House Subcommittee Hearing Reveals Worry about Keeping Experienced Flight Crews


US Airways Flight 1549 pilot, and hero of the moment, Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger testified today before a House aviation subcommittee about the final moments before ditching the Airbus A320 into the Hudson River after its engines sucked in a number of Canada geese. He, along with other crew members and the air traffic controller, Patrick Harten, described in detail, and yet again, exactly what occurred. However, it was something else Captain Sullenberger said that may be cause for concern. According to the pilot, pay and benefit cuts that have been going on since September 11, 2001 are driving experienced pilots away from the cockpit.

Captain Sullenberger stated that his pay has been cut 40 percent in the last several years and that his pension has been terminated. This, he said, has put pilots and their families in an untenable position.

It seems the economy has become an intractable part of all aspects of the lives of all Americans. And though almost everyone who flies knows that airlines have been struggling, driving well-qualified and experienced pilots away from their airlines is probably one of the worst things they can do. Take the peanuts, the pillows, and make people pay extra for more than one bag, but keep those steely-eyed pilots where they should – and want – to be.

On the heels of Flight 1549 crash landing in the Hudson, came another plane crash on the other side of New York State. This one killed every person aboard the twin-engine Bombardier Q400, and one person on the ground. It was also revealed that it was not weather that played a role, but perhaps pilot error that brought down the plane. With the airport almost in sight, the turboprop’s autopilot figured the plane was moving too slow and forced itself down to gain speed. The crew then panicked, forced the plane to ascend and stalled out. While the crew had a little experience, the question is now, was it enough?

The co-pilot of Flight 1549, Jeffrey B. Skiles told the subcommittee that unless there are reforms made at the nation’s airlines, “experienced crews in the cockpit will be a thing of the past.” Sullenberger added to this that if this occurs, “we will see negative consequences to the flying public.”

Obviously, the country does not need another airline to file for bankruptcy, or their employees pay cut. However, if the nation’s airlines can’t afford to keep experienced pilots, and instead uses inexperienced crews who may panic in certain situations, eroding bottom lines won’t be the last of their problems. You might be able to add wrongful death lawsuits to the reason airlines are losing money.