On a recent visit to Dubuque, House candidate Liz Mathis (D) criticized Ashley Hinson (R) for not fighting to keep American Airline service in Dubuque. She stated: “That should never have happened. You have received (American Rescue Plan Act) funds and (Bipartisan Infrastructure Law) funds. If your representative in Congress has not said she will be fighting for you, that is wrong.” I would politely ask Liz Mathis exactly how would you have fought for that air service.
Dubuque Regional Airport has never been designated by the FAA as an “Essential Air Service.” No federal government programs fill planes. Nor do they make airfare competitive or improve reliability. And they can’t fix weather patterns no matter what we’ve been told about a “green new deal.” And we can’t forget the cost of jet fuel has doubled since Joe Biden took office. That makes profitably very elusive. It’s all about prioritizing profitable routes for resources.
But government can impact the pilot shortage, and unless you are ready to buck Chuck Schumer D-NY and Peter Defazio D-OR we should not expect you to ever have any impact on the pilot shortage. “Huh” I hear your brain say. Let me explain the pilot shortage to you in very simple terms.
The military isn’t producing a lot of pilots. During the Clinton years, Democrats like Pat Schroeder from Colorado gleefully eviscerated the military calling it a peace dividend after the Cold War. Immediately, our pilot pools began to shrink. Most military pilots now have a 10-year service commitment after completing flight training. So those kids are kind of locked in for a while.
The baby boom is retiring. Ten years ago, pilots were forced to retire at age 60 because they were getting “too old.” Then congress allowed pilots to remain flying till age 65 when they became “too old.” Now we are being told to raise it to age 67 because they are not “too old.” Is it about safety or is 60, 65, or 67 some arbitrary number determined by the Democrats in congress?
And speaking of arbitrary numbers, let’s talk about Schumer’s and Defazio’s legacy on aviation. In 2009 a commuter airplane crashed in New York killing all on board. Before the NTSB had sifted through the wreckage, Schumer announced he knew the cause of the crash. A new standard was needed because these pilots did not have enough flight experience to be operating regional airline airplanes. 1,500 flight hours became the minimum requirement just to get a job interview as a copilot flying small regional airplanes. The average amount of flight time before that was usually 600-1000 hours and hiring was based solely on skills and abilities. The crew that crashed had over 7,000 hours between the two pilots. The USA is the only country in the world with this arbitrary flight hour standard.
So how does someone who graduates from a University of Dubuque or any FAA-endorsed flight school costing more than $100,000 go from 250 hours to the magic 1,500? Some waivers exist which reduce the time, but very few pilots meet that requirement. Instead, the young pilots spend years building time by flying skydivers, pipeline patrol, small package transport, and flight training. All that is done in small single-engine unpressurized airplanes. It doesn’t teach you crew management, hydraulics, pressurization, turbine aircraft systems, hard instrument flying, or cross-country flight management. As a result, 40% of applicants wash out of the airline training classes
So Liz Mathis, please explain how you’d buck the likes of Schumer and Defazio to repeal this restrictive rule.
***Written by a former military pilot who wishes anonymity***