There was a time when aeroplanes were unreliable and pilots were well-drilled in dealing with the things that could go wrong because they had to be. Today, according to several respected organisations, aeroplanes are reliable but pilots are not, because their training does not reflect the risks of modern aviation.
First the US Federal Aviation Administration announced the provisional results from an ongoing study, showing high levels of automation is killing pilots' planning and flying skills (Flight International 8-14 February, P30) and now the Australian Senate has set up a committee to examine piloting standards.
Testifying to the Senate Committee, the Australian and International Pilots Association (AIPA) says piloting standards are being degraded by an overly commercial approach to pilot recruiting and training that has emerged with the market ascendancy of the low cost carriers. AIPA says this, combined with the imminent arrival of the predicted pilot shortage, will see a further degradation in pilot standards among second-line carriers as the experienced crew flee to higher wages and better conditions at the big network carriers.
AIPA is almost certainly right. Low-cost carriers which have, for years now, avoided paying for any pilot training except recurrent, have been responsible for a change in pilot attitudes towards their job. The cracks will soon begin to show.