Is it a Planned Event?
There are many pilots motivating kids to join our much-loved profession. I being one of them. However, my fear is that these young people won't have a job by the time they reach their dreams. The pilot shortage was not an overnight event, but has been a process in the works for many years. At the end of the day, I predict the FAA will state,
"Due to the pilot shortage, highly advanced aircraft, and the implementation of NextGen we don't need a full crew complement. In response to economic interest and the requirement of the traveling public four pilot crews are replaced by three pilots, three to two, and two to one."
Thus far, my predictions have been more than accurate. I believe, eventually there will only be one individual on the aircraft monitoring the automation. Airlines, supported by the FAA, will use the thousands of ASAP reports to prove that pilots make errors and automation is much safer. Far from the truth. If ALPA and other pilot unions don't start taking this threat seriously, we may not have any pilot jobs in the future.
I often receive emails from pilots from other countries wanting to fly in the U.S. They are hopeful that the U.S. government will make this happen due to the pilot shortage. Unfortunately, the facts reveal that the government may have been helping to drive the pilot shortage in order to support NextGen and the removal of pilots on behalf of airline management. Some may think that assertion is a plot point in a novel. Yes it is, but the truth is, my novels reveal industry goals and associated actions.
Due to the delay of NextGen, the industry is behind schedule and feeling the pain of the agency-induced pilot shortage. Then airlines retired too many pilots due to Covid, that exacerbated the problem. Despite the billions of dollars provided to U.S. Airlines, airlines are crying a pilot shortage because they did not plan. Or did they?. Even SkyWest attempted to cut service. While the industry is not ready for the fully automated aircraft to take over, it's coming.
Over the previous dozen years the evidence has been presenting itself piece by piece. It's nothing short of a puzzle that when enough pieces are put into place the picture eventually unfolds. I believe we are there.
The FAA asserts that they instituted the 1500-hour rule because of the 2009 Colgan Air crash. That is a false assertion, and was nothing but marketing propaganda. That crash did not occur because of either pilot's lack of flight time. That crash was due to poor training and lack of understanding that resulted in poor performance with fatigue involved. It was also the prologue of my first novel, Flight For Control for a reason.
Increasing pilot flight hours was in the works far before that crash occurred, and was later used as an illusion that the FAA was taking action to solve a problem that served their goals and pacified the Colgan Air families. Thus, the pilot shortage began when young people realized the expense and difficulty to obtain their goals of becoming a pilot with that lofty hourly requirement. Ironically suicidal pilots were introduced in this first novel, and later the Germanwing's crash occurred. Who would have known how that plot point would come full circle... but it did in Flight For Sanity.
The FAA approved "train to proficiency" with AQP (Advanced Qualification Program). One of the mandates with AQP was training as a crew concept. Meaning, AQP required the Captain and First Officer to train as a crew because 50% of that training was to be the pilot non-flying duties in their respective seat. The FAA knows that highly automated aircraft incidents and accidents are due to communication errors that could be mitigated by line-oriented training. But the FAA has never enforced the respective seat requirement. I believe they may have dropped it altogether. Train to proficiency means that airline's save money on training that may be less than sufficient, as identified by an astounding number of ASAP reports.
Flight For Safety identifies inadequate training, highlighting an incident that was exactly like the events that brought down AF447. Who would have known that AF447 crash would become a thread in all the ensuing novels that would ultimately identify the corruption of the FAA, that becomes part of the newest novel Flight For Discovery. The FAA had more than a dozen ASAP reports that identified the exact problem that brought down AF447 and killed 228 people. There was no training and no fix until after 228 people died, despite their knowledge through the ASAP program. Not unlike the MAX crashes.
As we will learn in the next novel, Flight For Justice, a Federal Judge who was once an FAA prosecuting attorney is extremely disappointed in the ASAP program because the incidents are on the rise and fixes are at an all-time low. I do not believe this is a coincidence.
With all that was occurring in the aviation world, I decided to increase my knowledge and began my PhD at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. What I learned was both interesting and frightening, I presented my research in a non-fiction book: Normalization of Deviance, a Threat to Aviation Safety. I also learned about Safety Management Systems (SMS). Transport Canada implemented SMS in 2000, and ICAO's requirement began in 2006. Not until 2015 did the FAA make SMS an FAR Part 121 regulation, with full compliance mandated by 2018. A requirement of SMS is to train all employees on SMS.
If you ask a pilot what SMS is, and they believe it's an acronym of a component of the aircraft or a messaging system, then that airline is not in compliance. This testimony comes to light in the next novel, Flight For Justice. However, Flight for Survival was the novel I wrote during my advanced education, highlighting areas of industry concern focused on Safety Culture and SMS and how that applies to pilot training. With a little drug smuggling on the side.
Retaliation of a pilot bringing her concerns forward found their way into Flight For Sanity, that resulted in Darby being grounded for two years in a corporate effort to silence her. We learn about the Whistleblower Law, AIR21, in Flight For Truth, and the real-life challenges of any pilot who is retaliated against for safety concerns, calling in fatigued, or concerned about training.
The MAX crashes and the FAA's lack of oversight became part of the newest novel, Flight For Discovery, as did the AF447 crash. SMS requires a positive safety culture. And when airlines or manufacturers can retaliate to silence employees, we have a problem. The AIR21 law is not solving that problem because it's nothing more than a slap on the hand for management. But that doesn't stop Darby Bradshaw to hold them accountable. Sadly, when a female pilot is raped, we learn how airline management and their union, ALPO, utilizes the HIMS program to retaliate and control pilots in their effort to improve safety.
The pieces to this puzzle are forming the picture. The pandemic allowed airlines to retire the vast experience at the top of the airline, despite the billions the government gave them to survive, but still resulted in the perpetuation of the pilot shortage. However, the plot thickens when you look at who was involved in the real life events.
There was one FAA administrator who implemented the 1500-hour increase. He denied mental health testing for pilots overall, but then still allowed airline managers to use those tests in retaliation to remove pilots--despite his assertion of the tests not being effective. He was also the administrator during the lack of oversight for the MAX development, and he left office 6 months before the first crash. His administration failed to enforce AQP as mandated by the regulation. Yet, while he implemented SMS he failed to enforce that as well. Where is he now? Rumor is, he sits on the Board of Directors of one of the airlines he served, when he was an administrator.
ALPA has chimed in to assert they support "Two pilots always on the Flight Deck". The union is also against reduced crew operations. However, I am uncertain if ALPA realizes that they could be part of the problem by not advocating for greater proficiency through improved training that would reduce ASAP reports. ALPA could mandate proper crew complement during training by ensuring a Captain is paired with a First Officer. They could also mandate duty time limitations, to reduce fatigue, which the FAA is currently looking the other way while pilots are on duty for up to 20-hours and calling it a "workaround" on behalf of the airline. Clearly any workaround of an FAR is in violation of SMS. How is it possible to mitigate risk, the primary goal of SMS, if you don't honor the very regulations designed to reduce risk?
Despite what ALPA is or is not doing, the fact is, no FAA representative is allowed to take money or a reward of any kind from any airline--so says the law. I believe a delayed payment if the form of a board of director's position, after retirement from the FAA, is in fact taking money for having created rules and regulations that served the airline's bottom line versus improving safety. You'll love the prologue of the most recent novel, Flight For Discovery.
We have a challenge ahead, and I invite you to
To grow the industry that we love!