Your Flight Is Delayed. Thank the Feds.

Congress has radically restricted the number of pilots without doing anything to increase safety.


Planning to fly this summer? Good luck.

Delays are up. Cancellations, too.

Why? Because of the pilot shortage.

A pilot shortage? How can this be? Flying is a popular job. Some people fly small planes just for fun. Why aren't there enough commercial pilots?

Because the government passed another dumb law.

In 2009, after a Colgan Air crash near Buffalo, New York, killed 50 people, Congress decided that airlines could only hire aspiring commercial pilots who already had lots of flight time.

Instead of 250 hours, now they have to have 1,500 hours!

"That never made any sense," says current commercial airline pilot Tracy Price in my new video.

The sixfold increase wouldn't have prevented the Colgan crash. Those pilots had many more than 1,500 hours of flight time. The pilot had 3,379—the co-pilot, 2,244.

That didn't matter to the politicians. "We need to improve pilot training, address flight crew hours and service," said then-Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D–N.J.).

Demanding more pre-hire flight time discouraged people from trying to become pilots. It had "the effect of pulling up the ladder," says Price.

Few people have the time or money to get 1,500 hours in the air before they can even apply for a job. The number of certified pilots fell even as flight demand increased.

The pilots unions didn't object.

"Fewer applicants means higher pay," explains Price.

I say to Price, "This rule is good for you!"

"Great for me [and other] professional pilots," he replies. "If you believe in freedom though, it's a bit of an issue."

The union blamed the pilot shortage on poor pay at regional airlines, so I push back at Price: "Some of these regional airlines were paying pilots as little as $21,000 a year."

"[But] there was no shortage of applicants!" Price responds. "Plenty of people were willing to take fairly low pay and live with roommates for a year or two to gain that really valuable jet experience."

Today's required 1,500 hours doesn't even create better pilots. Actual pilots get trained in simulators today. The computerized cockpit gives them more useful experience than unsupervised hours of hobby flying.

In fact, those hours may leave pilots less prepared. "Flight time does not equal experience," Faye Black of the Regional Airline Association told Congress. "We waste a lot of time in training, breaking bad habits pilots acquire while trying to quickly get to 1,500 hours."

The politicians ignored her.

That's not surprising. Once government creates new rules, those rules tend to live forever.

Many are just unnecessary. Airlines don't want to kill their customers, and pilots don't want to kill themselves, so they self-regulate.

The last fatal commercial airline crash was 13 years ago. Flying is much safer than driving, biking, and taking a bus or train.

"Safer than any mode of conveyance ever, including walking," says Price.

But politicians believe that if they're not passing more rules, they're not doing their job.

So expect more flight delays this summer.

"I spend a lot more time than I want to making announcements to people apologizing for being late," says Price. "We should be looking for ways to expand the availability of airline travel to more people so more people can take advantage of this amazingly safe way to get from A to B."


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32 responses to “Your Flight Is Delayed. Thank the Feds.

  1. Just make a law that airplanes can’t be late.

    1. Let's make a law that airplanes can't change their name to starships.

      1. Does that offend your plastic fantastic lover?

        1. Go ask Alice.

  2. Congress has radically restricted the number of pilots without doing anything to increase safety.

    It's not about safety, it's about The Climate.

    1. Also trains. In the proper leftist vision, we will all ride trains. Every day. Sometimes in cattle cars.

  3. The pilots are needed for the increase in private jets for the increase in summits related to the increase in interest in Global Climate Change. Don't you know how important those people are?

  4. When it comes to Washington and the alphabet agencies I am reminded of a T-shirt that said:

    "If asshole were airplanes this place would be an airport".

    1. If assholes were grass, D.C. would be a lawn.

  5. The last fatal commercial airline crash was 13 years ago.

    In 2009, after a Colgan Air crash near Buffalo, New York, killed 50 people, Congress decided that airlines could only hire aspiring commercial pilots who already had lots of flight time.

    So... you're saying that we have had zero fatal airline crashes since this law passed - and you want to repeal it?

    On the other hand... you say there were no fatal commercial airline crashes in the last 13 years? Really? Are all of these fake?

    1. Did you read your own link?

      Not crashes from commercial airlines. The biggest crash was an otter in Alaska a decade ago. Others were onesey twosey things like an idiot got hit running across the runway or an engine failure throwing debris into the cabin -- which is hardly something you can blame on pilot training.

      Kobe's helicopter was there, that was a charter operaton not an airline. One was the thing where the dude stole an airplane and flew it around before crashing it as the most spectacular suicide that year.

      1. And a few those flights listed were on Canadian airlines.

      2. Kobe had a vfr pilot flying into ifr conditions. If your not use to it, it can be extreamly disorienting. Essential it boils down to damn my lying eyes, ears, and nerves

        1. Most people have no idea.

          When I took my SEL practical I was already commercial glider, but non-instrument. The examiner didn't register that fully, in his mind commercial came after instrument, so he had me doing unusual attitude under the hood. And he was NOT gentle with it.

          I got the leans SOOOOO bad. Couldn't convince myself the wings were level unless I was squished up against the door with my head turned. It was both hilarious and very disconcerting. He asked about it, surprised I was having a rough time of it when I was pretty damned good at everything else, and I told him "I've got like 2 hours of instrument time total, in smooth air." He thought about it, then realized he'd gone a little farther than strictly expected for a private SEL examination, but just said "Oh. Heh. Sorry about that."

          Didn't let me take the hood off and stop teasing me until we were on short final, though. Good guy, but he had a mean streak in him.

          If ever a VFR pilot thinks they can fly into reduced visibility, all they need is for an instructor to shake them up a little and then laugh at them when it's done and say "oh, heh. Sorry." afterwards. You can get fucked up super quick.

          1. "If ever a VFR pilot thinks they can fly into reduced visibility, all they need is for an instructor to shake them up a little..."

            That's what killed JFK Jr. and his passengers. His whole life he was told that he was much more capable and competent than a person of his middling (at best) intelligence warranted. Good looks and pedigree do not a competent pilot make, but no instructor was going to successfully communicate his true limitations.

    2. Also of note in pilot world
      And "air transport" are 2 very different and defined terms

    3. "So... you're saying that we have had zero fatal airline crashes since this law passed - and you want to repeal it?" I get this point. It's not really a good argument. Like when Climastrologists tell us it's the hottest/coldest/wettest/driest, etc. in 200 years. So they're saying it was hotter/colder/wetter/dryer 200 years ago.

    4. The two are not the same. What you are not aware of is that the airlines have made SUBSTANTIAL changes to their flight training departments because of this colgan crash. The safety improvements have nothing to do with the 1500 hour rule. If you don’t believe me, go ask literally any pilot. If you don’t know any pilots, go on Reddit and post “is the 1500 hour rule the reason for increased safety, or is it something else?”
      They will say something similar to what I’m saying. Source: pilot for 12 years

  6. Airlines are perfectly capable of training their own pilots. They (like most companies) are lazy and want to hire people already mostly trained.

    1. Look at Molly here calling for the destruction of all goverment schools!

    2. The large airlines do, idiot.

      1. Oh twaddle. The multi-million-dollar simulators all of the major airlines own for each of the aircraft in their fleets are just for show.

  7. Be like Joe; take Amtrak.

    1. Damn fine idea.
      Orlando to Atlanta (445 miles)
      Driving; $111 at $5/gal and 20mpg, seven hours
      Flying; $523, one hour thirty minutes (plus to/from at both ends etc)
      Amtrak; $182, nineteen hours 39 minutes (plus to/from at both ends etc)

      1. Your estimate of the cost of driving includes only fuel. It ignores the cost of the vehicle itself, maintenance, and insurance. The breakdown varies with region, type of vehicle, and extent and type of usage, but estimates I have seen show fuel as typically around 20% of the annual cost of driving a car. That drive from Orlando to Atlanta very likely costs a lot more than Amtrak, probably about as much as flying.

        An additional consideration is that on a train you can work or sleep much more easily than in a car, especially if you are the driver.

        That isn't to say that the train is always the best approach. Speed will often make flying more attractive, and flexibility in where you go may make driving better. But your cost argument is way off.

        1. A lot of those costs are associated with owning the auto, but they don't increase just because you make one trip in your already owned car to Atlanta.

          1. That's true, though it is not clear whether we should be calculating only the marginal cost of making that trip assuming ownership of a vehicle or whether for many people sufficiently convenient alternative forms of transportation might eliminate the need to own a car or reduce the number of cars per family.

  8. Nothing tears apart a country faster than overzealous Gov-Gun usage. And nothing explodes overzealous Gov-Gun usage better than growing Gov-Gun usage (self-sustaining root).... And nothing is a bigger threat to humanity than careless Gun usage for mundane dictation till one day a few start to wake up and realize; This isn't the USA anymore; it's a Nazi-Regime and Hitler (Executive Order) and Labor Camps (?Taxation?) are just around the corner.

  9. I agree with the conclusions of this article - including that airlines travel is safe. However, the infographic "Transportation Deaths" near the bottom is misleading.

    If you add the category "Tigerback Riding", that would appear to be the safest method of transportation. It's a classic "base rate fallacy". You need a denominator to compare these things (miles, # trips, hours, etc).

    (On the bright side, the inset image is nearly impossible to read.)

  10. Thank you Fed! For "doing something"!

  11. There is no problem so bad that government intervention can't make it worse.

  12. I am an airline pilot, and the new airline transport pilot rule is better than the old 250 hour, ink still wet on the commercial pilot certificate days. At 250 hours you don't know what the hell you're doing yet. Most pilots seem to have a steep learning curve up until about 1,000 to 1, 200 hours, with a humbling experiences along the way.

    Oh by the way the new law offers hour reductions below 1,500 depending on the training program you went to or military pilots. So just dropping 1,500 hours the sky is falling is false advertising.

    Normally I'm a Stossel fan but this article is pants shitting territory and doesn't tell the whole story.

    The airlines are going to promise to be good but they ALWAYS drop pilot requirements when it's convenient, and their own in house training programs move at warp speed to save money. Simulators are expensive.

    Not today Stoss, not today.

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