Jetstar’s group CEO, Bruce Buchanan, has responded to a report published in the Crikey Daily Mail subscriber bulletin last Friday, June 24, and later that day in Plane Talking.

Dear Ben,

RE: “
Geek’ pilots, dangerous delusions, and the Senate inquiry”

I wish to respond formally to Friday’s post “Geek’ pilots, dangerous delusions, and the Senate inquiry”, in particular the inference that I personally prefer inexperienced pilots rather than experienced recruits.

This assumption grossly downplays the significant amount of industry and expert studies and opinion provided not only by Jetstar, but by other carriers, CASA, independent authorities and pilot unions, during the Senate enquiry with regards to pilot training hour minimums.

As shared with the Inquiry and documented in the final report, there is considerable international evidence and practice to suggest that competency based training delivers better safety outcomes than focusing on hours of ‘experience’ in any aircraft.

This view is supported worldwide by international regulatory bodies such as ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organisation) and IATA, who agree that the safety of commercial airline operations is best ensured through a well designed and managed competency based approach to pilot training.

The move to competency-based training is supported by leading academics in the field and training experts.  To dismiss these views as merely arguments formulated from a basis of “entrenched interests” is an insult to all those operators and industry experts who submitted expert and experienced studies to this Inquiry.
To give you an analogy, how would you want doctors or specialist medical professionals trained?  By going to work in a hospital and clocking up hours or through an expertly designed training course at a leading university followed by close supervision/oversight by the most experienced professionals in the given field?

Jetstar maintains that the recommendation that co-pilots flying high capacity aircraft hold an Airline Transport Pilots License, thereby requiring a minimum of 1500 hours needs to be further thought through.

The 1500 hour minimum would have significant, unintended consequences on the entire aviation industry in Australia.

This minimum requirement would mean cadet pilots would come through the traditional aviation path rather than a structured and specific jet training program. It is important to note that if these changes are adopted Australia will not be getting the best of both worlds – pilots with both hours and an expertly designed jet training program – we will only be getting hours.

This minimum requirement would also decimate regional aviation, as that’s where the Australian carriers would need to recruit pilots. Regional aviation in Australia will not be able to safely train the number of pilots over the next few years to meet the needs of the industry. It is hard to see how regional aviation is capable of training pilots for all of our future requirements and cope with the level of turnover and talent drain they will suffer as pilots seek career advancement in jet operators.

In addition, this will result in more young Australians going overseas to seek career opportunities with operators where this career path is the norm.

I fail to see how our significant investment in setting up our own expertly cadet programs with some of the world’s best training providers, our commitment to providing brand new career opportunities for Australians and New Zealanders who want to be pilots, our ability to provide an opportunity for young pilots to work to the safety standards of one of the world’s safest airlines in terms of the Qantas Group can be viewed as a “disdainful approach” for pilot training standards.

Bruce Buchanan
Group CEO

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