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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. T. Davis

    In response to R. Lord...What the heck does "Bush" have to do with this, if you haven't heard or been around the country for a while, President Obama was elected in November. Oh, maybe you just listend to CNN, MSNBC, ABC, Air America, or NBC and you think Bush is still in charge as they are all blaming everything on him still. So sad...and so funny at the same time. Get a grip.

    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 5:44 pm |
  2. Dave

    If Senator Burris wanted to be a commercial pilot he would pay his way into the right seat of Gulfstream Airlines.
    I don't care if the person is civilian or military trained, experience is the only way to gain experience. The FAR's say a pilot with only 250 hours of flight time, and in the case of a FAR141 school even less, can be a Commercial pilot and charge for their services. Which doctor do you want to operate on you, one right out of school with minimum experience with your case or one that has lots of experience and this is old hat. Which one can handle something that happens out of the ordinary? It is the same with pilots, do you want a two to three hundred hour wonder that has absolutely no experience in ice, thunderstorms, rain, snow, high winds or what ever up front dealing with it for the first time or someone that has been working in these conditions and knows what to look for, what to do, and how to handle it. Look at the wonderful pilots the regionals pick up.....minimum time and I have seen a lot of that put in log books that is fake time as well. People want cheap tickets. How do they expect an airline to pay the folks who fly the airplane, load the airplane, fuel the airplane, provide training for the airplane, and the list goes on and on, a decent wage. As the old saying goes, you get what you pay for. Regionals are usually run by idiots that could not even get into the majors and have personalities of a cold turd.

    May 28, 2009 at 5:36 pm |
  3. Greg

    A few years ago, Gulfstream Intl Airlines, had 16 engine failures (PT-6) on their B-1900 fleet in one year. Their maintenance department and practices are unsafe. The US Navy uses the same PT-6 engine on the T-34C trainer and fly thousands of hours and maybe only 1 engine problem per year. I was told by a Gulfsteam Captain not to go their to get experience and he felt his pilot certificate was on the line every day he worked there. This organization is bad news, should of been shutdown along time ago. Thank god I work for a company that has a very solid and conservative maintenance department and I trained with the US Navy and Marine Corps. I don't get paid very well but If I had to worry about the airworthyness of the aircraft,I would work some where else.

    May 28, 2009 at 5:29 pm |
  4. Tim

    "Leah May 28th, 2009 11:11 am ET

    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."

    It is impossible to know if your pilot is a graduate from Gulfrstream International's training, and you do not need to worry if he/she is from that academy because that pilot is a FAA certified professional pilot that has passed many exams and training, and has also received over 400 flight hours. The company that the pilot is assigned to is mandated to give your pilot even more training to ensure that you have the safest experience possible whenever you are flying.
    Please remember that there are tens of thousands of commercial flights just in this nation every day, and before the crash in buffalo, the airline industry has seen two solid years of no fatal air crashes.
    Flying is never safe, but there are thousands of professionals ensuring that it is being made as safe as possible.

    May 28, 2009 at 5:23 pm |
  5. Robin

    I've had the alarming experience of being stuck with community college trainees for an ambulance crew. After all of the bizarre things they did, I'm so happy to be here today. Cannot imagine being in the air with a 12-week trainee at the helm. No cheap ticket is worth that.

    May 28, 2009 at 5:22 pm |
  6. Chuck Yeager

    If I board a plane the first thing I do is see the years of experience of the captain and first officer. If I see no grey hairs I start to wonder....

    Pure and simple the FAA needs to crack down on these puppy mills and ensure that safety is paramount instead of greenbacks.

    I know that United has had a track record of hiring Military pilots and found that although I don't endorse the airline for many reasons I think the pilots are top notch for tin tube pushers.

    May 28, 2009 at 5:21 pm |
  7. Norm

    There is so much not being said here. First of all, only 210 flight hours separate a new private pilot from a new commercial pilot (at least legally). What a pilot does in that flight time can make a world of difference in their airmanship. Were they practicing and training as hard as they can, or just flying to local airports to get a hambuger and build time? Who would you rather have as your pilot...a guy with 1000 hrs spread across various aircraft in lots of different flight enviroments, or a 1500hr guy who has all of his time in one type of plane who has always flown in good weather? I'll take the 1000hr guy every time. Quality + flight time = $$$$$$$, and airlines just won't pay for it. They know you're there to get experience which would otherwise cost you tens of thousands of dollars. Their attitude is "you're lucky to be here". When covering this subject, it's important to remember that under the current rules,individual airlines set the bar for their pilot requirements and pay scales, not the government. It's likely that is what needs to change. How is the bigger question........

    May 28, 2009 at 5:19 pm |
  8. Pete

    Some good comments, some nutty, but this one from "John" takes the cake:

    "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!!!"

    This type of thinking is far scarier than the occasionally marginally-talented airline pilot.

    May 28, 2009 at 5:19 pm |
  9. Bill

    I've gotta admit that in all the years that I've been flying professionally, some of the worst pilots I have flown with were ex-military. I can't explain it, perhaps it's because they are not trained for the same type of flying that the airlines train for, but they are more often than not some of the worst pilots out there.

    May 28, 2009 at 5:16 pm |
  10. Andrew

    May have been posted already, but the F/O on the Comair crash in Lexington was also a Gulfstream graduate. A simple way to remedy the lack of experience is require that all airline pilots, captains and first officers, hold an Airline Transport Pilot license which requires 1500 hours of flight time. Currently only captains are required to hold this license, first officers may hold only a commercial license which requires only 250 hours. As an experienced airline pilot I would recommend that everyone write your congressional leaders and urge this requirement.

    May 28, 2009 at 5:15 pm |
  11. Tim

    "Beth May 28th, 2009 10:59 am ET

    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."
    Any fares value increases dramatically at the last minute. If you booked that flight even a week before that flight, you would have seen a 200 dollar difference.

    May 28, 2009 at 5:15 pm |
  12. Ichabod Crane

    Well... we all got to go sometime.

    May 28, 2009 at 5:14 pm |
  13. Dan

    Numerous inaccuracies in this report as well as every other sensationalized news account recently. The first reporter gets it wrong, and the rest quote the first because they are too lazy to go get their own facts.
    Too much crying over Gulfstream. "Pilot factories" are no different from doctor factories aka 'medical schools'. You pay them for professional training, you get taught the basic requirements for your licensing, you get a little real-time experience, and you are let loose on the world. The salaries for new residents and new pilots aren't that far apart, and the working hours of the doctor are far worse than those of a pilot. The reason for the salaries being at the levels they are is a very simple demonstration of supply and demand: There are enough people willing to work for that wage that the market allows (and demands) it.. Why is it that only 15-20 applicants out of every 100 make into the regional airline flight schools, and some number less than that graduate to become airline pilots, and then accept those 'stamp food' wages? Because they want to do it, period. Those who decry the low, low wages of a beginning pilot are in effect calling every civilian-trained pilot stupid for working for those wages because at one time or another, every single civilian pilot flew an airplane for not much more than food money. They want those jobs by the hundreds because the payoff is down the road when wearing four stripes at the major airlines. Next time you are flying, go ask the captain–or better yet, ask the pilot sitting next to you while he is commuting to his home across the country from where he is based–where he got his aviation start. Don't be surprised how many of them tell you they went to Gulfstream Academy. Or at least they would before Chernoff decided to try one more time for a Pulitzer prize in Investigative Entertainment Journalism.

    May 28, 2009 at 5:11 pm |
  14. Be Fair

    Let's not forget that highly trained pilots like Capt. Sully also have accidents. He was highly trained as well, but it takes more than a pilot to keep a plane in the air. Accidents will and do happen. As was stated numerous times, our military pilots are put in the cockpit and taught to fly without any prior experience and in a matter of a couple years they're flying high performance aircraft in close formation, or launching off carrier decks. With 200 hours they have a lot of experience qualifying them for the right seat. Plain and simply put, you don't get experience by not flying, and each aircraft is different. The hours do not make someone a good pilot. The attitude and dedication does. Let's not forget about the pilots who've been caught flying drunk, sleeping, etc and they have 5,000+ hours. There are plenty of pilots who have gotten "lucky" not to have drilled a hole in mother earth. To put it into perspective, how many people do EVERYTHING they were taught in driver's education, and how many hop in a car and go? It's easy to become complacent which is equally as dangerous as lack of "hours".

    May 28, 2009 at 5:10 pm |
  15. Tim

    "Eric May 28th, 2009 10:49 am ET

    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."

    As a fellow airline employee, I find it hard to believe that you are not aware that every airline has their very own training that they give to the pilots that they hire, in succession to the previous training given to them to acquire the commercial or airline transport pilot license.
    Another reason why I do not believe that you are an airline employee is that you do not know that a first officer is not always in control of the aircraft and sits next to another pilot that has well over 1,500 flight hours and a bachelors degree to react to any situation that happens during flight.

    Gulfstream, Airline Transport Professionals, Embry Riddle, and any other training academy gives you the education and testing needed to acquire a commercial pilots license which is 250 hours minimum and then they are subjected to oral and physical test. For an Airline Transport Pilots license, you needed at least 1,500 flight hours.
    It is not poor training that led to these accidents.

    May 28, 2009 at 5:09 pm |
  16. Bill

    This news article just goes to show how stupid news reports can be as well as all you idiots who listen to this crap. The pilot that crashed the plane in buffalo was gone from Gulfstream for 5 years...yes 5 years. So why doesnt Colgan airline take the blame for this accident since it was their pilots?!? And as far as the pinnacle pilots go...i mean i shouldnt even have to say anything about that. "Hey lets take a plane up to 41,000 feet even when the ceiling of the aircraft is less than that." Its stupid people making stupid mistakes. If you run a red light and slam into another car killing several people, should we see a report about the drivers ed school that trained you to drive?!? come on

    May 28, 2009 at 5:04 pm |
  17. Mobius

    If you think that's bad, look at who drives your kids to school.

    May 28, 2009 at 4:56 pm |
  18. Brutus

    First of all, how can anyone link the gross negligence of those pinnacle airlines idiots to Gulfstream. They were young and stupid trying to push an aircraft to and beyond it's maximums. How is that Gulfstream's fault? Second, Capt. Renslow of Colgan had 3,379 hours of experience and 4 years at Colgan Airlines. He went through Colgan's training on all aircraft he flew for them, and had annual checkrides as required. Again, how is this Gulfstream's fault? Is 3,379 hours for a captain of a regional airline making $40k – $50k too few hours? He was not flying with 250 hours.

    Also, correct me if I am wrong here, but I do not see any articles on Google about any fatal Gulfstream Airline crashes in it's 20+ years of operation.

    May 28, 2009 at 4:53 pm |
  19. xnor

    After driving light trucks for eight years I took a quick course to qualify for my CDL class A license. I left with my first load and a great trainer, much younger than me but he had generations of experience to draw from and he taught me well. Even though I had years of professional experience, my trainer was the key in the big rig to survival on winter mountains. You have to learn somewhere, somehow, you need judgement and a willing trainer/mentor otherwise you are a danger. How do you know that the the big Peterbilt next to your car on the Hwy isn't being driven by a complete novice? you don't. Same with planes. Let people learn and they will surprise you with their ability.

    May 28, 2009 at 4:47 pm |
  20. clarification

    Just an FYI just like any other airline their training program must meet FAA standards. Also, once a pilot leaves the company to fly for another airline they must pass check rides with that airline as well, they don't just walk onto the job, no matter what training program they have come from. It would be nice if the media could stop falsifying the facts and jumping to conclusions with the information they are given just to get a reaction out of people and make a story sell and stop to think before they report on something they don't completley understand because this is peoples lives they are affecting.

    May 28, 2009 at 4:43 pm |
  21. Jackson

    Howard, as a response to your post:
    There are many more licenses that you left out in your post, such as the instrument rating pilots must get before getting a commercial rating, which contribute to a pilots overall understanding of how they can control an airplane.
    Regardless of how pilots are trained. experience is necessary so they can aptly react to situations that may arise during flight. So yes, good training is needed but so is a lot of experience.

    May 28, 2009 at 4:41 pm |

    Hope that the journalist can improve their research skills. They could have looked into Florida Tech, Embry-Riddle and Flight Safety's pilot "factories" and seen that outstanding training programs do exist.

    Newly trained Lufthansa pilots fly – JETS! – as copilots with as little as 350 actual flight hours. They are however flying only with experienced captains for quite some time. This has worked well for the most part .................. the young lady flying the airbus that scraped a wingtip in Hamburg last year was one if these newly minted pilots. The senior – experienced- pilot took over and prevented the incident from becoming an accident.

    Quality of training is most important, it allows one to stay safe while gaining experience. The Buffalo crash shows some of the industry problems:
    Pilots not earning enough to live within a reasonable commute, (notice I did not say $$ =Safety)
    Commute time component against duty time,
    Experience in type and upgrade process.
    Training Training Training - wonder if the captain had ever done a stall in a real -8 airplane

    The U.S. airline industry is in need of a massive change perhaps even reregulation.

    May 28, 2009 at 4:35 pm |
  23. Robert Frederick

    Please read my prior post

    Please stop getting hung up on the medical anology, it's just that an anology, few are always 100% accurate, they are simply used to illistrate the point.

    I have flown with all types. I am 47 years old, that puts me in the middle of the equasion. I can comment about those "too experienced" as well. I can deride myself just as easily for I have my shortcomings as a pilot too. Please bear in mind the following, training can only teach you so much. Personally counting sim time, I have had dozens and dozens of checkrides, hundreds and hundreds of hours of training, and from that training comes a few common denominators; engine failures, fires, instrument failures, electrical failures, hydrolic failures. Sim time and all training time has this in common as well, it's VERY expensive. As a result all the "biggies are handled" few of the insidious gotchas are. As pilots we talk about the error chain. The truth is very few of us have had engine failures, even less fires-but almost every one of us has had a gotcha situation (likely several), one we couldn't predict, forsee or train for. Frankly I have learned far far more from other pilots, often their mistakes, than from ANY training. In doing so I have not repeated their gotchas. This what keeps us safe far more than simulator fires. Training shortens the process, it does not replace it.

    I can take a class or course on blowing glass, but what would make me a craftsman? A pilot is a craftsman, it is a skill, not a science. It takes training, perception and lastly experience.

    As for military vs civilian, I've seen both do pretty stupid stuff, and i've seen both excell. Each has something to add to the cockpit, each learns from the other. I'm pretty sure straffing runs in an F-16 bear little fruit in a snowstorm in Laguargia as did the countless trips around the patch I did as an instructor in a C-172. For all the strengths a military pilot has they have weaknesses as well. The F/O on the Air Florida crash in DCA was a F-15 pilot if I recall correctly. He was faulted for not standing up, not being forceful enough with the captain . Why? Perhaps he was too used to following orders (on the CVR he voiced his discomfort with the deice situation, but in a weak manner- this does not take away the captains responsibility)

    Flying airlines is the big leagues my friends. Our passengers deserve the best. Almost all the time they get it, almost. When we race to the bottom line, pinch every dollar, surf the web to save a nickel, sometime, someplace it will go too far. The results here speak for themselves.

    The saddest part, as is too often the case in aviation, it takes an accident to force change, I for one hope hope this will be the last.

    May 28, 2009 at 4:35 pm |

    All this crying about the state of aviation safety in the US is fearmongering and irresponsible journalism if you want to call it journalism.

    In order to get to the right seat at Gufstream airliens or any airline the pilot must first pass his FAA private checkride, FAA instrument checkride, FAA commercial checkride, FAA multi-engine checkride, FAA checkride at Gufstream in the beachcraft 1900, and then pass the initial operating experience and get signed off by a training captain.. That's alot of FAA checkrides that need to happen to earn that seat. alot of pilots fail their checkrides at Gulfstream and don't earn the right to fly passengers.

    Their are federal regulations concerning pairing of low time innexperienced first officers and captains. The captain must have a minimum amount of experience to be paired with a new FO. The first officer has to complete a competency check evry 12mo.

    All these checks are in place to insure pax safety.

    High time pilots won't get hired at a commuter becasue the commuter is not going to pay for a piltos training and then he leaves when his furlough ends or he finds a better paying job. An airline has to keep a pilot approx 1 year to recoup his training costs.

    I have flown 727's with new hire FO's with 400TT who were more on their game than some of the pilots I have flown with who had 5000 hrs.

    The "major" airline pilots have no game. They are flight managers who program FMC's. When I was flying the 727 a few years ago I had a United captain who was jumpseating with us to Guatemala city and the only approach available was the NDB. I shot that NDB approach in bad vis with lightning strikes and some nice gusts with torrential rain. When we got on the ground the United captain said... " wow... I don't think I could have done that". The only time he shot an NDB approach was in the sim at his last annual.

    The "major" pilots were overpaid, and the regionals are pitifully underpaid.

    BTW.... I don't remember the last time Gulfstream had an accident. Can someone remind me?

    May 28, 2009 at 4:28 pm |
  25. Eric

    There seems to me a preconceived notion that all regional pilots are 18 years old and have only 500 hours. This is by far exception rather than the rule.

    Pilot hiring has been pretty much non-existant over the past 2 years. This translates into even junior pilots getting a considerable amount of experience. You'd be hard pressed to find a regional pilot with less than 2000 hours at the well established regionals such as ASA and SkyWest.

    Most regional pilots are opting to stay at the regional level instead where many find more "stability" than at the majors. Consequently you have some very seasoned pilots with hours well exceeding 10,000. The majors simply aren't as attractive as they once were to regional pilots.

    On a side note, it was noted that fighter pilots are some of the worst pilots to have in the cockpit of an airliner. I've flown with a few ex fighther jock first officers and while their flying skills are above reproach, they are unaccustomed to working in a crew environment which is essential for safety. They often times require additional training simply to learn how to share responsiblitiy with another crewmember. Ego seems to be an issue

    May 28, 2009 at 4:21 pm |
  26. Tommy Slick Wings

    I echo the sentiments of Bill, Michael and others who stated the fault lies not in total flight time nor even the compressed training schedule, but the lack of screening inherent in Gulfstream Academy's pay-to-play airline program. Most people would agree that the military and major Part 121 carriers have a rigorous battery of psychological and proficiency tests that weed out the individual who may have the desire but not the qualifications to be at the controls of a jet aircraft. Marvin Renslow, the captain of Colgan 3407, busted virtually every initial check-ride he ever took, yet under the Gulfstream Academy system it simply meant re-testing until he had passed. Tragically this individual that had significant gaps in his knowledge and abilities, yet was "passed upward" through the regional airline system right up until the night he was a type-rated ATP airline pilot in the left seat of a Q400 blissfully along for the ride with his airspeed bleeding off to stall at the KBUF outer marker.

    If the past is any future indication there will be a lot of hang wringing, but nothing will change until a critical mass is reached in the public's mind.

    May 28, 2009 at 4:18 pm |
  27. Bernard

    As a Captain and pilot of 20 years who has shared the skies with GIA for the last 10years I can attest to how true this article is. Gulfstream Airlines has for many years been the blacksheep of the commuter type airlines. I have flown with several of their former First Officers and have observed the unprofessinal behavior of their pilots on many occasion. I am not surprised that this airline is linked to these fatal accidents. The fact that their pilots have to pay for a job that others do not speaks for itself. I hope the FAA will start to scutinize their operation.

    May 28, 2009 at 4:17 pm |
  28. Colette

    This story is the result of highly unbalanced reporting. I have always been a fan of CNN, but this makes me worry about what other news I'm believing that may be completely biased. Gulfstream is not training commercial pilots any differently than anyone else, nor are they doing it any differently than it's been done for ages. These accidents are tragic, but they are not the fault of a school that follows the very strict guidelines provided and enforced by the FAA.

    May 28, 2009 at 4:17 pm |
  29. Sandra M.

    Pilot Factory – Simple: E-mail blast everybody you know and copy the and executives of the airlines you use most about your concerns. Low sales or at least the potential of it always get their attention – its the bottom line. Be alarmed, but be proactive.
    I hope a smart airline company sees this as a marketing opportunity to set themselves apart by letting us know about their pilot's training & safety records!

    May 28, 2009 at 4:16 pm |
  30. Jenn

    PDX Dave is correct. My brother trained and flew for Gulfstream. More than once he reported mechanical failure and equipment deterioration resulting in his declining to fly the aircraft. He went round and round with management. He no longer flies for them. Management was not interested in keeping the airplane safe, repaired or properly maintained regularly. Often FO's would take jobs flying back "broken" ariplanes to their home airports at their own risk for extra money. Says a lot about a company willing to have their pilots doing this and throwing bags and doing other odd jobs...Ask about flying in the bahamas...those are some stories, too. I wouldn't fly them. Still have know guys who do...make sure you're affairs are in order. Pinnacle, Colgan, Continental Connection, it whatever you want. All the same.

    May 28, 2009 at 4:12 pm |
  31. Steve

    read the transcript of the cockpit voice recorded. The first officer didn't stop talking and asking the pilot inanne questions the whole flight. When she did actually do something more often than not she did the incorrect thing or had to ask to have an instruction repeated. She was completely unprepared to be in the cockpit of a commerical airliner and probably so was the pilot. But profits are king and 50 people dead, well, that's no big deal for an airline.

    May 28, 2009 at 4:09 pm |
  32. MF Atlanta

    Ha! I 've found a way around this. I got my private pilot's license last year. No more lines, screaming babies, people kicking the back of the seat, or wondering if the pilot is hung over or inexperienced!

    May 28, 2009 at 4:02 pm |
  33. Dean


    I don't think comparing an Air Froce Pilots or Navy pilots to these student pilots fair. I know you might of gone to this school and feel threathen but relax, nothing is going to change by the FAA.

    Try and make comparisons apples to apples....

    Retired and still flying.

    May 28, 2009 at 4:02 pm |
  34. Kelly

    Wow! The comments for this CNN article are starting to look like one of the online pilot forums! I've thought about putting all of the money into training to become an airline pilot (in my family, you are either a flight attendant – been there, done that...or a pilot – ex military and civilian), but then I ask it wise to spend $30k, $60k, or even up to $100k to make maybe $20k starting out at a regional flying 6 legs a day in the same airplanes I used to pour cokes in? Oh, and the fact that my fiance (a pilot) and I have seen our parents go through paycuts, furloughs, and lose their pensions? Companies are not going to attract the best and brightest until they start raising requirements, salaries, and charging more for ticket prices. The public is paying the same amount for airline tickets that they were paying in the 1970's, not adjusted for inflation, operating costs, and rises in fuel prices. Unfortunately, the Golden Days of commercial aviation are over. Maybe I should just use college degree and forget about flying.

    May 28, 2009 at 4:01 pm |
  35. BusBoy

    Sadly, it appears many people have missed the point of why we are even discussing the issue and it has devolved into which flight school is better, whether military pilots are better, or maybe it is foreign ab initio pilots?!

    The ENTIRE industry is "flawed" as it is run by people who see the chance to make a quick buck on the backs of people chasing a dream. Granted, "the dream" has become a nightmare for many already IN the industry, but while there are still people willing to pay the extortionate amounts of money for a few weeks training and some OJT in the right seat of an "airliner" it will continue.

    Safety is SUPPOSED to be the first and last thing. Unfortunately, those of us INSIDE the industry know it is a joke! Margins are tight in the industry and that bottom line imperative rolls all the way through the industry and safety margins suffer right along with everything else. The FAA has bare minimum standards and most airlines barely meet them! Aircraft fly around "broken" all the time, because larger aircraft has a Minimum Equipment List, which was ORIGINALLY to allow aircraft to fly from a remote location where they broke and land at a maintenance station where they can be fixed. However, airline now use these MELs to allow their aircraft to fly with inoperative equipment for days, weeks and months without EVER repairing them. How can they do this? They simply say that the aircraft has not had a "maintenance opportunity at a maintenance station!"

    As for pilot training, to even attempt to compare military training and civilian training is a joke, unless you compare somewhere like Embry-Riddle, with an in-depth 4 year degree program attached to it, with a Military Academy graduate, who has also gone through very similar rigorous training. To even suggest that ANY REAL EXPERIENCE is gained in a three month program at Gulfstream, Comair/Delta Academy or the like is ignoring the simple fact that learning has 4 stages (Rote, Understanding, Acceptance and Correlation) and TIME and IMMERSION in the topic is needed to get beyond Rote.

    The red herring of the foreign ab initio schools is just that...a red herring! Those schools take highly screened, highly intelligent recruits and put them through training that the airline themselves have designed to meet their own rigorous standards. When was the last time you heard of something stupid happening to a Lufthansa crew or British Airways crew, etc.. The difference in the US is that we say, "spend your own money to achieve the FAAs minimum standards for certification, then go and get your flight time working for any "fly by night" outfit that will take you and THEN we will pay you next to nothing to fly for us after a month of training in the aircraft we fly." And we wonder why these companies can get away with paying less than McDonald's wages?! As Sully said to Congress, "I am not exaggerating when I say that no-one I know IN AVIATION TODAY has any interest in their children getting into the piloting profession." It has become a "look at me, Ma, I am a pilot" job for young, know nothings who THINK it will be a great career. It will not!

    Ask ANY PROFESSIONAL PILOT OF THE LAST 25 YEARS if they would do this again if they could have gone to law school, medical school, or any other professional work environment and they will, almost to a person, tell you they would never fly for an airline again.

    The SYSTEM is broken and to heap all of that blame on the shoulders of two pilots who were trying to the best they could under terrible circumstances simply ignores the SYSTEMIC and DEEP SEATED PROBLEMS in aviation safety, training and oversight.

    May 28, 2009 at 3:51 pm |
  36. Brad in Ohio

    More sobering reality... Do you realize there are the same type of "schools" for CDL training? CDL as in Class 8 heavy truck. You know, the semi's that are always in your way... That's right CDL mills. And nobody even mentioned this. Been going on for YEARS yet we drive right beside them every day. They weigh upwards to 80,000 pounds and beyond, they take over a quarter mile to stop and will crush anything in their path.

    The sheer quantity of big trucks puts them right up there with commercial airlines in loss of life and property, yet nobody pays attention to that.

    Don't even get me started on health care.

    May 28, 2009 at 3:50 pm |
  37. Vertical

    Kudos to Capt. Patrick K. Moore! (yes, I remember from keeping excellent record(s), note(s), etc.) I'll be forever grateful that CNN took the time to 'listen' to his input with regard to the GIA segment I just watched on your network.

    Thank you again, sir, for your professionalism, attention to detail, uncompromising 'expectation' of me to exceed the standard as an Airline Transport Pilot, when you personally administered my IOE (initial operating experience) in what was then, my very first 'checkout' as a 'Line Captain' in 'scheduled' commercial air carrier service...'once-upon-a-time', long ago.

    Much has 'transpired' since then... and thanks to you, I'm STILL a 'doer' vs. a 'talker!'

    You were truly a mentor to me then, as you are STILL to this day. Believe me when I say that 'your voice' is still clearly & difinitively 'heard' when I'm faced with 'real world', 'real time' challenges, decisions, etc., during day to day operations as an aviator...especially when things get 'busy' & a little 'dicey' from time to time.

    Still 'out here' ...'tak'in-care-of-the-beef!' 'more- ways' than one, of course! 🙂


    ATP: B-737, BA-3100, CE-500, CL-65, G-100, HS-125, IA-1125
    A&P, CFI, CFII, MEI, FAR 121

    May 28, 2009 at 3:50 pm |
  38. JR

    One thing that nobody in the discussion has mentioned is that all the contributors are assuming that the actions a few pilots in the afformentioned accidents means most, if not all, of Gulstream's FO's are potentially unfit to fly right seat with competent captain.

    Therei s a real danger of taking a couple data points, as is the case here, and then extrapolating those to tht total population of many 100's of individuals. It's an over generalization. I am sure that many of Gulfstrams's FO's are quite capabable to carry out their duties. T

    That said, the low pay and fatigue factors are issues that deserve attention because these go beyond potential issues regarding training and experience.

    May 28, 2009 at 3:49 pm |
  39. Chris Gattman

    As a CFI myself, I'm concerned about these types of operations as well as the aviation profession in general.

    A commuter airline will not be able to hire seasoned professionals at under $20,000 a year because anybody with a family or a mortgage couldn't afford to work for such minimal wage. Meanwhile, the margins for flight schools are so thin that unscrupulous schools do all kinds of things to save money.

    The flight school across the runway, which is very well-known and established, laid off every instructor who had over 1000 hours last week because at the 1000hr mark, instructor pay goes from $14/hr to about $/18. So, the student pays $45/hr, of which the instructor only sees a fraction, but isn't told that all of the senior instructors have been jettisoned to make room for cheaper labor.

    The students probably also aren't told that the school's entire fleet was grounded by the FAA less than a year ago for other shenanigans.
    Nevertheless, they remain popular because they advertise that they're a "feeder" for a couple of local commuter airline.

    Of course, the general public still thinks pilots are overpaid and that tickets are too expensive.

    May 28, 2009 at 3:49 pm |
  40. David

    The FAA is just as much at fault. I informed them about a pilot who was in training with a history of suicidal ideations and being on psychotropic medications. The person lied on there medical exam about it as well. They are currently flying commercial flights. Be warned you never now who is flying!

    May 28, 2009 at 3:46 pm |
  41. Scott

    My dad was a flight instructor decades ago. He told me that student pilots, in order to get their hours up, would take things along to do in the plane, like books to read, school homework, etc, and then go flying. They'd climb to 10,000 feet so they wouldn't run into anything and just let the plane fly straight and level while they did something else, just glancing at the instruments and out the window now and then. So, cutting corners has been going on for decades. Skill is skill and some are just naturals at it.

    May 28, 2009 at 3:46 pm |
  42. CRJ7

    There's no way military training produces better civilian pilots - firstly your vast avionics and weapon systems training is useless; in the civilian world you don't have afterburners or an ejection seat to punch when you get in trouble; the aggressive decision making and flying you need in the military is opposite to what you need in civilian flying; the "blindly follow your superior's orders" mantra in the military is counter to modern cockpit resource management concepts; you have to say more than "copy" to ATC in the real world; you have to fly ILS approaches in the real world; you have bank angles you can't exceed in the real world; I could go on and on...

    May 28, 2009 at 3:45 pm |
  43. flyanything

    I've been through is all...Military trained, combat experience, civilian training, corporate jet expericence world-wide, airline heavy jet experience world-wide, however, no moon walk.....
    The ONLY way to clean up this industry is: 1. Pay top dollar. 2.Military pilots first(if you're no good they kick you out of the cockpit, not take your money and run) 3. Charge the cheap f__k flying public what it really cost. If they can't afford it, they can take the bus like the rest of the low lifes..........................

    May 28, 2009 at 3:45 pm |
  44. 3000 Hour Pilot

    The arguments about pilot pay are always ludicrous. The union enforced pay structures are ridiculous; the most highly paid have the lowest risk exposure and work the least amount (trans-continental captains) while the lowest paid have the highest risk exposure and most difficult job (RJ drivers.) I remember my first trip across the pond, sitting in the right seat, and watching a 747 slowly pass us 1000' above. I realized the laughable system as I was a 2LT getting paid $25k by the USAF while that captain made ~$200k, with far less responsibility and authority, and certainly much better and reliable equipment that I had. From first hand knowledge, I will argue untill my dying breath that airline pilots are ridiculously overpaid. RJ drivers are horribly underpaid, a medium needs to be found – but the solution is not the pay them the horrendous amounts currently enjoyed by the airlines.

    May 28, 2009 at 3:42 pm |
  45. Steve

    There's nothing fundamentally wrong with the Gulfstream program. Ask yourself...would you rather have a First Officer that has been training intensely for the past year, or one that has spent the past couple of years giving instruction in low-speed, not very complex small aircraft in generally good weather conditions? I can tell you that when I've let the typical flight instructor fly my fairly fast and complex aircraft they often make a hash of it because they haven't flown much themselves.

    yes, there is value in teaching folks. But it falls off after a couple of hundred hours of doing so. The best pilots mainly come from very focused, intense programs.

    May 28, 2009 at 3:40 pm |
  46. My Two Cents...

    I am appalled about the quality of journalism CNN allows to hit the airwaves, this particular journalist lacks the basic knowledge of how the airline industry really operates, he's proud of his findings like a bounty hunter bringing a fugitive to justice.

    If he were a bit more constructive on his criticism... He would personally interview some of the pilots, maybe even fly on one of their scheduled flights. Now... if he were really looking for something good to write about... How about attending a simulator session during a six month Pilot Proficiency Check or maybe even sit in class during Indoctrination?

    Allan's criticism and reporting is an accurate reflection on how the media views the airline industry, unfortunately... there is no simple way to explain everything to the media, they jump to conclusions and misinform the general public, sadly... the general public is also very naive when it comes to the basics of the making of a pilot.

    Allan's caption on the picture above: "CNN's Allan Chernoff investigates the air school that trained pilots of three fatal crashes."

    Hey Allan... How about AVIATION SCHOOL instead of AIR SCHOOL on that caption? It really makes you look like you don't know what you are talking about, and in reality you don't.

    I was a graduate from that academy, the training standards are very stringent and the transfer of knowledge from instructors to students is very efficient, a low time pilot is trained and expected to perform to standards set forth high time pilots, and it has been proven that a low time pilot can perform and sometimes excel the performance of a high time pilot working on the same environment. (FYI the highest washout ratio on this program are HIGH TIME PILOTS)

    Thanks to the skills acquired during the course of employment at Gulfstream International Airlines... I am now a company instructor for another airline, and I must say that we have washed out Flight Instructors and Military Pilots more times than I care to mention, don't forget that although training might be excellent... Either from the military, an accredited university or Gulfstream's, the final result rests on the integrity of that pilot, is he willing to perform the way he was trained?

    In short.... Allan... Get your story straight, do more research and then report, I think you fell very short and went trigger happy on this one and have subsequently misinformed the public.

    My two cents...

    May 28, 2009 at 3:39 pm |
  47. Andrew Martin

    A question for the veteran pilots. As an aspiring pilot who can't join the military because I'm too old what flight schools do you reccomend? Not including Universities because I have a degree already.

    May 28, 2009 at 3:30 pm |
  48. John

    Consumers have repeatedly made it clear they want cheap everything, consequences be damned.

    May 28, 2009 at 3:29 pm |
  49. oracle2world

    Do some research. The FAA has a database of airline accidents that include pilot qualifications. You won't find any correlation between hours and crashes. Otherwise the FAA would have shut these folks down yesterday. (The government always worries about CYA above anything else.) Some extraordinarily experienced pilots have done some extraordinarily stupid things, the KLM 747 captain that took off without clearance and collided with another 747 on Tenerife comes to mind.

    Ask yourself why modern transport aircraft have a "stick shaker" that warns of a stall. Why would experienced pilots with thousands of hours need a reminder of the main thing in Flying 101? Not just a light, but an in-your-face-there-is-no-way-you-can-possibly-ignore-this-warning-of-impending-death?

    Practically speaking, there is little a jet pilot can do when things go Really Wrong. Like the horizontal stabilizer jack screw failing. Or the horizontal stabilizer falling off, or the rear cargo door blowing out.

    And remember in the left seat is an experienced captain ... and it only takes one person to fly a plane.

    May 28, 2009 at 3:28 pm |
  50. Starcruiser

    Holly molly,,,,,,Since I lost my drivers license I'd sorta given up trying to drive anything for a living...While the judge said I couldn't drive anymore, he never said one word about not flying!!!

    Gulfstream Acadamy, here I come!

    May 28, 2009 at 3:26 pm |
  51. J-Pain

    This pathteic how the media has played this up. In the Colgan crash they made a mistake they were'nt paying attention and made a mistake. How about not knocking every regional and regional pilot and ask the media for better facts. I fly for a living I fly with those guys that came out of bridge programs and not everyone is as inexperiecned and dangerous as the media plays them out to be. The regionals are safe. They are heavily watched by the FAA just like any major or legacy. Yes, accidents have happended but the correct way to address this would be wait till the NTSB has issued a final report and not hit on the inexperiance of regional carriers because there are alot of experiance in the regionals. But, nothing will prepare you for everything. I praise Sully for what he did and his quick thinking but it would have been a different story if he was in say Dallas or Atlanta. I just would like to see more facts.

    May 28, 2009 at 3:25 pm |
  52. desertdog1

    Someone wrote:

    "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"

    This is the most ridiculous thing I have read in a long time.

    Nobody is blaming all airlines – they are questioning the training methods and their quality employed by Gulfstream International Airlines. Similar methods work for Lufthansa and Quantas (which are considered "safe" airlines) so possibly the difference is in the execution. Maybe GIA training just doesn't impart a firm foundation.

    Reading what others have written it appears that in most cases pilots are responsible for their own education and training until they are hired by the airlines. So cheaper fares wouldn't affect their training anyways. Once they are hired the airlines have to much liability not to send their pilots to in-service training to keep their skills current.

    Cheaper fares result in bad food, baggage charges, fewer flights, crowded flights, low morale, and a poor travel experience, but I don't think it means less experienced pilots.

    May 28, 2009 at 3:22 pm |
  53. Johnny Mac

    There will be accidents! I do not care how good a pilot is, sooner or later, Murphy Law comes into play and slams you. Are mistakes made? Sure they are and we will never get to a point in time when mistakes are never going to happen. Thousands die every day on our highways and you may or may not see one word posted on the TV nightly news. Let an aircraft go down and it all changes. GulfStream runs a top notch training center and for one accident to be even suggested that this may be part of their training program is just wrong. Take the time to check how many Gulfstream flights are departing and landing all over the U.S. every minute, every hour, every day. I'm impressed with their record and no, I have never trained with them.

    May 28, 2009 at 3:21 pm |
  54. Capt. Raymond Brown

    I have over 30,000 hours flying military,airlines,and flight instructing. when I hired on with the airlines the basic requirment was 3500 hours and military training. Pilots were held in high reguard, highly respected, and well compensated. Today pilots are hired with as little as 450 hours, and no military training. It is not the low fares that prompt the airlines to pay so low, It is the market. young pilots are mostly not married, live at home, have no monitary responsibilities,and can, and will work for minimum or below wages. A new commuter jet can cost over 30 million dollars, if an airline can afford payments like that , they could afford to compensate expierenced pilots with a decent wage. even the ticket agents make more. Greyhound carries around 50 passengers yet pays its drivers twice what a pilot makes on a commuter airline. expierence cannot be replaced, pilots need to have more pride than to except a minimum wage job flying a jet aircraft.

    May 28, 2009 at 3:21 pm |
  55. Pedro Goldstein

    This is the result of lack of proper regulation.

    May 28, 2009 at 3:15 pm |
  56. Bo

    This is very disturbing, I fly couple times a year and it's mostly the larger airlines, But what about those small hop
    connections.? The flying public ought to be outraged at this issue.
    Need to keep close eye on these pilots and their inferior
    flying school.

    May 28, 2009 at 3:15 pm |
  57. Klaatu

    Well Im just wondering how long before the victims' families name GulfStream in their wrongful death suits.....Helllooooo...this in unconscionable.....

    May 28, 2009 at 3:15 pm |
  58. doug

    There is no such thing as an "amateur pilot". "Amateur" is a loaded term and creates a false impression in the reader's mind. The authors should get their terminology straight. There are student pilots, private pilots, commercial pilots, and air transport pilots. The school in Florida brings commercial pilots up to air transport pilot skills, experience level and capability.

    May 28, 2009 at 3:11 pm |
  59. Bob L

    Many of the previous comments boil down to "I expect every pilot/doctor/bus driver/etc to be fully trained before he works for me!" without thinking about the impossibility of that. Nobody comes out of the classroom, no matter how good the classroom, ready to function alone. Every job I can think of has some period of on-the-job training, actually DOING the job under the supervision of someone more experienced. For a job like "surgeon" that period can easily last longer than the "classroom" training. For jobs like doctor, pilot, police office, soldier, and many others there just no other way to learn what they need to learn. And even when they have reached the point of being "fully trained" (such as Board Certification for doctors, Captain for pilots, etc), the learning doesn't stop.

    Airlines have to train their people on the job, just like every industry. No company is going to say, "Welcome to your first day at Delta. Take Bill here as your copilot, and fly that 747 with 300 passengers to London. Here's the keys." Even if you've got 5000 hours (which is a lot), they're going to start you off with a more senior pilot, both for training and to evaluate how much you really know.

    May 28, 2009 at 3:11 pm |
  60. MV

    As a commercial pilot and chief executive of a CFR part 135 Commercial Operator and CFR part 141 Flight School, I feel compelled to comment. Distill these safety concern into three parts: Regulatory Compliance, Economics & Skills. Training guidelines are designed, published and regulated by the US Government (FAA). Once an operator complies, that operator then writes its own hiring standards which is tempered, in part, by how much liability an insurance underwriter is willing to take on. The "cheap tickets online environment" then puts the big squeeze on profitability, so now payroll pressures contribute to the consideration of hiring lower time, lower paid guys (but that may make insurance go back up). It's a business (TCO) dance. As for skill, some people are extremely good at operating heavy machinery and some people should just keep their hands away from moving parts. Highly skilled, big heavy drivers deserve to be paid big wages. This is quickly becoming NOT the case in the US air carrier environment, as most customers will only pay the cheapest price. "Air safety" and "cheap" are at odds. By the way, the next time YOU board a plane, ANY plane, ask YOUR pilot, "How much night IFR time have you logged. How many times have you shot an approach in IMC down to minimums?" Say those exact words then watch the look on his face.

    May 28, 2009 at 3:09 pm |
  61. Derrick

    Although it is crazy-expensive, Embry Riddle in Daytona is the best school in the world for aviation. If you can afford it, that would be the best bet for aspiring pilots. Derrick S. (ERAU '89-'92)

    May 28, 2009 at 3:08 pm |
  62. Paul

    What an assine report by an ignorant journalist. Cnn you should be ashamed.

    May 28, 2009 at 3:08 pm |
  63. Realist

    Just shows what you get with hastily-trained amateurs put in a position of responsibility, far over their heads. Talking about the pseudo-journalist who wrote this ill-informed piece, of course.

    May 28, 2009 at 2:57 pm |
  64. Leslie

    RE: Randy who said:

    May 28th, 2009 11:17 am ET

    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.

    RANDY! Is that you? =) Comair Aviation Academy was a great school.... if you're talking about Ralphie, I'm sad to hear this.


    May 28, 2009 at 2:52 pm |
  65. joker

    I love how the ignorant public just throws out a blanket statement like "All pilots in an airliner should have a vast amount of hours and experience" like people are magically going to have that thrust upon them at some point when deciding to apply to an airline. You think flying checks around in a light twin or towing banners or flying skydivers is going to give you the experience in a 50,000lb jet travelling at Mach .78 when something goes wrong? Absolutely not. You don't learn to ride a mountain bike well by spending years riding a tricycle. There are a number of these pilot mills out there other than Gulfstream which supply most pilots at the regional level now. How many years did we go without an accident here in the US with thousands of flights daily operated by these "unqualified" pilots up front? Thats why there are 2 pilots up there...a first officer and a CAPTAIN. Yes folks thats right, a captain that does have experience. So where did many of the captains get that experience? Yep, in the right seat at a regional. The days of the military pilot filling the ranks at airlines is long since gone. Its a whole new ballgame now folks and for the most part these pilots are safe. A reginal FO is held to passing the same checkride as a mainline captain and has yearly PC checks just like everyone else.

    May 28, 2009 at 2:52 pm |
  66. Baffled

    I worked very hard to get my certificates/ratings and flew many hours with students building time. I've been flying over 20 years now and question why I never got my shot. It's the secret handshake. I'm an accomplished naval officer and very safe, competent civilian pilot. I understand customer service, professionalism, and I wear my uniform with pride. People that know me are baffled that I have been shot down by immature, inexperienced kids that were willing to pay the mighty dollar, keep their nose clean, and get the "guaranteed job interview". Don't get me wrong, not everyone fits this category. But, some out there do. I also had the integrity not to fudge my logbook...I wonder how many people out there have done such a thing?

    May 28, 2009 at 2:52 pm |
  67. Matthew

    This is the same company that was found using automobile parts on their airplanes in 2008.

    May 28, 2009 at 2:51 pm |
  68. robert enriquez

    I am a graduate of Gullfstream program.I recieved 1st class training and had nothing but good thing to say .Oh by the way all my classmates are currently in various airlines with many carriers due to the fact that they went threw the program.These socalled pros need to check there facts.

    May 28, 2009 at 2:51 pm |
  69. Steve

    Re: Scott. I'm an instructor at a major airline and the civillian pilots with real instrument time are by far my best students, we're not dropping bombs anymore.

    May 28, 2009 at 2:50 pm |
  70. Brian

    Required time in office? Typical bigot, right thomas klein. Why all the complaining you want to fly for free what do you expect?

    May 28, 2009 at 2:48 pm |
  71. Bob

    The detractors interviewed here have an agenda too. Like others have said – how many crashes have been blamed on "experienced" pilots; pilots with thousands of hours, etc? Accidents caused by the crews usually occur because someone did NOT follow their training. If you don't do it the way you were trained, or don't pay attention to what the plane is doing, it doesn't matter how many hours you have.

    May 28, 2009 at 2:47 pm |
  72. B Howard

    I could write a book on this subject, but I won't. But what I will do is give you a small bit of info. you will find also as bad as the Pilot Factory story. If you look at the Federal Aviation Regulations (FAR's). You will find out the only penalty mentioned is the loss of the vary thing that all pilot wish to keep and that's their pilots license. But lets say you crossed the line with the FAA and they did take your license. If you own your own aircraft all you have to do is get in and fly home from the hearing. THERE IS NOT PILOT'S JAIL! And they will actually have to see you flying in order for them to do a thing to you then. 1,500 should be the minimum, but the FAA's minimums are just low enough to get you killed!

    May 28, 2009 at 2:47 pm |
  73. Jenny B

    Let it be known that medical students DO NOT and CANNOT treat patients. For those of you who dispute the analogy.

    May 28, 2009 at 2:45 pm |
  74. John

    While it certainly seems improper to be training pilots in planes that have passengers (to say nothing of charging for those flights), an important question this article fails to ask is "how many flight hours are these pilots logging?" The reason it takes most pilots many years to become qualified for a right seat in an airliner is because they can only afford to fly 2-3 times a week. But if a person pays a lump sum and can fly 5 days a week and log those hours quicker, then it's the same amount of experience. It's all about spending time flying an airplane, not how long it takes. That's why airlines (and the FAA) all have requirements in terms of hours logged in aircraft, not years of experience.

    May 28, 2009 at 2:44 pm |
  75. Mark


    May 28, 2009 at 2:43 pm |
  76. Old Flyer

    There is no comparison between ab initio training at European carriers or in the Air Force to the training at these flight academy puppy mills. For starters, there is the screening process. The Air Force and Europe’s carriers screen for the most qualified candidates that meet aptitude requirements. Places such as Gulfstream screen for ability to pay. European airlines and the Air Force train above and beyond FAA requirements and should not be used to justify the near minimum standards met by these flight schools. There are thousands of laid-off experienced airline pilots in this country that could bring the safety that comes with experience; but, they do not work for poverty wages. It is more profitable for Gulfstream to pay poverty wages to someone paying to be trained than to hire an experienced pilot.

    May 28, 2009 at 2:43 pm |
  77. Fr8dog

    First, I have been a professional pilot for 18 years, started flying in 1972. So I guess that gives me at least some insight into this industry.

    First, "maddawg", even though you speak the truth, your comments have all the spin and resonance of an honest-to-God boot-licking, brown nosing, ass-kissing corporate lacky / monkey-boy!!!! CEO's and board members have alway blamed pilot's for everything that goes wrong. Personally, I'm tired of it!! How about putting blame where blame is due .... FRANK LORENZO!!!! He's the Harvard Bastard that started the demise of the Golden Age of Aviation! Such was his "contribution" to aviation that Congress actually put into law that he could no longer run an Air Carrier!! Combine his efforts with those of deregulation and you have the so called "perfect storm" that is now coming to maturity! Add to that the fascist/corporate take-over of our country where CEO's and Board members pay lousy salaries, cut corners everywhere including maintenance while padding thier Golden Paracutes and getting away with it!. What are the results? Well, we're seeing them now. I'm truely surprised it has taken this long for the problems to surface. What pilots ARE to blame for is accepting the so called "excuse" that they need to accept pitifully low wages, long hours and brutal scheduals to gain experience that they need to get that prestigious Major Airline Position!!! Instead, they accept these lousy jobs with their lousy pay and conditions, themselves that the rewards will come later. I know, that's exactly what I did! And it got me nowhere!!

    This forum has exposed many truths but also many misconceptions. I don't have any knowlege of Gulfstream's training practices, so I cannot truthfully coment on them. But I do feel they are being used as a scape-goat, even though there may be some actual culpability on their part. What I do know is what I have experienced. I started out at a small local airport. My first instructors were ex-military pilots from WWII and they trained me well. Then I went to one of those pilot-mills, Comair Aviation Academy. The training I received there was also of good quality. But this was19 years ago and not sure what the standards are today! But I too have seen a decline in the quality of pilots being produced. What's worse is their attitude! Many come from well-off parents who have obviously spoiled them rotten. Their work ethic usually sucks and they want it all and they want it now!! There is also what I call the "New Breed" of pilot. The ones who seem devoid of principles and ethics and believe in advancement through elimination. Eliminating other pilots that is!

    My first flying job was that of instructing, for more than 2 years. Then "single-pilot-IFR" cargo operations for more than 3 years. In these 5 years I literally "paid my dues"!! So why am i unemployed, why have I been passed over for better Airline jobs? Two reasons. My age and affirmitive action. I stood there and watched my students, with no experience, being hired by Major Airlines and Cargo haulers because they were of specific minorities, while my resumes and applications were being ignored! Today, because of my age, I'm still being ignored while 20 something flight school grads, with no experience what-so-ever are being hired to go straight into the right seat of commuters, while the captains they are flying with are those who moved over from the right seat. So what we have is total inexperience flying with little experience. And we wonder why there are so many accidents. In short, ALL Air Carriers have been practicing "Age Discrimination" along with affirmitive action. I have seen this first hand in ALL of the interviews that I did actually get to do! Most Air Carriers don't want experience. They want cheap labor! And experience pilots know better and therefore are considered by air carriers to be pains in the asses.

    As many of you pointed out .... it's all about the MONEY!! If a plane crashes, so what!! That's what insurance is for. And forget about the FAA!! I have and seen pilots notify the FAA about illegal practices and watched as the FAA Safety Inspectors investigated the complaints and came back and said, "The owner denied the claim! Case closed!" So apparently, the FAA is on the side of Big Corporations!

    In closing, I am saddened that it has come to this and that scores of people have to die to bring the truth to light. I truely love to fly and love aviation and I hope one day the Golden Age of Aviation will return and become the "Faternity" that it once was.

    May 28, 2009 at 2:43 pm |
  78. Kevin

    This article is extremely bogus. I attended Gulfstream Academy back in 2001 and after training for 2 other Airlines, Gulfstream was by far the most rigorous training of all. I was the only one in my class that had over 1000 hrs of total flight time with almost two years of flight instructing experience. Even with this type of training, this program was no joke. Very difficult and high wash out rate. They don't just let anyone through. You have to earn it believe me. Programs like this should be modeled after for regional and major airline training. After Gulfstream I got hired by a very well known regional and the training was a joke in comparison. After spending 8 years of my life dedicated to college, flight instructing, training programs such as Gulfstream and 3 years at a regional, I decided that the industry was absolutely ridiculous. Sleeping in the back of the aircraft during overnights, 16 hr duty days and washing underwear in the hotel sink because the company decided to keep me on the road longer was not for me. Maybe I could have stuck it out if I had made more than $16K my first year or $19k my last... These are the reasons that aircraft's are going down. Even though I am out of the game now I still want the public to know the abuse that goes on for crew members. It has to change and it has to change now.

    May 28, 2009 at 2:34 pm |
  79. john

    Go to ER College and other large flight schools ( Silver State Helicopters, etc.) and get ripped off. You get the big student loan and they will gladly take if from you with OVERPRICED AIRCRAFT CHARGES, etc. Also; Don't just blame GULFSTREAM for the pilot factory problem. Check into all of the REGIONAL AIRLINES and see who they are hiring; where they are hiring from, and how many flight hours these pilots have. There are some regional airlines that pay so little the pilots are able to apply for government aid, but if they do so they will be fired. To become a professional commercial pilot takes a lot of money and time. Yes, if you short cut the time and push a pilot through a fast program it sometimes has consequences, but please don't punish the good for the ignorant.

    May 28, 2009 at 2:33 pm |
  80. Tony

    Brian, I think you are spot on...but answering your question would not be newsworthy for Allan and Laura. GoJet, a United "contractor" out of ORD was hiring Commercial & Multi-engine license applicants last summer, hours didn't I wrote earlier- an industry problem, low salary = low exp.

    May 28, 2009 at 2:31 pm |
  81. Zach

    Having worked for Gulfstream I can say this much....its all about the $$$$$. The Florida "Continental Connection" is such a joke...everyone working there is just hanging on until something better comes along.

    Glad to see somebody finally brought this public...pretty scary to think that you should really hear "Oh hello this is your captain my first officer joey and myself will be flying you at 32000ft above the atlantic ocean...Joey has about 200hrs private time under his wing and has been with me for roughly 2 weeks in this Beechcraft 1900. Granted thats duct-tape holding the overhead storage together...but don't worry as Joey has been doing great on his landings as long as its not slippery with rain...he still needs a bit of practice there. Who knows maybe when we get into Key West or Nassau he will have a chance to try out his wet landings sit back and relax we should have you ON THE GROUND in no time at all"

    May 28, 2009 at 2:28 pm |
  82. fed up jet tech

    I have been working as an aircraft maintenance technician for 22 years. Thats 41,360 hours, for those who count, not including vacations. I can only say that after a pilot gains his experiance and is able to hire on to a main line carrier, is that his ego should be inflated enough to keep his aircraft aloft for quite some time. Super tube pilots are the worst, and you know who you are.

    That being said, I have also met alot of pilots that have come up with some of the silliest write ups I have ever seen. Not only do these professionals lack knowledge of the aircraft and its systems, they also are missing the comman sense to put anything learned into a practicle use.

    I dont want to seam like I hate pilots " some of my best friends are pilots" so I will say this. Look around at the people you work with. Are there some that wow you with thier problem solving abilitys? Are there some that handle pressure and stress with a halo slightly tipped to thier browl? Then there are probbably some that you can't fathom how they keep thier job let alone have been hired in the first place.

    Put that into every day life and think of them when you; drive your kids to school, eat out at the local pub, buy any product that was made by "man". And let me know how you feel then.


    May 28, 2009 at 2:28 pm |
  83. A320 Pilot

    25%+ of all Airline Pilots graduated from EMBRY-RIDDLE AERONAUTICAL UNIVERSITY. They are the best pilot training institution in the nation, and possibly in the world. 4 years of aeronautical education leading to a BS plus top notch flight training. That's where I went and I would recommend it to anyone. Flying is serious business and should not be "expedited".


    May 28, 2009 at 2:27 pm |
  84. Pardes

    You cannot compare the training given to a 200 hour cadet in an airline like Lufthansa, BA or SQ. Gulfstream's training does not even come close! Besides, those cadets are not aloud to "fly" the aircraft until they have sat in the cockpit and observed for several hundred hours as S/O's.

    May 28, 2009 at 2:26 pm |
  85. twoyearplan

    Hey flying public; You want newer equipment, better pilots, no delays, better all weather aircraft, safer flights. Are you willing to pay double the airfare you now pay?

    Get used to it all you cheap morons not willing to pay more for a better air transportation system.

    May 28, 2009 at 2:21 pm |
  86. Nick (PPL) student pilot

    I think military pilots are the most highly qualified for safe passenger flight because they have a more solid foundation. However, with a big enough wallet and the commitment to do so a regular person can be a safe pilot. although all pilots starting from the civilian route that want to fly for a living should do cargo first. Then when the experience is gained, maybe passengers. I am finally working towards my dream of learning to fly, but to pay all the money you need for ratings and hours only to make 20k a year is for the fanatics and should probably get their heads checked anyhow.!!

    May 28, 2009 at 2:17 pm |
  87. linney

    this is terrifying. i think all pilots should be trained by the military or sully. i don't want to ride in a plane flown by a soft newbie. i would pay extra for real pilots any day of the week.

    May 28, 2009 at 2:14 pm |
  88. Brian

    The article likens flying with a pilot-in-training to going to a medical student instead of a dcotor. This is true. But actually, that is what happens a lot of the time because that's how doctors are trained as well- in a hospital, seeing patients under the "supervision" of a licensed doctor. Sometimes you don't even know if the "doctor" you are seeing is a med student or resident being supervised or a licensed doctor- just like you apparently don't know if your co-pilot is licensed or in-training. The point is, it is a good way to train- on the job, under the watchful eye of an experienced supervisor. The article makes the case that Gulfstream-trained pilots are known for crashing planes once they get their licenses but does not mention any cases of Gulfstream co-pilots in training crashing planes. Is that because, under supervision, they don't?

    May 28, 2009 at 2:14 pm |
  89. Carrie

    Low time is not the issue here, anyone can be taught to fly an airplane in 500 hours, it's the years of experience that make a good pilot a great pilot.

    To Scott who thinks that military pilots are better than GA pilots, that is a myth; I know many military pilots and they are all great pilots, not everybody gets their ticket at the public's expense, some of us have to do it the hard way.........renting or buying a plane and paying an instructor. Your private license can cost upwards of 10K! By the time you ever get the hours and the ratings needed to get to the airlines, you will probably have spent nearly 100K.

    To Ann who obviously has no clue as to what airline pilots have to go thru annually to keep current, here is a small inkling: 1st class medical (includes EKG) 2 times per year, random drug testing (whenever and wherever), annual recurrent training at the school house in simulators which can simulate any emergency you could ever imagine. There is NOT any other profession that is as closely monitored, regulated, watched, tested, abused than U.S. airline pilots. My doctor doesn't have to submit to random drug testing. WHY NOT? My doctor doesn't have everything he or she says and does recorded to be used against them if something happens in the operating room, WHY NOT?; pilots have the cockpit voice recorder and can have instruments that actually can send data back to the company if something is done improperly (not life threatening things; just like over temping an engine or something). I'm a hell of alot more afraid to have surgery than to fly on any airplane! I guarantee you it is alot more dangerous....................many doctors that I know have been in and out of rehab multiple that's scary.

    Again, it's not the hours its the experience.

    May 28, 2009 at 2:13 pm |
  90. Dag

    Here in Boston most of our hospitals are also training hospitals On many occasions a patient may see a medical student first before the doctor. There are good and bad every profession. I used to have a lot of contact with lawyers, There are probably more bad lawyers than bad pilots.

    May 28, 2009 at 2:11 pm |
  91. Sebastian

    Howard is right. You have 20 something year olds in the air force flying planes in and out of harms way. You have many airlines with cadet pilot training program (including Qantas, one of the safest) where they start flying after a short while.

    The key is the training not the time.

    Also the captain that said you don't want to be treated by medical student rather than doctor miss an important point. Hospital depends on residents. Who while fully qualified MDs are still in their training phase as well under the supervision of more experienced doctors.

    May 28, 2009 at 2:07 pm |
  92. Harris

    Annual checkrides are FAA required for all pilots. You are accusing Gulfstream Intl. of also having poor standards during those checkrides. The Captain is in charge of all aspects of flight. They are required to have an Airline Transport Pilots license which requires 1,500 flight hours to qualify. There is an experience level on the flight deck at all times. For all those graduates who flowed to major airlines you are also accusing those companies of having low standards. My initial training experience with a major was very demanding as I am sure they all are. It's easy to cull weak pilots during their probationary year. Just to put things in perspective when a pilot learns to fly a different jet at their airline they get ground school and simulator time. After they pass their checkride their first flight in that jet is with paying passengers under the watchful eye of a check airman. This is all FAA approved. Either all the airline companies are in collusion and agree to compromise safety or the CNN reporters failed to bring out "The Rest of the Story."

    May 28, 2009 at 2:06 pm |
  93. Oleg

    – 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."

    Robert, thank you for your post! You got to the bottom of this.

    May 28, 2009 at 2:02 pm |
  94. kdf

    Well if you can elect a president who hasnt even been a senator thru an entire term to PILOT a country you can get a pilot with no experieince to fly a plane. It should be fine right? Except once is responsible for millions of lives and the other for 40 or 50. No big deal right?

    May 28, 2009 at 2:02 pm |
  95. Rob

    I started flying at age 18. Had my private license by 19, commercial by 21. Then I went into the Air Force and attended USAF undergraduate pilot training at Vance AFB OK and then KC-135 training and flew KC-135 air refueling tankers for seven years and then flew corporate jets for 20 years. I have an Airline Transport Pilot license, over 11,000 hours of flying time and have type ratings in seven different air transport category jet aircraft (from Lear Jets up to Boeing 707) and have tried to get on with the airlines for years and was never qualified. How do people with as little as 600 hours of flying time whose training was so minimal, obtain jobs flying passengers around?

    May 28, 2009 at 2:01 pm |
  96. Flyboy

    Howard Wrote: "the US Air Force does the same thing and those pilots are flying single engine fighters…"

    Howard, I have to take issue here. An Air Force pilot undergoes a series of intensive training programs that, all totalled, will last 1.5 years or more before they will be even begin their actual mission qualification–not 3 months like this pilot farm. Even after these 300 plus hours of training, an Air Force pilot will be under close supervision with limited responsibilities for around two years–not ferrying civilian passengers as will graduates of this Florida program.

    Furthermore, the Air Force "washes out" 1/4 to 1/3 of a given pilot training class for various reasons. I wonder how many marginal candidates this for-profit pilot farm washes out? As the commitment for Air Force pilots is currently ten years, most pilots leaving the Air Force to fly commercially will have in excess of 2500 hours–most of that command experience–before winding up as a co-pilot in the commercial airlines.

    So, no: The Air Force does not 'do the same thing.'

    May 28, 2009 at 2:01 pm |
  97. Jason

    Did I miss something? I read the odds of dying on any single comercial flight are 52.6 million to 1. We as a country already spend WAAAAAY too much money on airport security compared to what we spend on subway, bus and train security even though the same amount of lives are "in danger"

    If you are concerned about your safety while traveling, then contact your congressman about training for an individual to get their DRIVERS LICENSE. These teenagers, old folks, and maniacs are a bigger risk to your life than the pilots referenced in this article.

    May 28, 2009 at 2:00 pm |
  98. Laurance

    This also my me wonder; Who trained the 911 terrorists? I'm not saying this particular facilty/school; however, seems like in 3 months one learns enough to be dangerous or ill equipped. Seems all too easy to sign up and get the crude knowledge of the basic principals of flight training...

    May 28, 2009 at 2:00 pm |
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