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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, July 13, 2022

Pilot Shortage

A Government Funded Event

The government bought and paid 
for this pilot shortage
with your taxpayer dollars!

While I do have an MBA, it does not take a masters in business to see that this summer pilot shortage should have been avoided. A quick Internet search indicates that the government paid airlines insurmountable funds to survive the "Covid" challenge: An $85 Billion Rescue May Only Delay the Pain and Taxpayers spent Billions on Bailing out Airlines.  

How Airlines Used 
Your Taxpayer Dollars

Airline management used your money to pay extremely large sums to their most senior pilots to encourage them to retire early. Some airlines paid pilots 55 hours a month for three years, to leave with all their benefits. Those benefits are a high value too. To put this into perspective, that's approximately $20,000 a month. That is a modest number, as in some cases that payment was significantly more. To compensate for that process, airlines are now paying pilots 2-3 times more per trip to encourage them to fly overtime, causing a world of fatigue and pilot unrest. Literally. The results are passengers are being grounded for their summer travel and pilots are exhausted. Don't think this is for summer only. The airlines are so far behind the power curve that they are sending instructors to fly during summer months, cutting much needed training, which will exacerbate the problem come the holidays. 

Perhaps the government was acting in good faith. However, when giving an open checkbook to airline management who do not care about operating an airline, do not care about safety, do not care about the flight crews or passengers, but instead care only about lining their pockets with the intent to take the money and run-- passenger travel and safety will be in jeopardy. 

Either the current airline flight cancellations are occurring because airline management has absolutely no idea how to operate an airline, or they have devised a shell game creating an illusion of management. A staged pilot shortage enables airline management to cancel less lucrative flights, raise prices, and feign ignorance of what pushing pilots to their limits will do to performance, reducing many levels of safety due to fatigue in the process. 

The  Solution is Simple! 

1) Offer those pilots that have already been paid to retire an opportunity to return to the flightline. These pilots will take a day in the simulator, maybe two, depending on currency and they will be qualified. 

2) Enable those pilots who were forced to retire at 65 to return to the flight deck and fly until 67 to get the airlines through this challenging time. They too will require minimal training. 

Captain Rich Seiler, forced to retire at 65 six months ago, is still playing semi-professional senior baseball, is physically fit, competent and wants to fly.  It simply does not make sense to ground him and other pilots like himself that could be helping in this time of need. 

Union and Pilot Objections and Solutions: 

SENIORITY:  "It's not fair they come in over our seniority." SOLUTION: Place them on their original equipment, base of their choice, at the bottom of the seniority list in that base. 

UPGRADE:  "It's not fair, it will delay my upgrade." RESPONSE: Maybe for the short term. But growth is immense and airlines expect to hire 14,500 new pilots over the next 8 years. This is not a long term solution, but simply until the airlines get caught up with training.

DOUBLE PAY: "They'll take my overtime trips" RESPONSE: There are overtime trips being cancelled now. There is more than enough to go around for everyone. 

OVER 65 PHYSICAL HEALTH:  Pilot's fitness is assessed whether they are 55, 65. or 67. That make no difference. Either a pilot is or is not fit. Age is not the issue. NetJets employs pilots to fly that are older than 89. 

COGNITIVE ABILITY:   There are tests to check cognitive ability. While every person has a different baseline, these tests could be utilized to determine a decline in the performance of a pilot for their own level. 


I would think with contract negotiations in progress at all airlines, that creative minds on both sides could solve the problem by simply signing a contract that works for everyone and enables this 12-24 month fix, with a long-term contract secured. 

Flying Fatigue

Flying fatigue is similar to flying drunk. Federal regulations have created limits to avoid pushing pilots to fly too many consecutive hours that would impact performance. However, the previous FAA administration has approved airlines to place pilots on duty for more than 25 hours due to this pilot shortage with the excuse being Covid, and called it a "workaround".  Currently airline management believe that it is okay for these extended duty times as they and the FAA manipulate the meaning of a deadhead. Therefore, until we allow our retired pilots to return, even those over 65, passenger safety will be in jeopardy because of an FAA/Airline workaround that induces fatigue instead of mitigating risk. 

FAA Challenge

I challenge the FAA to justify why it's safer for a 64 year-old pilot to be on duty for over 25 hours, versus a healthy qualified 65 year-old that has 40 years of experience flying airplanes, to be a safer option for passenger travel. 

The Solution is Simple
The Question is 
Why Aren't they doing this?

Enjoy the Journey 
Karlene Petitt PhD, MBA, MHS


  1. Totally agree Karlene! And it would be great to see Rich back on the flight deck!

    1. I agree.. It would be wonderful to have him back!

    2. I wrote my senators to be proactive to push age past 65 . Hopefully things fall together

  2. It’s the government. It never makes any good sense!

  3. Then have him go to NetJets. Or better yet, start over at the bottom of the seniority list like every other new hire. He can use wealth of experience sitting right seat if he misses it so much…

    1. He would go to the bottom of the list on his original seat. This is not to take your job... just ensure you're going to have one. This is to solve an immediate problem and short term... why spend $50K, take a training spot from new hire, use resources of two months to train him on a narrow body, when he won't be here that long. Wouldn't it make more sense to do one sim period, get the airline through a tough time and then keep your job alive? The ramifications of a "pilot" shortage are not going to serve anyone well, as automation will replace you. Thanks for your comment!

  4. Suggesting solutions, as you are doing, is a good step toward effective problem solving. We’ll done.

    1. Thanks Jim. I believe most problems can be solved if everyone works toward a common goal.

  5. Besides the pilot shortage, we have now a shortage of ATC, FAA, and multiple traditional jobs of Customer service and Ramp employees. For some reason we have a generation of people who don’t want to work. Skilled labor is in high demand, and low paying jobs are not being taken for higher paid offers or government handouts. Ramp employees freshly hired find out they are working holidays and weekends and just quit. FAA inspectors starting salary is below what a pilot makes at a major airline. Building 1500 hours and a college career is now 100,000$ plus. Until this is corrected and people find value in learning a trade, their are consequences.

    1. You are so correct on all. I won't comment on the "for some reason"... that
      s a post for another time. But you are so correct. Also... to get flight training and college is pushing $250K... and that's only 250 hours. Very expensive. There are options now with airlines training pilots from the ground floor. If it's something someone wants to do, it's very doable. Thanks for the comment!

  6. It is time to retire karen

    1. Are you calling me "A Karen" ... or did you get my name wrong? Time to retire: 4 years 9 months, 11 days and 32 minutes. Not that I'm counting.

    2. Congress started this fiasco when they mandated both pilots in a airline cockpit had must hold the ATP certificate! So now in addition the the thousands of dollars you mentioned for the college degree and flight training, young pilots must bear the additional expense of the ATP CPT course plus paying for the additional hours just to get to 500 hours industry average for an entry level low paying aviation job to start logging hours required for the ATP certificate! Not everyone is cut out to be an instructor. The remedies you outlined are a great start but Congress needs to get off their asses and either repeal that stupid law or at least modify it to make it easier to get young pilots into the training pipeline. After all, this misguided law was a knee jerk reaction to the Colgan Air crash in New York and BOTH of those pilots WERE ATP RATED!!!!

    3. Howard, the 1500 hour rule had nothing to do with Colgan. That was in process well before the accident. But the Colgan families were so enraged, as they should be, the FAA had to give them something that they were doing to be proactive. They attributed this law change to a solution to that accident. But, anyone who is familiar with the accident knows that flight hours were not the cause... instead, inadequate training, poor performance and fatigue induced errors. I suspect there is one goal in progress. Time will tell. Thanks for your comment.

  7. When the retirement age changed from 60 to 65 it was instantaneous. Those at the top stayed king for 5 years those furloughed stayed out of work 5 years. Great gains for a few great pain for many. Regan reformed social security in the 80s but the age change from 65-67 was feathered in over 40 years. We have higher than normal retirements for the next decade, rather than stop all hiring and push the problem two years down the road it should be done gradually to keep the hiring and promotions continuous. Increase is one month each year so the need for new pilots decreases by 8% allowing time for young pilots to build experience. Don’t stop the hiring process and allow those at the top to remain king while those working so hard to get jobs have their dreams decimated. I am a 64 year old senior captain at a major airline. I have recently flown with new hire pilots that have 10,000 hours of experience. The shortage hasn’t reduced the quality of new hires at the major airlines. The major airlines are hiring at twice the retirement rate to solve staffing problems. It WILL be solved this winter.

    1. There is always a win and loss.. I'm uncertain if anything will make everyone happy. Most pilot I knew will not stay flying. They've had enough. And... they don't have to stay now retirements are not tied to pensions. Everyone is different. There are some guys at 65 in better shape, are better pilots, and would prefer to fly with than some of those at 55. There is a huge experience difference from those at retirement age and those newbies too. And... today, who would have thought commuters can hire directly into the left seat. They are. Would have thought that commuter check airmen are the highest paid in the industry... they are. The problem is that those running our airlines do not have a passion for aviation but a goal of making money only... for themselves. Not sustainability. The future will be interesting to watch. Thanks for your comment.

  8. No Pilot shortage for Major Airlines . Major Airlines has ten thousand applicants in the system.


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