The article (ASW, 12/12–1/13) on the U.S. rules calling for increased experience for pilots seeking commercial airline positions included comments from Capt. Chesley Sullenberger, which I take some exception to.
Capt. Sullenberger argues that 1,500 hours of logbook time for airline applicants is not enough. He goes on to say that, had he had a first officer “with much less experience” than the 20,000 hours his F.O. had on the flight which ended with a ditching in the Hudson River, “we would not have had as good an outcome and people would have perished.”
I take nothing away from the airmanship Capt. Sullenberger and his crew displayed that day. Yet it seems unreasonable to think that the majority of commercial airline first officers, most of whom have far fewer than 20,000 hours, would be so unable to assist a captain in dire circumstances that they would become a direct contributing factor to loss of life or limb. I don’t suggest that first officers have not erred. But must they have 20,000 hours before they are able to do the job competently?
Suggesting that less-experienced first officers (and is he also implying captains with fewer than 20,000 hours?) could not deliver the safety demanded by the FAA, and expected by the flying public, seems a harsh judgment.
MD-11 first officer,former U.S. Navy Aircraft Commander
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