CNN -- A number of controversial proposals to deal with the airline pilot shortage are complicating Congress's consideration of new Federal Aviation Administration policy. One senator warned fellow legislators that they would be held responsible if reduced training for pilots caused a fatal crash.
Legislators have proposed a number of measures, including raising the retirement age for pilots, allowing them to train more in flight simulators rather than cockpits, and accelerating training programs. These measures, which are being hotly debated, are intended to address a pilot shortage that has been exacerbated due to the pandemic. This shortage has already grounded planes, and it is expected to worsen in the next few years.
According to a source with knowledge of the issue, a proposal to change the number of hours required for airline pilots to be trained has halted plans for a Senate Committee to vote on the legislation known as FAA Reauthorization.
John Thune, a Republican senator from South Dakota and one of the top Republicans in the Senate, sponsored the measure. Jerry Moran of Kansas, Republican Senator, criticised the delay. He wrote: 'Our aviation systems should not be subjected to last-minute political whims'
The Air Line Pilots Association publicly and forcefully opposed the proposal on hours just minutes before the Senate Commerce Committee met on Thursday. In a letter, the union stated that its members "unambiguously oppose" the amendment.
Why would a rollback be even considered when the number of airline fatalities has been reduced by 99.8 per cent since the current rules for pilot training and qualifications were implemented? Jason Ambrosi wrote the group's President.
Sen. Tammy Duckworth, chairwoman of the aviation subcommittee, spoke on the Senate floor about how cockpit training she received in Iraq saved her life in 2004 when the Black Hawk that she was flying came under fire. The Illinois Democrat scolded people who think simulator training is equivalent, and said that she did not believe reducing the number of training hours will solve the shortage.
She said that if you vote to reduce the 1,500-hour rule for pilot training, it will be your blood on your hands if an accident happens as a result an insufficiently trained crew.
The House Transportation Committee narrowly voted to approve an amendment which would increase the mandatory retirement age for pilots by two years, from 65 to 67. The amendment passed by a vote of 32 to 31 and will be considered on the House floor as part of its FAA reauthorization package.
Troy Nehls of Texas, a Republican, said in a meeting on Tuesday that the AARP, the Regional Airline Association and other organizations supported the amendment. He also stated that the mandatory retirement age reflects inaccurate stereotypes regarding competence.
Nehls stated that if you were a pilot for United, American or Southwest and you turned 65 on your birthday, you would be out of work. "Congress, we're firing you on your birthday." You're gone.
Rep. Rick Larsen said that raising the age limit would only have a negligible impact, if at all, on the number of available pilots. He noted that the more senior pilots typically fly larger aircraft for international routes, and that international flight regulations require pilot retirement by age 65. To complete their two-year service, these pilots will need to undergo retraining on different aircraft.
Nehls called this argument 'baloney'.
He said, "As long as the US is in trouble, everyone else will be too."
The draft House package included a provision that allowed pilots to use more time in the simulator to meet their required hours.
LINK & __LINK__etwork, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. Discovery Company.