Between airlines hiring pilots with much less experience than they use to and the FAA hiring controllers right off the street to work in the busiest of airports, there is going to be an accident. It’s just a matter of time when and where the next accident will happen? Look for yourself:
I’m an ATC’er at a major facility. Four years ago we had 264 controllers, today I think we are at 150. We have controller trainees with NO experience, and a few with SOME military experience. There are 48 trainees at our facility right now.
Everyone has their own opinion as to why politically this has happened, but I can tell you a majority of my piers are getting out when they are eligible. There are some who will stay until their forced retirement age of 56. But “most” of those who keep working past their eligible date is because they have to. (ex-wife, financial decision, kids in college, etc.)
I am speaking from experience, everyone of my friends who have already retired did so because of the FAA. They didn’t retire because they didn’t like their job, in fact most of them loved it.
I am not eligible to retire until June 2012, in the mean time I have worked 18 weeks of six day weeks so far this year. We are covering the retirements with overtime. The controllers are tired, not working with someone sitting next to you in many cases and sitting on position with a trainee. In the cases when you are training, you not only have to be on top of what is going on, you also have to re adapt to the trainees actions and know the outs for them.
I love ATC, but what the administration is doing to it is shameful. Our facility spent 4 million dollars in overtime last year, because they weren’t willing to hire controllers 5 years ago. They figured that the controllers would stay because of our salary. Many times they would put new controllers in the smaller towers to gain experience, then progress to the busier facilities. Today your son or daughter could become a controller and go straight to Chicago Center, Atlanta Tower, or So Cal Approach not knowing the difference between wake turbulence, and baked beans. Let alone when traffic gets busy, weather diverts, minimum fuel, and then “a go-around”.
The FAA sees the writing on the wall, it’s too late to fill the gap between the retiring controllers and the trainee’s certification. The worst is yet to come in more ways than others.
On the pilot side of the equation, having 600 hours total time, 100 hours of multi-engine and no college degree requirement, makes for a good resume for a CFII, but not a FO for a 19 passenger commuter. (My opinion) The added responsibility for a PIC is huge. Spending time away double checking the FO’s inputs in the computer, checklists, fuel, read backs, etc. is another recipe for disaster.
Combining the two; inexperience in the cockpit, the towers and radar is what really scares me.