The long awaited Senate enquiry into pilot training and airline safety has recommended that an ATPL should be the minimum licence standard for copilots on “high capacity” RPT jet airliners such as the Boeing 737 and Airbus A320.
“The committee is of the view that an ATPL should also be required for first officers in high capacity regular public transport (RPT) jet aircraft such as Boeing 737, A320 and other aircraft of similar or greater capacity, and that consideration be given to implementing this as a standard,” reads the report’s first recommendation.
That recommendation seemingly rejects the move by Qantas subsidiary Jetstar to move to a “competency based” training approach through its new cadet pilot training scheme, where graduates to that scheme hold a CPL with 250 flying hours, whereas a pilot must typically have 1500 flying hours experience to hold an ATPL.
Report instigator Senator Nick Xenophon called the report’s findings a “massive rebuff” to Jetstar’s cadet pilot scheme.
“The findings of this inquiry are a huge wake-up call to the aviation industry,” said Senator Xenophon in a statement.
“The dozens of pilots and crew members I’ve spoken to in recent months have said they’re worried about the apparent race to the bottom when it comes to safety.”
Found the report: “A number of submitters and witnesses, however, argued that the minimum flight hours requirement for copilots operating RPT flights should be increased to 1500. This proposal was said to achieve a more appropriate balance between experience and competency based training approaches, particularly in light of the potential consequences of accidents involving high capacity RPT services. The use of copilots with flight experience hours approaching the licence minima was said to involve a number of latent safety risks, notably the inability of a copilot to replace and/or support the captain in cases of emergency, and the reluctance of a very inexperienced copilot to question the actions of an experienced captain (a circumstance described as involving a steep cockpit authority gradient).”
Nonetheless, for aircraft smaller than the 737/A320 size class, the report stopped short of calling for the ATPL to be mandatory. Instead, it recommended that “that for non-jet operations which employ low-experience first officers, operators be required to provide enhanced supervision and mentoring schemes to offset such lack of experience.”