A US aircrew-training practice in which airlines require pilots to pay for their own training has prompted one of the country's leading pilot associations to call for an investigation into the practice by the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) The practice is already under examination by a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)-mandated Aviation Rulemaking Advisory Committee (ARAC) task force.

The US Career Pilots Association (CPA) has asked for the NTSB investigation to see whether "pay-for-training" has any effect on safety. The CPA alleges that it causes low-experience pilots to be chosen in preference to more highly-qualified ones, and that pilots are forced to take second jobs, increasing fatigue risk.

The US Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) has also waded into the debate claiming that ValuJet operates a "pay-for-training" policy. ValuJet confirms that it did operate a "pay-for-training" scheme, but denies that it practises it at the moment because it has not been hiring since operations restarted, having 250 pilots still on leave. The carrier says that, when it needs to re-start hiring, the pay-for-training policy may no longer be possible anyway, because it is market-driven and there is now a shortage of good pilots.

Defending pay-for-training as safe, ValuJet says that all its pilots paid for induction, not recurrent training, and that the process served as a selection procedure. Pilots who failed to meet standards could be rejected at any time during training. The well-established Delta Connection regional airline Comair, which also operates "pay-for-training", has not commented on the policy.

The ALPA claims: "This is a new line in business propriety which has been crossed-we think it damages pilots' morale and affects their attitude to the employer." The union confirms, however, that the practice has existed for some time in very small carriers, but that its use by large airlines like Comair and ValuJet is worrying because they believe it might become more widespread. Meanwhile,

The Federal Aviation Administration has funded ARAC task forces to study pay-for-training, pilot selection and flight-time limitations. The pay-for-training group is expected to file a draft report by mid-June.

Source: Flight International