HOUSTON—Nervous passengers overcome their fear of flying every day, but some pilots think there may be good reason to worry.
Two pilots who fly for a regional airline told 11 News that the real problem might be with pilot training.
Because they wished to keep their identities secret, we’ll refer to the pilots only as Carl and Charles.
“I think it’s very unfair that pilots get blamed for everything,” Carl said. “The FAA should look at the management side of it. Are managers providing the best tools for the pilots to do their job?”
It’s a question being posed following the fatal crash of a Colgan Airlines flight near Buffalo in which 50 people died.
Poor pilot training for the regional carrier has been cited as a possible cause.
“We do need to work harder on this. We do need to change the training or the standards when we hire pilots,” Charles said.
The pilots say the people flying planes are often under pressure to perform and are forced to work long hours for little pay.
“Its business model is to be the lowest bidder,” Charles said.
That’s a model critics say is flawed.
“I think people should be very concerned,” attorney Jason Gibson said.
Gibson represents the families of passengers killed in crashes involving regional carriers.
“What you have is a situation where you’ve got airlines putting profits over people,” Gibson said.
11 News was unable to get any representatives from regional carriers in the Houston area to appear on camera, but they all said their companies adhere to the highest FAA guidelines for training – guidelines identical to the ones followed by larger airlines.
At a flight school utilized by some smaller carriers, 11 News spoke with a confident CEO.
“I don’t see training as being an issue,” Kurtiss Green of MVP Aero Academy said. “They get the basics here, and the basics are always learning the procedures and all the checks and balances.”
MVP Aero Academy puts hundreds of pilots through the routine each year – pilots who log a combined 12,000 – 15,000 hours of in-flight training. For some, it’s the start of a new career. Others who already fly commercially come in for their bi-annual reviews.
“Our standards are high. We demand excellence; We get excellence,” Green said.
But excellence in the classroom may not translate into excellence in the air. Some pilots believe training needs to include more real-world experience.
“There’s a very big difference between reading about it in a book versus flying through it,” Charles said.
In the Buffalo crash, the pilots encountered icing, a condition transcripts suggest they’d never seen before.
“You have instances where pilots have failed flight simulation tests. They’re hired anyway by the airline,” Gibson said.
“You can never really get comfortable and say, ‘We’re safe. We’re doing it right.’ You have to always strive to make it better,” Charles said.