The Australian Senate is reviewing commercial pilot competency, and the Australian and International Pilots Association (AIPA) has provided it with a powerfully argued case that piloting standards are dropping, and set to drop further.

This finding tallies with early results from a completely different study being carried out by the US Federal Aviation Administration,

AIPA has testified to the Senate inquiry that commercial pilot competency standards are being threatened by a combination of factors, including a changed ethos that arrived with the ascendancy of low-cost carriers (LCCs) in the world aviation marketplace, submitting that "current industry recruitment practices are cost-driven models consistent with an oversupply of pilots". The Association adds: "Those models are entirely out of step with the now ubiquitous forecasts of a worldwide shortage of pilots that airlines and their representative organisations are currently scrambling to address in other ways."

The Senate's transport committee is charged with investigating "Pilot training and airline safety", so it is highly focused on the relationship between pilot performance and commercial airline accidents. AIPA recommends that the Senate investigate the increasing influence of training cost on pilot training. The Association says that it is reasonable for pilots to be expected to pay for their ab-initio course to gain their "undergraduate" qualification - a commercial pilot licence - but it is disturbed by what happens at the "post-graduate" level, explaining: "AIPA agrees that the cost of ab initio training is an appropriate cost for the individual to bear, consistent with the vast majority of undergraduate training, while also supporting fee subsidisation as an appropriate vehicle to stimulate supply. Postgraduate training, until the advent of LCCs, was a cost borne by the employer, consistent with every other professional endeavour."

The AIPA has recommended that the Senate sets minimum experience levels for pilots in public transport flying because, it argues, there will be an increasing tendency for airlines to hire pilots with minimum legal experience levels. It also wants the Senate to consider requiring that airlines pay for post-graduate pilot training because of the "occupational stress" that high levels of debt put on pilots.

Source: Flight International