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PHD. MBA. MHS. Type rated on A350, A330, B777, B747-400, B747-200, B757, B767, B737, B727. International Airline Pilot / Author / Speaker. Dedicated to giving the gift of wings to anyone following their dreams. Supporting Aviation Safety through training, writing, and inspiration. Fighting for Aviation Safety and Airline Employee Advocacy. Safety Culture and SMS change agent.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Aviartion and Maritime...

And the 1500-hour rule! 
Captain Jim Wright, has once again commented on an Aviation post from his maritime perspective.
Following are a few observations related to your well done blog on “The 1500 hour rule” from a maritime perspective:

1) “How will the industry combat an Induced Pilot Shortage” – While most (maybe all) airlines operate on a seniority system allowing management to adjust for supply/demand anomalies, a harbor pilot once accepted into a pilot organization is pretty much there until retirement or incapacitation. Both systems have their good and bad points. The basic difference is that airline pilots enjoy relative income stability (when employed) at the expense of job stability. Harbor pilots enjoy job stability at the expense of income stability. It does seem to me that the “seniority system” works better where supply exceeds demand rather than the other way around.

2) The Big Picture -
  •  “The FAA exercises considerable control over airlines.” The US Coast Guard and State Legislatures exercise considerable control over harbor pilots’ federal (Masters) licenses, State Pilot Licenses and Regulations. In both cases government is often seen (rightly or wrongly) as an enemy rather than an ally.
  •  “Aircraft manufacturers are designing pilot-less aircraft.” Cruise ship operators are ordering vessels capable of completely automated operation. (See “Further Observations below”)
  • “Aviation labor is a huge expense.” The missing part of this statement is “relevant to what?” For example in pilotage rate negotiations we typically characterized pilotage as a discounted cost relative to the value received.

3) “How will industry combat this induced pilot shortage?” – Perhaps the question would be better stated as, “How will pilots combat this induced pilot shortage?” The wild-card here would seem to be the “pilot-less aircraft” concept and how it might change the “cost/value” equation.

Perhaps the maritime industry offers a clue as to how automation might change (or not change) the dynamics of the cost/value equation. Although maritime automation has allowed for substantial reductions in crew size (cost) the loss record for merchant vessels does not seem to reflect a substantial increase in safety (value). For example, Susan Carson’s book “The Wave” states that, “every year, on average, more than two dozen large ships sink, or otherwise go missing, taking their crews along with them.” While this data does not create a direct linkage to automation it seems clear that automation has not solved the problem. Of course ocean shipping (as opposed to aviation) operates in the shadows of human endeavor and these loses, for the most part, go unnoticed by the public.

This leads to the issue of corporate morality as it relates to the effects of automation on safety. Carol’s uncle, a mentor to me in the business arena, made the following observation many years ago... 
most businessmen will be as moral 
as they can afford to be”
Perhaps this remark provides some useful insight towards how both airline and harbor pilots can exercise the leadership necessary to solve the problem. The simple answer is to show industry how they can afford the morality necessary to use automation as a means of increasing safety. 

Final Thought

My goal as a harbor pilot was to protect and enhance the legacy of those who went before me. My challenge to those pilots attending classes at PMI is that their goal is to protect and enhance the legacy of my generation of harbor pilots...
If airline pilots have a similar philosophy perhaps a proper answer to the problem will begin to take shape.

Keep up your good work. You’re building an impressive legacy for those following you to protect and enhance.

All the best,
Another great read! 
As always your comments are much appreciated.
Thank you Jim. 
Thus... leadership just might be the answer.
 Is that a trait we are born with, 
or should we learn how to be a great leader? 
Enjoy the Journey!
XO Karlene


  1. I do not know that I agree with all of the Captain's points, but his comments add significant value to the discussion. Thanks, Jim!
    -Craig (of Cedarglen)

    1. Thank you Craig, it's great listening to the parallels of industry issues. One of the best aspects of discussion is when we don't agree on everything and can had great discussions!

  2. Karlene,

    I had no idea of the loss rate of container ships. That is a staggering loss rate and the Captain is correct because no one cares about cargo ships or their crews. But watch the media frenzy when an illness breaks out on a cruise chip let alone when it runs aground. Same with cargo airlines verses passenger airlines.

    I like his point about business leaders being as moral as they have to be but it also goes with union pilots too. Maybe it is true for all of us.

    1. Rob, this is so true. I was just in the discussion about the UPS flight that crashed. She had never heard of the accident. Why? Cargo. Not an issue, as it's media. Nobody feels for the few moving freight. But a life is a life be it 300, or three.

      And the part about being moral. I could not agree more, and yes for the union leaders too. I was asked why I thought the unions had lost their way... meaning those misguided values and lack of morals... and after great thought, it comes down to money corrupts. And when you being making a volunteer position that should be for the good of the pilots and safety, one that is about power and profit, you attract the wrong types of people.
      Thanks for your comment!!


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