Also, your use of the term amateur is misleading. I think Gulfstream requires the people starting in this program to have a commercial license. That is not an amateur... there is no such thing as an amateur license. There is only a Private pilot, commercial, and airline transport pilot.

    Howard

    May 28, 2009 at 10:12 am |
  100. RJ

    This is the result of cheap fares. Get used to it.

    May 28, 2009 at 9:38 am |
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