Airline pilots

United Airlines’ top pilot has a lot to say about perceived pilot shortage

United Airlines Capt. Todd Insler, head of the Chicago-based airline’s powerful pilots union, is upset about what he would undoubtedly classify as “fake news” about the nation’s airline industry — namely all the talk in recent months about an alleged shortage of commercial airline pilots in the United States.

The perceived shortage would seem to be most directly affecting the regional airlines that work with carriers such as United Airlines, American Airlines and other major domestic carriers.

United alone works with no fewer than nine different regional carriers that operate about 50 percent of the carrier’s total daily flights. Some of those pilots working for United’s regional carriers end up flying for United and its mainline operations.

Recent headlines certainly would suggest a shortage of pilots at regional carriers does exist.

Horizon Airlines, for one, had to reduce its summer schedule this year, claiming it didn’t have enough pilots to operate the full schedule. And Republic Airways, a regional carrier that works with United, filed for bankruptcy last year, citing pilot shortage as one reason for its financial problems.

But in a sharply-worded memo released late Friday, United pilot Insler said the problem isn’t an actual shortage of qualified pilots. Rather Insler argues it’s the regional carriers’ unwillingness to adequately compensate pilots for their work and their specialized training that is creating the shortage because qualified pilots are unwilling to sign up to work in such situations.

Insler also makes clear he is not a fan of an amendment to the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act introduced in the U.S. Senate in early July to address a perceived pilot shortage. According to Insler, that amendment would “undermine existing minimum pilot qualifications.”

Rest assured, Insler doesn’t want anything to do with lowering pilot qualifications for flying commercially.

The United captain pointed to statistics that show no fatalities on U.S. passenger airlines after the Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act of 2010 required first officers on commercial airplanes to have a minimum of 1,500 hours of flight experience (reducible to 750 with military training).

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