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. Matt

    Now this is a scary quote:

    "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."

    1700 pilots? Gulp!

    May 28, 2009 at 2:00 pm |
  2. Philip

    It is not the training that is the issue – it is the maturity level of the pilots. As a private pilot, I am in awe every time I fly. Safety and good airmanship is my main concern. Those two pilots who flew the plane to 41,000 ft and stalled out – they were just immature. You just don't do that. I'm concerned today's kids just really don't get it. Flying a plane is not like playing a video game. You have to be professional in your attitude from start to finish – or you die.

    May 28, 2009 at 1:59 pm |
  3. gregv

    Seriously, flip through any AOPA magazine and you'll see flight schools advertised all over the country with the same training opportunities.

    This article singles out one training organization when there are hundreds in North America.

    Allen and Laura should spend a little more time researching flight training before singling out entities for what is industry standard.

    May 28, 2009 at 1:58 pm |
  4. McGCFI

    This is just another case of a "pilot mill" or "pilot factory" pushing through people. Being a flight instructor and slowing working my way through hours I have gained more experience than most that go through in their training at gulfstream. A pilot with three hundred hours doesnt have the control of a small airplane needed to safely get out of most situations let alone being in a twin jet. All they are getting taught is how to babysit the autopilot. They are not getting any real world experience.

    Any icing conditions in florida and the bahamas? Any snow covered runways? Any mountain flying? Nope or rare answers these questions. All of these factors will be encountered by airline pilots.

    May 28, 2009 at 1:56 pm |
  5. John Smyth

    The Gulfstream applicant needs a commercial license with 300 hours pilot in command (PIC) minimum for entry to the program. Typically that would mean 350 to 400 hours flying time and possibly another 100 hours if the studnet had night, multiengine, and IFR endorsements.

    After that he/she gains an additional 250 hours of Gulfstream training before graduating. That is a lot of flying! Assuming 300 mph (low) you will soon realize that the student has flown 75,000 miles as a second officer on the program. And that is under the watchful eye of the First Officer.

    Don't smear a good institution (I'm not one of their students) or low time pilots because of unfortunate accidents or the unprofessional actions of a few. I'm a private pilot with several hundred hours PIC and several thousand hours of passenger flying on commercial airlines. I always feel safe and comfortable on my commercial flights in the knowledge of the training this pilots receive.

    May 28, 2009 at 1:52 pm |
  6. michael

    Gulfstream International Airlines just got crossed of my air travel list!

    May 28, 2009 at 1:52 pm |
  7. Andrei

    If you really have a problem with this, contact Continental.

    May 28, 2009 at 1:51 pm |
  8. Mark

    *yawn*...what, is this what we're all supposed to be scared of now? Whatever. Next.

    May 28, 2009 at 1:51 pm |
  9. steve

    I guess I will rely even more on land transportation after reading this story. What is really good is that I just got a new GPS and it has maps for Europe.

    Now I can drive to Europe...who needs a plane!

    May 28, 2009 at 1:51 pm |
  10. Tony

    Has Gulfstream ever had a fatal crash? related to pilot error? If not, it seems like the Academy is doing its job (training pilots on the BE1900D). The question should be what is happening to pilots once they leave Gulfstream?

    I was told by a pilot that had left there that they spent days in the classroom reviewing aircraft systems during training, while at his current airline the similar course was home study. This sounds like an industry problem to me. Scapegoating is cheap.

    Print a story on industry wide regional airline training. That might be more credible with more than one source/ airline. Less than a year ago American Eagle hiring standards had been 350 flying hours (per their website) TOTAL TIME! Compare that to your 1500 hrs. listed.

    May 28, 2009 at 1:51 pm |
  11. Charles Cass (USMC)

    Karaya, from yankeesville N.H. Guy, you are totally incorrect with your post. The best cilvilian Airline Pilots flying today ARE EX-MILITARY FLYBOYS PERIOD!!!! You need to know what your jaws are saying before you put your foot in your uneducated mouth!!! And one more point, the Airlines are always looking for a way to cut services and up the profit margin at our expense and safety so that they can give their CEOs that extra 3 million in his bonus package!!!!!

    May 28, 2009 at 1:49 pm |
  12. Mark

    Those of you comparing calendar time flying against seat time flying need to hold up for a minute. The two have nothing to do with one another. You can say you've been flying for 5 years if you got your license 5 years ago, but that tells me nothing about how much time you've actually spent at the controls. If you spend 3 hours a day. 5 days a week actually flying/training in a plane, you'll have to do that for 2 years to get 1500 hours flight time. Six hours a day would only take 1 year, 1 hour would take 6 years. Calendar time spent training is a useless factor to consider. Only actual flight hours and quality of ground AND air training count. Period. So those of you saying, "oh, becoming a co-pilot through Gulfstream that quick is no big deal, cuz my brother did it that quick in the military", you have no idea what you're talking about. I can assure you that one year in military flight school is far higher quality, far more intensive, and - let's face it - is starting out with a higher quality student overall. At Gulfstream, anyone with a big enough checkbook can get in.

    May 28, 2009 at 1:48 pm |
  13. lisa

    Pilots are human, humans make mistakes. There are no quarantees in life. Accidents happen, we do what we can to prevent them from happening, however, they still happen. No, I dont want to fly on a plane with a poorly trained pilot, but the only real quarantee of that unfortunately is to NOT FLY.

    May 28, 2009 at 1:36 pm |
  14. Roger

    Gulfstream is the University of Phoenix of flight training!

    May 28, 2009 at 1:35 pm |
  15. Chuck

    Fighter pilots should not be compared here. They are highly trained in the highly specialized arenas in which they fly. If they will someday fly commercial airliners they require a large amount of additional training in type aircraft, civil aviation protocols, domestic airspace education, airport procedures, etc. You want the most highly trained, disciplined, conciencious, teamwork oriented, professional you can get – not cut-rate McPilots...

    May 28, 2009 at 1:34 pm |
  16. Josh Sedman

    ".....Most major airlines require co-pilots to have a minimum of 1,500 hours of flight time"

    Totally false. 1,500 hours is a regulatory minimum to meet one of several eligibility requirements to hold an Airline Transport Pilot Certificate (ATP).

    I don't know of any major U.S. airline that would look at a new hire pilot with less than 5,000 hours.....

    The fact these pilots are operating in revenue service with a few hundred hours is appalling...

    May 28, 2009 at 1:34 pm |
  17. Matt

    I think what is demonstrated here is that (and I like CNN's reporting) this article is taken totally out of context and the result will not only be alarming to individuals who read this, but also result in a less than favorable opinion of Continental.

    What a number of professional pilots have pointed out below is that this article is taken out of context and that the Gulfstream Academy as well as others does actually require pilots to have a commercial license before .. from the Gulfstream website:

    First Officer candidates must be 18 years of age, hold FAA Commercial and Instrument certificates with a Multi-engine rating, a valid passport, and a first class medical certificate. The candidate will be required to demonstrate pilot proficiency and aeronautical knowledge via a simulator evaluation and written examination.

    I honestly think this is pretty iresponsible reporting

    May 28, 2009 at 1:34 pm |
  18. Bryant

    So four pilots out of 1700 plus graduates make this a bad school? Wonder how many planes have been crashed by pilots who haven't gone to this school.

    May 28, 2009 at 1:32 pm |
  19. BED

    I flew on Gulfstream twice this week, they are a great little airline. I have flown them for over 15 years all around Florida. Never had a safety problem. I am getting on a Southwest flight today and feel just as safe as getting on Gulfstream yesterday

    May 28, 2009 at 1:31 pm |
  20. Hrnt Flyr

    Howard, I disagree somewhat. First, military trainees are not being hired by civillians to get them safely from point A to B. Second, a certificate alone does not mean you are ready to copilot a pax aircraft. That's why the reputable companies have a minimum experience requirement as well as many other qualification requirements. Remember, these students can very quickly become PICs at any time and that would be a little frightning. Bottom line, just because some piece of paper says its legal, that doesn't mean you have the judgment and ability to take care of a hairy situation.

    May 28, 2009 at 1:30 pm |
  21. cfifish

    To "Old School" – If you think pilots are trying to get these jobs as part of a "get rich quick" a little research and think again. A starting First Officer at American Eagle Airlines makes $22,000 a year. $22,000!!!! In some parts of the country, that's BELOW the poverty line. Pilots don't start flying commercially for the money. They do it for the love of flying and being up there.

    Next time you fly on a carrier such as Colgan, American Eagle, or TransStates (United Express) – take a look at the guy sitting in the right seat in the cockpit. That guy is probably making 1/2 or more LESS than you are, and yet has more responsibility than you'll EVER have. He has to get 100 people safely to their destination, and God forbid he hit the landing a little hard and hear all the complaints. Get over yourself, and thank a pilot someday for even making it possible for you to get from NY to LA in 5 hours vs. 5 days.

    May 28, 2009 at 1:30 pm |
  22. TheDude

    Chris needs to get his facts straight, and obviously doesn't know what he's talking about. I flew for an airline in the great lakes region, flying twin engine turboprops, in the winter. Yes we see ice, and a fair amount of it. We see high surface winds. The airline not only has been very efficient with their t-prop service, but has NEVER had a fatal accident in one of those aircraft and has been in business over 50 years, operating turboprops for nearly all of it.

    May 28, 2009 at 1:29 pm |
  23. Pete

    Back in 1997 I flew a beech 1900 from La Guardia to Portland Maine after being stuck at LGA for a day and a half due to high winds and storms. On boarding the aircraft two young pilots sat up front and their flying was not impressive. You could tell they were inexperinced in windy conditions. It is a major airline that I'd rather not mention, but the pilots had to be no older than 22. Needless to say since kissing the ground on arrival at Portland Maine like the pope use too. I avoid flying small commuter flights since then.

    May 28, 2009 at 1:26 pm |
  24. Blame Game

    The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) sets the standards and the rules that must be followed. They are the ones responsible for aviation safety. However their hands are tied because of the lack of funding, political arm twisting and irresponsible flight examiners. Be careful who you fly if you're in the back seat.

    May 28, 2009 at 1:26 pm |
  25. Adrian

    This report makes me sick. 3 accidents in the last 6 years? how many accidents total have there been?

    May 28, 2009 at 1:24 pm |
  26. Jeff

    It is irresponsible to single out Gulfstream Training Academy without making a quantitative comparison to accident rates among pilots from other schools. Gulfstream Training pilots have had accidents, but so have pilots from other schools. Maybe Gulfstream Training has a noticeable number of accidents simply because it puts out more students, not because they are more poorly trained and have higher accident rates.

    May 28, 2009 at 1:20 pm |
  27. Patrick

    I would like to point out that Militairy pilots are not always a great fit to fly in a airliner; it just doesn't take only stick and rudder skills, but often fighterpilots learned to fly alone and not as a team. It takes two to tango in that (often) small closet upfront called the flightdeck.

    I have seen many fighterjocks come through the airliner training with great difficulty, because of their people skills.

    Many of our pilots come from flightschools across the country and beyond, and as pointed out before, it takes a person that keeps learning to do this job. Not knowing what the training regiment is at GA, but I suspect its like a part 141 school which I went through almost 20 years ago.

    May 28, 2009 at 1:20 pm |
  28. Joe

    I agree with some of the other posts that the quality of training is more important than simply its duration. The article's author used the analogy of being treated by a medical student rather than a physician. He also mentioned that linking the pilot training program with paying customers is a suspect practice. I am a surgeon and would like to provide some medical perspective to the author's comments. During surgical residency training, it is common, accepted practice throughout the US for resident surgeons (ie, surgeons in training) to operate on paying patients and for the hospital institutions to bill insurance companies and patients for those services. This practice occurs at even the most prestigious medical institutions where there are physicians in training and it is not limited to surgical procedures. There is usually a more senior resident or an attending staff surgeon (similar to an aircraft's captain) present to assist and supervise the operation, ensure the patient's safety, and aid with the resident surgeon's educational experience. The potential is probably greater for the occurrence of an adverse event (including death) during surgery than during a flight. One big difference is that more people will be impacted with a cabin full of passengers than a single patient on the operating table in case of a catastrophic accident. Another big difference is that most patients going to teaching hospitals for care realize that at least some of their care will be delivered by doctors in training. Most air travelers are unaware that a pilot in training may be at the controls of their aircraft. So, perhaps disclosure about a flight crews' experience might help the flying public make an informed decision as to which flight to take.

    May 28, 2009 at 1:14 pm |
  29. Chaboofers

    This is what happens when people expect to fly anwhere, round trip, for 100 bucks. People think it's some kind of right to fly around. Bull. It's a priveledge. And it should be far more expensive. As long as idiot consumers want to fly for free, they'll have poorly qualified pilots who make 19k per year.

    May 28, 2009 at 1:14 pm |
  30. Chris

    These crashes aren't about the pilots. They're about flying turboprop aircraft in the northern United States between the months of November and March. Both crashes occurring in the last year have been the result of severe icing and wind-shear, which traditional jet airliners can power through. Regional turboprop flights are automatically cancelled when the summer storm season hits because they can't handle the high winds. Why is it then that the same high-wind conditions independent of storms (but accompanied by icing) don't warrant the cancellation of these northern regional flights?

    Anyone who flies, let alone boards one of these turboprop regional flights in Winter is an idiot, regardless of training. The aircraft simply don't have the power to stay in the air under severe weather conditions.

    This article should be about the FAA's failure to properly regulate seasonal air traffic, not about some obscure "pilot farm" in Florida.

    May 28, 2009 at 1:10 pm |
  31. Charles Cass (USMC)

    I absolutely love all these cheap airfare comments and the get used to it comments. I don't know about you but, I have not been so lucky to have received a "Cheap Fare" to get used to. Maybe the airlines need to curb their profit greed and let the chips fall attitude. I will take a Military Fighter Pilot any day before a civilian. First of all they are all degreed from good universities and fly the latest and greatest. Their training is geared toward saving lives and survival at all costs. I just can't believe the USA is supposed to be the most advanced in the world and yet we perform so poorly, I wonder what is the reasoning to this fact????? I am getting the feeling its the same as the Medical Industry, MONEY TALKS AND BS WALKS. The latest and greatest in Medicine but we are rated 36th in the world for care, how pathetic!!!!
    If I were a Civilian Airline Pilot I would be both scared and embarrassed!!!!

    May 28, 2009 at 1:09 pm |
  32. Flydaddy

    Most asian countries send their pilot students here to the U.S., then they put them in the cockpit of a large aircraft as First Officer with 300 to 500 hours of total flight time! I have flown international and after speaking with pilots of different countries I have found that pilots in the U.S. are far better trained and have higher requirements than most of the world.

    May 28, 2009 at 1:09 pm |
  33. Greg

    I have fould military pilots to be unable to think “out side the box” when in a non standard situation –

    Ha, Captain Sullenberger was a military pilot. And I guess you're right, he really didn't think out of the box, and the results didn't turn out so well either.

    May 28, 2009 at 1:09 pm |
  34. Darryl Taylor

    Reggie from LA-

    550 hours is not a lot of flight time.

    May 28, 2009 at 1:06 pm |
  35. Do your research

    Get on ANY commuter plane and you're getting a pilot with low flight hours. It's not just one airline, it's the whole industry. And guess what, next time you're in a hospital, that resident that's looking you over in the ER as you agonize over whatever is ailing you – holds a medical degree, but is grossly overworked, underpaid, has the least amount of experience (or flight hours in "pilot-ese") and will still make the first call on what do you to you... just like these pilots that are being referred to.

    May 28, 2009 at 1:05 pm |
  36. TheDude

    People need to realize the reason why regional airlines employ low-time pilots. The fact of the matter is that in the last decade, airlines have cut costs everywhere they can. I.E. charging you for soda and water now. Guess what folks? That started with the guys in the cockpit. Pilots have been suffering pay cuts for 15 years non-stop. It's no wonder the regional cockpits are filled with young low-time pilots.
    Because, and speaking from experience, the average starting salary for a regional airline pilot is less than one can make working the drive-thru window at a fast food chain, or mopping floors in a prison. AFTER having shelled out thousands of their own dollars to get the training. That is a FACT. If you want to point fingers, don't point them at the pilots, point them at everyone else responsible. YOURSELVES. because it's OK for you to have cheap plane tickets, but the regionals can't even keep their cockpits filled because they can't pay enough. You can't have it all people, either let the airlines pay pilots what they deserve, or get comfortable with being in an accident. Better yet, think about professional athletes who get paid millions of dollars a year, and complain about it, to play a game for a few months of the year. But you'll shell out hundreds into their bank account to go watch the spectacle. Meanwhile, a guy whose only responsibility is to operate a vehicle weighing thousands of pounds traveling hundreds of miles per hour while defying gravity earns less than a McJob. Check your own priority structures, because its your fault.

    May 28, 2009 at 1:04 pm |
  37. Justin

    Yeah, but fighter pilots aren't shuttling around civilians. And number of hours, translates to experience. If I'm flying on an airliner, I'm paying for an experienced, competent crew to get me safely to my destination. I fully believe after two years, some young gun fighter pilot is ready for military battle. But I don't believe that same pilot would have pulled-off the Hudson River landing that rocked the news a few months back.

    May 28, 2009 at 1:03 pm |
  38. Darryl Taylor

    You cannot compare this training to military training. In the military, if you can't hack it you are washed out. In the civilian world, they'll train you as long as it takes if you can pay for it. The Colgan captain was obviously one of these guys, he failed 3 of his initial certificate checkrides. That shows a systemic problem with his airmanship. I've never hooked a checkride, and neither have most pilots.

    May 28, 2009 at 1:02 pm |
  39. Peter Drinkwater

    Suggest the safety record of other training programs including the military be compared to the record of this company. How does it rack and stack based of accident statistics? This may provide a more realistic picture of what is actually happening.

    May 28, 2009 at 1:01 pm |
  40. Rich

    I think I will try driving the next time I need or have to travel. Besides, my last flight I took was very scarey. I have flown a few times in the last 5 years, but lately the flights have gotten worse. What happened to the smooth flights? Who knows. Rental car here I come.

    May 28, 2009 at 1:00 pm |
  41. Matthew Adams

    Sums up being a pilot in America perfectly.

    Simply an attendance course nowadays – nothing more.

    May 28, 2009 at 1:00 pm |
  42. Al

    This is ridiculous. I thought CNN was better than this.

    May 28, 2009 at 12:59 pm |
  43. Old Eagle

    This has been coming (and stewing) for many years. Nearly forty years ago, I listened as a WWII flight instructor berated a pilot wannabe, coming with an FAA commercial license from some 'flight school' in Florida, generating ninety-day wonders. "Where'd you get that *&&^$%$ license? Out of a corn flakes box?" This after the instructor had flown with the guy and judged him totally incompetent. From some 16,000 hours flight experience, I can tell you: there's NO way a flight officer candidate, or any other pilot, can be totally competent (enough) to many flight emergencies in a heavy, complex aircraft. And, by the way, there's a hell of a difference in both the curriculum, attitudes involved, performance requirements, and the intensity of one year of military flight training ... and ninety days in a civilian 'vacation' flight school.
    An old eagle ...

    May 28, 2009 at 12:57 pm |
  44. Karaya, Nashua, NH

    The most amazing thing here is to see how people who knows _absolutely_ _nothing_ about pilots training are rushing to jump into conclusions, and start kicking and screaming about their safety being compromised for a profit...
    For those who are saying that military pilots are better. With all due respect to USAF and its veterans like Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger, pilots with military background not necessarily is a best choice for a commercial airlines. Good combat aviator is a risk-taker, and that's the last thing a commercial airline needs.

    May 28, 2009 at 12:56 pm |
  45. Xico

    This is ridiculous. BTW, to the person that said the Air Force does this all the ime: yeah, they do...on single seat aircraft. Guess how many people die when those crash? Usually none..maybe one. There is a huge difference when talking about commercial airlines like this one. Plus, I'll take 300 hours of military training over 1,000 of commercial training any day.

    May 28, 2009 at 12:56 pm |
  46. John A. Waldron

    US airlines having enjoyed the indirect subsidy of a seemingly endless generations of experienced military trained pilots need to step up to the plate and take this on as foreign carriers have for decades. If they won't the government must require it. Money considerations will always trump safety sooner or later in an unregulated situation. If plane fares go up they go up..

    May 28, 2009 at 12:55 pm |
  47. Chance

    "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."

    What do you think a teaching hospital is for?

    May 28, 2009 at 12:55 pm |
  48. Dean

    I really enjoyed reading all the windbag comments from non pilots. Now go get a clue. We should go back to Part 61 training and bring the minimums back up. Going to work for American eagle after 500 hrs. is not right. There should be a minimum of at least 1000 hrs. with 500 being in a twin.
    Now try and see things through a students eyes. A cessna 172 is $130 to $150 per hour. A twin engine is closer to $200/hr. Now tack on an instructor at $40/ hr. and maybe a $5 fuel surcharge(these days). Do the math. You could become a doctor or lawyer for that kind of money. Get mad at airline pilot hiring practices not the aspiring pilot.

    May 28, 2009 at 12:55 pm |
  49. terrrible_machine


    here you have it: the Mcdonalization of the airline industry...where the only requirement to become an airline pilot is to have a heartbeat...

    May 28, 2009 at 12:55 pm |
  50. Martin

    Its like all other skilled trades this is more about companies not offering training programs for their employees because they dont want to spend the money, but they will only hire people with experience.
    Somewhere somebody has to be trained and somebody has to do the training. I would probable bet that that Lufthansa has a better employee retention as well becasue of their training.
    As for the pilots who have been doing this for many years and dont want an inexperienced co-pilot well what do you do to help that new guy out, probably nothing but complain.about him.

    May 28, 2009 at 12:54 pm |
  51. brandon

    Ok, you all miss the real point of this. The public wants to fly. In order to fly, airlines need pilots. Getting time in the seat and getting licenses is expensive and time consuming. How many quality pilots has this program produced? Thousands, I'm sure.

    There will never be any zero defect industry or service, EVER! Even with Gulfstream graduates flying on commercial airlines is millions of times safer than driving on our interstates, where millions of retards, many who can't speak our language are given licenses. Just so they can go out and get drunk and kill other people's families.

    Flying is dangerous, and everyone out there should be thankful that there are guys like Sully out there. I'm pretty sure that guys like him are the rule, not the exception.

    Stop freaking out and letting the media control your lives!

    May 28, 2009 at 12:52 pm |
  52. Al

    I like how Continental says “We expect our partners to adhere to the highest safety standards.” No you don't, not when the co-pilot was paid $16,000 and could not even afford to live alone. That's less than I made at Radio Shack.

    May 28, 2009 at 12:51 pm |
  53. David The Pilot

    I am a pilot. I have flown for the airlines, and private charter jets, I spent years as a flight instructor. I did my training in Fl, not gulfstream, but at a much better institution.

    I have no issue with the training that guflstream provides, I DO have an issue with them taking those pilots and putting them on revenue flights however. The author of this column is right, that you should expect a higher caliber of flight crew on the flight deck of an airplane, however when you are only willing to pay 15.00 an hour or less for pilots.. you get what you pay for.

    There are pilots lined up out the door willing to work for almost nothing or in fact, work for free just to get experience, and there needs to be better safeguards in place and MUCH higher pay scale for pilots and the experience involved, but until people are willing to pay more than 100 for a ticket on an airplane, that is not going to happen.

    As far as im concerned the flying public is just as much to blame as the operators of these airlines. As far as 1500 hours to get on with an airline, that is not correct. Most commuters will hire between 750 and 1000 hours which is fine. 300 hours is too low in my opinion.

    Again, next time you get on a commuter airplane, the pilot in the right seat is lucky if he/she is making 20k a year, and the guy/gal in the left seat is lucky to make 50-60k per year. Perhaps the cost of tickets need to go up and the flight crew should be properly compensated for the job that they have entrusted to them.

    May 28, 2009 at 12:50 pm |
  54. B.H.

    This is a disaster waiting to happen again. Another example of no REAL oversight from the FAA. Everyone wants fast and cheap, and this is what you will get. The only problem with this is that people get killed!

    May 28, 2009 at 12:48 pm |
  55. Capt. Pat

    Yes, some international carriers take raw students and put them through a series of interviews and numerous batteries of tests. After these screenings the new pilot candidate goes through their rigorous pilot training and finally places them in a very structured continued learning environment.

    The same holds true with a military trained pilot. There are no "fluff" rides, scrutiny starts with ride one and temperament and judgement are part of the military environment.

    Compare that to a "pay to play" civilian pilot mill. Pay your money and buy a seat.

    Through the late '70s, the major airlines had a military pool to draw from. Unfortunately this is no longer true. Now the new hires comes from a pool of those willing to buy their ratings and work for slave wage for a shot at the airlines. Quality control is lacking.

    The $9 fares and the darlings of deregulation are also responsible. You do get what you pay for and Gulfstream is what you get.

    May 28, 2009 at 12:47 pm |
  56. Still In A PA44


    There are several key differences between a collegiate aviation program and a get rich quick pilot mill such as ATP, Gulfstream, etc. Don't even drag ERAU, Western Mich, UND, or any of the other reputable collegiate aviation programs into that mix. Schools with collegiate aviation programs have in depth classes teaching students the systems of the aircraft they are flying, the aerodynamics of the aircraft they are flying, and to top it all off with qualified professors that for the most part used to be in the airline or aviation industry. For example, one of the Aerodynamics professors a Embry-Riddle was a Top Gun Graduate and had a highly decorated career in the US Navy. There are countless of other faculty members at these universities that have this experience. Also, (Except for a select group of individuals who are drinking really good Kool-aid) graduates from these collegiate aviation programs are not expecting to get hired instantly.... Now I'm not going to lie, many do; however, most expect to have to pay their dues instructing and building time to become an experienced pilot before getting hired on to the Regionals. The difference between pilot mills and a collegiate aviation program is the fact that you're being taught by retired industry professionals that are passing on their knowledge to you rather than just solely one flight instructor that might have had his CFI rating for a month before getting you as a student.

    May 28, 2009 at 12:46 pm |
  57. ep

    anybody interested in training as a pilot should look into Middle Georgia College's aviation program. Well respected, widely recognized and a gold mine right here in Georgia. Maybe CNN could report on that.....where and how to train, not just how not to.

    May 28, 2009 at 12:45 pm |
  58. Michael

    This story is a pure hack piece. I'm not defending this school but the objectivity of this story leaves a lot to be desired. I have had a career in naval aviation and built hours is not the true test of a pilot. I know plenty of F-14 pilots that I would never fly aboard their craft. And as far as the comment about going to the doctor and getting a medical student. What do you think an intern is? Guess who sees you the vast majority of the time at a hospital. An intern! They're still in training, aren't they?

    May 28, 2009 at 12:43 pm |
  59. Ben

    I am myself an airline pilot and I have seen too many young pilots (early 20s) with no experience transition to regional jets and turbo props. This practice needs to stop and certain requirements need to be put in place.

    Certain 'pilot factories' (ATP and Gulfstream) need to be shutdown. You cannot train properly a pilot in 90 days. This is impossible. Pilots going through this program do not have the adequate experience nor the the ability to make proper decisions in a dynamic environment.

    Finally, it should be mandatory for all commercial pilots to undergo an aerobatic course. I have flown with so many pilots who have never even flown inverted (First Officers and Captains alike)! How can you recover from a dangerous flying attitude if you have never been there in the first place?

    May 28, 2009 at 12:42 pm |
  60. Nathan

    Potential pilots should recieve the best training that they can, and the enviroment that surrounds it. You can't blame Capt. Renslow for not having actually stick shaker training as Colgan doesn't didn't a see need for it as approved by the FAA. Talking about adverse flight conditions and how to react with no simulator training to back the knowledge gained sounded like a flaw that the FAA will soon have to amend.

    Our industry doesn't allow for young civilans pilot to be successful, and that's where GulfStream Academy briefly opens the door. Young pilots can spend up to 100,000 dollars on their training only to start out sometime in the near future making 18,000 dollars a year whenever a regional starts to hire. Something has to change in our benefit.

    I think that the whole industry has to change, and I have been lucky as my flight school STARBRIGHT AVIATION has provided me primarily multi engine training and taken all around the country to train and gain experience for about 20,000 dollars cheaper than most flight schools. My road so far has been okay, but with the economy only time will tell how long us young pilots have to suffer.

    Gulfstream Academy allows for some 121 experience, but if the pilot has weak skills coming into the program they only endanger themslves and others. I do believe that if pilots are given the right amount instruction in training for their licenses that they have skills to be successful airline pilots. However, most don't recieve proper training and experience as their instructors only care about the hours to get hired, and not the quality of training they are providing. This has not been the case for me at STARBRIGHT AVIATION as my instructors are career instructors. Anyways, as explained the industry needs to change, and Gulfstream doesn't help our cause!!!


    May 28, 2009 at 12:41 pm |
  61. StopChildAbuse

    I saw this "kid" sitting in the first row on my flight last week. I thought he was about 18 or 19 years old. I thought it was "cute" because he had those silver "wings" that kids pin to their shirts. The cabin door was closed, he went into the cockpit, closed the cabin door, then the plane taxied and took off! I think the "kid" had something to do with that!

    May 28, 2009 at 12:39 pm |
  62. Bryan

    As a former CFI having gone through an accredited collegiate aviation program and now currently a U.S. Air Force pilot, I can tell all of you out there that there is no comparison to civilian flight training and military. Yes, we receive our wings after just one year of training, however, most of those days are 12 hours of training as well as numerous hours spent studying at night. The standards are much more strict, and the training is much more intense which produces a better product in the end. We train on emergency procedures every day. The fact that anyone can defend a program that puts someone in the right seat after three months of training is mind-boggling to me.

    May 28, 2009 at 12:38 pm |
  63. Brent

    As one who started pilot training through commerical schools, and then joined the Air Force as a pilot, I shudder to think about the differences in the quality of training between the two. Fully trained with significant experience, should be the minimum for flying heavies commerically.
    Managing the cockpit in an emergency can be a handful with two experienced pilots. If one of those piolts is acting as pilot AND INSTRUCTOR, then the airline is setting up the crew , and passengers for failure.

    I will not fly Gulfstream

    May 28, 2009 at 12:36 pm |
  64. chipperfly

    What worries me is the "bad" pilots that slip through the cracks with this type of training, I know private pilots that I won't fly with, it scares me that these same pilots could go through this program and be flying left seat in a relative short period of time.

    May 28, 2009 at 12:35 pm |
  65. Reggie from LA

    Listen up all you bandwagoneers...and for John, address the real issue. 1500 hours is a lot of flight time. 550 hours is also a lot of flight time. Focus and dedication to the craft are key ingredients to make great pilots. Great pilots are who should be transporting us. 1500 hours can certainly make for a great pilot, but not a guarantee. What some may not realize is that the best pilots are those who are continually learning to be better. That inlcudes the "Big Iron" Captain who looks down his or her nose at their First Officers who are learning right along with them. You are still learning aren't you Captains?

    May 28, 2009 at 12:35 pm |
  66. Wall Head

    Charlie the Tease's and other commenters' comments above are totally off-base when they attempt to compare one or two years of such slapdash "training" to one or two years of Navy or Air Force pilots' training. No one who has any knowledge of the situation thinks they are in any way comparable. There is no substitute for the military's "full time, all the time" training of its pilots. If you don't believe that–test it: find a great pilot, then ask him who he would want flying a plane his family was on, if there were a problem with that airplane. I give you a 100% guarantee he would say a former military pilot. Period.

    May 28, 2009 at 12:30 pm |
  67. dave

    looks like there are some knowledgable people commenting. Let's hear them instead of the "you get what you pay for " know nothings.

    May 28, 2009 at 12:28 pm |
  68. brian

    you pay for what you get

    May 28, 2009 at 12:27 pm |
  69. Michael

    In response to PDX Dave;


    I reported quite a few aircraft deficiencies as well, broken parts, leaking fuel, non-functional emergency systems, etc.

    I was usually pressured by Operations or Management to MEL everything or look the other way and go anyway with passengers on board.

    I sent in quite a few NASA reports and finally sent a few reports to FAA FSDO, who quietly swept the incidents "under the rug" and sent me a letter that said the case was closed without further inspection.

    I felt I owed my passengers a safe aircraft, a safe crew, and a safe flight. Company and FAA didn't agree.

    I left........

    Another Captain with 29 years of experience leaves the industry to kids with a year or two experience, and a company and FAA who only react when someone makes a flaming hole in the ground!

    Of course they'll usually blame the pilots.....

    May 28, 2009 at 12:27 pm |
  70. Jim

    Having been a 767 captain for over 5 years at a major U.S. airline, I can say without a doubt that some of the most marginal pilots I have flown with are Embry-Riddle graduates.

    They have very compartmentalized logic which is a detriment in a cockpit. The Riddle system is very defined and protects the pilot from real world decision making.

    This creates issues much later on. For example, we encountered a significant mountain wave, and my co-pilot, a Riddle grad (and new pilot at my company) correctly applied power but started to pull the nose up as the airspeed continued to bleed off. I took command of the aircraft and pushed the nose over. HIs first concern was not for our situation but for what ATC may think.

    I told him to tell ATC we were unable to maintain altitude and ask for a block altitude.

    He was dumbfounded and even acknowledged that he would not have done that.

    Our aircraft was rapidly heading towards the danger zone, he was worried about ATC, not our aircraft.

    This is the problem with experience through curriculum, not experience.

    As for Continental, I have a friend who flies there who told me he transitioned form one aircraft to another after several years and he got 3 simulators and a check ride. He flies two models of the 767 and two models of the 757 and hasn't made a landing in the 757 in over 5 years but could fly it any day.

    The simple fact is most airlines pay lip service to safety because the dollar rules. If it wasn't for the excellent skills of most of the pilots for these companies, there would be more accidents. We have been lucky. My company, one of the largest in the world, routinely skirts the regulations leaving pilots to fly 6, 8, or even 10 day trips with the absolute minimum amount of rest (sometimes days with 4, 5,6 or 6 hours of actual resting down time) while flip flopping between day and night.

    Safety is far down their list of priorities. They may operate within the letter of the law but that is often far from safe.

    It's just a matter of time until the economics of the industry cause another crash.

    As long as the government allows airlines to fly that don't pay their employees enough to feed themselves and allow competition from airlines that do not have the ability to operate professionally and use pay for training pilots the system will continue to crash.

    As long as passengers are willing to fly with the cheapest tickets no matter how dangerous the airline is, the trend will spiral downward. You get what you pay for.

    May 28, 2009 at 12:26 pm |
  71. Art

    The analogy shouldn't be "going to a medical student for healthcare instead of a doctor" but going to a doctor who has a medical student with them.

    The number of hours of the co-pilot is clearly related to their experience level, but remember, there's a pilot with much more experience also in the cockpit to lead the show. The co-pilot may have the controls, but only under the supervision of the captain, and the rigorous chain of command that exists in aviation mandates that the captain can take control of the plane at any time they feel that the co-pilot isn't handling the situation optimally.

    So the whole issue of the co-pilot is missing the boat, it's the captain's job to stay in control, and if they have a relatively junior first officer, then they have to supervise that much more closely.

    May 28, 2009 at 12:25 pm |
  72. Jeff

    Please don't even compare this "pilot factory" (I prefer to call them "pilot puppy mills–which I think is more accurate) with military training. (by the way this isn't the only 'pilot factory' that should be scrutinized–DCI Academy comes to mind.)

    Let me set some facts straight:

    1. To even be accepted to fly military jets, one must pass a series of academic. physical, and psycological tests–just to be considered–then you must COMPETE with other hghly qualified individuals who are also competing for the program. To be accepted by GIA all you have to due is basically show up as a warm body–oh yeah–and a checkbook.

    2. Now, once approximately 20% of those applicants makes it to flight school you are now on the not seat for the next 2+ years–not 3-6 months. Those that earn their wings at the end of 2.5 years have been put through the ringer and many have "washed out" for various reasons (either academic, flying, or physical failures)–you see the huge difference–as I see it is that if you fail in military training–you "wash out"–3 failed checkrides–see ya, a physical problem develops–see ya. At GIA–if you fail–you are allowed to fail as long as your checks don't bounce.

    3. Verifiable training–this is huge–in the military pilot logbooks are kept meticulously by a third party clerk–not by the pilot and not subject to "padding hours" or lying about qualifications. In other words the process is seamless–when a military pilot shows up for a job interview with a major airline–his/her flight time and qualifications are beyond reproach–you fail a checkride in the military, you can be sure that the airline will know about it–not so for the puppy mill pilots.

    4. Once the military pilot earns his/her wings–they may have several hundred hours of flight time–they then spend an ADDITIONAL 6-8 months in follow on TRAINING squadrons further honing their skills–and then must pass a final rigorous ckeckride before they are released to a fleet squadron–don't pass the checkride–they let you keep your wings–but you will never see the inside of a military aircraft–you will be flying a desk for the remainder of your career.

    5. Now the training CONTINUES–in the fighter community–you now see individuals with reletively low hours (400-600) handed the keys to a fighter (often still under the watchful eye of a section leader or an EXPERIENCED Navigator or RIO). But remember, you may be in charge of a mutimillion dollar jet–but if you screw up–you dont take 50-70 passengers with you.

    6. Finally, this is not about better pilots (military or civilian)–I have seen my share of both good and bad in BOTH communities. The article is questioning GIA and their training methods–and those in this blog who are comparing a military pilot with several hundred hours with a pilot produced by these "puppy mills" are clueless.

    May 28, 2009 at 12:24 pm |
  73. landon kelsey

    you are missing the whole point

    airline pilots are not pilots but robots taught old procedures

    they do not know how to fly an AIRPLANE!





    May 28, 2009 at 12:24 pm |
  74. Joe

    “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.

    um...what does he think a medical intern or resident is?

    I am a private pilot and comparing heart surgery to flying a plane is ridiculous.

    In terms of getting rich quick, go ahead and ask any pilot in his first 5 years in the cockpit how rich he is...

    May 28, 2009 at 12:23 pm |
  75. Iver

    Don't expect Chuck Yeager pilots at these wages!!!!!!!

    Plus, where do you think most pilots get their training and their experience before flying for the majors? The regionals are basic training grounds. You certainly won't find many military pilots at the regionals. So, like someone else said, you get what you pay for...

    I equate this situation to being treated by a Medical Student at a hospital. You may or may not live through that experience....

    May 28, 2009 at 12:21 pm |
  76. Anon

    @Suzanne: "Potential pilots should go through Embry Riddle..." – Yeah, everyone has 40,000+ a year to spend at that place. By your logic, only kids born with GOLDEN spoons in their mouths are able to become pilots.

    @Old School: "This is just another example of the deteriorating mindset of America." – This is just another example of a person who bases their entire world view on what they read on CNN and in newspapers.

    @Charlie the Tease: Thank you, an intelligent response to the story. You are correct, the issue is not necessarily the number of hours, but the quality of training.

    May 28, 2009 at 12:21 pm |
  77. Nigel

    Agreed, we would all like an 'experienced crew' in the cockpit, but experience only comes from.. 'gaining experience', one has to start somewhere. A good pilot is always learning, even an "experienced" crew is still learning and gaining experience.

    The medical analogy is actually a good one, but incorrectly interpreted in your story, the fact is that any ER has a portion of less experienced Doctors working along side experienced Doctors, the airline industry is no different.

    One accident is too many and tragic, be it on the road, on the sea or in the air, and every effort to prevent accidents should be, but the fact is humans are fallable and make mistakes, even very 'experienced' ones

    The Gulfstream record seems pretty good,

    May 28, 2009 at 12:20 pm |
  78. John

    Don't be too high on Riddle's pilot training. I've had to "retrain" a lot of these guys when they come to me for work.

    May 28, 2009 at 12:19 pm |
  79. SamG

    This just feels like some sensationalized reporting. I almost want to stop reading and watching CNN because of stories like these. Now that I've had real life experience with a few reporters sensationalize reports and misinformation in them, I've become more and more weary of what I hear on the news. I'd like to think we could demand better reporting that what we receive these days. Everyday I just get more depressed with what people deem acceptable.

    May 28, 2009 at 12:19 pm |
  80. lsa

    Your story is misleading. The pilots are being trained within FAA regulations and are not Gulfstream co-pilots until they have the qualification, training and certifications to do so. If you want to compare it to the medical field, they are doing their pilot residency.

    Also, air travel continues to be the safest way to travel and these accidents were not because of lack of training. I think it'll be determined the Buffalo accident was due to fatigue since the pilots were seen napping before the flight, had pulled an all-nighter to commute to their base, and were heard on the recorder talking about not feeling well. Also, all airline pilots have to go through re-current training in a similator every 6 months. I just don't think training is the issue here.

    Pilots are grossly underpaid, despite what the general public thinks. Most newly hired airline pilots barely make $20,000 per year. This is another area of change that is needed. Gulfstream doesn't even pay a salary! The co-pilot has to pay $30,000 just to have a job. That's a problem!

    May 28, 2009 at 12:17 pm |
  81. Sara

    One shouldn't go from flight school to flying passengers period. There should be a graduated licensing process.... with a set number of years/hours flying cargo or military experience...before one is ever allowed to fly passengers.

    May 28, 2009 at 12:17 pm |
  82. Charlie

    I find the comparisons to medicine interesting. If you've ever been treated at a teaching hospital you can bet you have received treatment from a "student", whether its an actual med student, resident or intern. The point is you have to learn and the only way you will learn is by doing. Flying a twin engine Cessna for 2,000 or 10,000 hours does not qualify you to fly a 747. it's unrealistic to expect that new pilots can get all the training they need before they get in the right seat.

    May 28, 2009 at 12:16 pm |
  83. GP

    I think I'll walk next time. Thanks anyway.

    May 28, 2009 at 12:15 pm |
  84. brett archie

    this is what you get for cheap brought it upon yourself

    May 28, 2009 at 12:15 pm |
  85. Al Gardiner

    You are all looking at it from the wrong perspective. You need to accept the fact that if you place you life in someone else's hands, it is subject to their skills. The only way to change that is to become a pilot and fly yourself. The bonus is... You get there sooner. You won't have to wait in security lines. And you can come and go on your own schedule. Of course it may cost more. But what is your safety and convenience worth? Oh, that's right. Never mind.

    May 28, 2009 at 12:14 pm |
  86. Scott in TX

    It's funny to read some of the comments that act like "on the job" training" is some sort of dirty secret. OJT isn't just for folks working minimum-wage jobs, and not just for the non-risky jobs either.

    The difference between a "medical student" screwing up and killing someone on the table is just slightly less than a "pilot in training" screwing up and killing a planeload of people. We typically expect a doctor to not kill 60 to 300 people in one mistake – yet we pay these pliots with multiple lives in their hands each and every day no more than a typical assistant manager of a fast food franchise – that's the real crime!

    You'd honestly be shocked how many doctors you have seen in your life that were either medical students, interns, or just coming out of their residency – read some of the fine print on your "Consent for Care" forms. A doctor doesn't learn all their skills from books, or watching another doctor do it – they have to have hands' on training. That requires a patient, not some computer program or fake body to work on.

    A pilot building up experience needs to fly – whether it's their ratings to get to the number of hours to be able to fly with an airline, or PIC hours.

    Now, all that being said, if the FAA was better funded they'd be able to spot these kinds of place, and either shut them down or enforce the regulations – maybe even tighten them up. Where there's a will, there's a way to exploit the rules.

    May 28, 2009 at 12:13 pm |
  87. med student

    hmmm and some people do end up seeing medical students instead of doctors when they go to the hospital. it also happens to be under the supervision of residents and attendings who poke their heads in once in a while and sign off on things... how else do you think we get the experience?

    May 28, 2009 at 12:13 pm |
  88. Stupidguy

    Well not a conseguence of cheap fares exactly, more of corporate greed. The executives could always pay themselves just a little bit less, but gosh that would'nt work now would it!

    May 28, 2009 at 12:13 pm |
  89. John

    FYI as to the "He compares it to going to a medical student for healthcare instead of a doctor": many patients visiting training hospitals are seen by medical students/residents overseen by a physician. Those students are keenly aware of the gravity of their decisions just as the pilot-in-training is. Articles like this drive me nuts because they're just playing on the fear of flying. You're still much safer with the young pilot up front than with an experienced automobile driver on the ground.

    May 28, 2009 at 12:12 pm |
  90. nonrevnut

    This all boils down to money, of course. If the airlines turned a profit year over year, chances are, we would see better training programs and better pilots.

    Either the U.S government needs to rid of the foreign ownership rule and allow foreign investment--VERY MUCH NEEDED-or regulate the industry again and establish fares that cover the cost of the operation.

    If money is made year over year, people are happy, service improves, and pilot training programs improve as well.

    May 28, 2009 at 12:11 pm |
  91. Michael

    Robert Frederick May 28th, 2009 11:58 am ET

    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.


    Thanks for a great post!

    Well said brother!

    May 28, 2009 at 12:09 pm |
  92. Steve

    The Airforce and European carriers screen their candidates to the highest degree and are rewarded with pilots who have a very high aptitude for flying. These pilot factories will graduate anyone with enough money. Just look whats walking around the airports these days in pilot uniforms. Its scary.

    May 28, 2009 at 12:08 pm |
  93. Red Bird

    Pity that more training is not required to become a journalist.

    May 28, 2009 at 12:07 pm |
  94. Sparky

    I'm a former military pilot (UH-60's in the army) and I've had a Class A accident (roll-over). IMHO, the detail on this article isn't sufficient to judge the process at Gulfstream. 1) we don't know how many hours students have coming in, 2) they don't touch on their ground training experience, & 3) they don't mention washout and recycle rates. They mention 3 accidents, but how many students have gone through that program? 3 of 100 sucks. 3 of 10,000 isn't quite as bad. How many ER students have had crashes? How many military guys have dinged one up?
    Pilots in the sweet spot for this kind of training are the most likely to have an accident anyway. They're around 750-1000 hours. Enough experience to be full of themselves, not enough to know better.
    As for the uninformed, knee jerk responses from some of "geniuses" before me:
    Embry Riddle is a fine program, but by no means the only way to be "qualified". That's small minded and demeaning to 99% of pilots who aren't "qualified" by ER.
    How in the hell is this the government's fault? If the company is following FAR's, they're acting within the law. The government doesn't have anything to do with it except to act as cops.
    Every commercial pilot has to pass ground and flight exams and a physical to be qualified to fly. I'm not sure of the time periods any more, but I think they're every 6 months.
    And lastly, where do you expect commercial pilots to build commercial experience? I don't expect these people to be zero hour pilots coming in, so they should have a baseline. So their 300 hours is commercial hours. That should give them the 1000 – 1500 they would require for airlines.

    Again, there are some definite holes in the story. Don't judge too early. Use that hatrack God gave you for something other than blocking my view at the movies.

    May 28, 2009 at 12:04 pm |
  95. Charles Ward

    I am a private pilot with 25 years of experience myself. I have seen both outstanding airmanship and very poor airmanship come from so called "professional pilots". Flying is no different than any other task. Some people excel under stress and some are very poor performers under stress. Testing will not always determine who has the skill to handle in-flight problems until an emergency really happens. Todays aircraft are so reliable and so automated that most pilots never have a need for the skill level routinely required to fly in the post post WWII time period. Because of this reliability, todays pilots don't get weeded out like they used to.

    May 28, 2009 at 12:04 pm |
  96. Eric

    I served as a flight instructor at the United States Air Force Academy in the Intiial Flight Training program. The only requirement necessary for a cadet to pass on to UPT (undergraduate pilot training) was to pass a FAA private pilot program, which one reader above noted that a monkey could get one! It was a forgone conclusion that each cadet will pass and move on to more sophiticated and expensive training. Most of the officer staffing at the Academy only flew a few hundred hours a year and certainly no more qualified than a regional pilot with several hundred hours who flies 1000 hours per year.

    I am a regional airline pilot and have flown with several ex-military pilots and can assure you that they are no more competent than those trained at civilian schools. I have fould military pilots to be unable to think "out side the box" when in a non standard situation. It seems the military training only teaches them to operate an aircraft in accordance with how they are taught/ordered. No independent thinking is allowed....

    May 28, 2009 at 12:03 pm |
  97. Matt

    There are a lot of underlying errors and the story can be misleading to the general public.

    I am not arguing that stories like this should not be investigated but why cant CNN look into the accredited universities around the country that provide extensive four and five year degrees in professional flight training. Then the public can get a more balanced view on where some of America's pilots come from.

    May 28, 2009 at 12:02 pm |
  98. RaShon

    I was a military dependent for 23 years and have worked for the military for 4 years. There are comments comparing Gulfstream's training to military training. There is a major difference between the two. Everyday of a military pilot's training is flying. It's all they do. They eat, breathe, and live training. They are not students paying someone for and education and being thrust into a "program" for futher training. They have regulations and credentials that must be met before they are certified. If these are not met, they are removed from flight training. The military is not a school taking $30, 000 and trying to crank out a large volume of "success stories" to attract more business. Military pilots are not responible for dozens of lives while receiving hands on training.

    May 28, 2009 at 12:01 pm |
  99. Old Pilot

    In the early 1980's, Gem State Airways, a commuter airline based in Idaho, didn't pay their co-pilots. Gem State charged their co-pilots an hourly rate as they worked as a co-pilot, in exchange for the opportunity to gain commuter airline flight time and experience. At least the kids today are being paid for their work.

    Travel and piloting airplanes has always been fun, exciting, and glamorous. Fun, exciting, and glamorous, often lures people who exhibit little discipline and risky behavior. Not what you want in an airline cockpit.

    May 28, 2009 at 12:01 pm |
  100. kim

    Ann, All pilots are required to complete recurrent training annually. I believe airline pilots are required to complete recurrent training more than once a year...

    May 28, 2009 at 12:01 pm |
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