Southwest Has Halved Its Flying Time Requirement for New Pilots. Does This Make Flying With Southwest Any Less Safe?


Earlier this year, Southwest Airlines decided to halve the flying time needed by its prospective pilots. This decision, which allows applicants to have 500 hours of experience flying a jet or turboprop aircraft instead of the previous 1,000, came amid staff shortages in the aviation industry. But does this move make flying with Southwest any less safe?

According to experts, not really. While announcing the move, Southwest had clarified that its training policies are not undergoing any change. In addition to this, the new hiring policy still follows rules set by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). This means that commercial pilots can only get a license once they have completed 1,500 hours of flying experience on any type of aircraft. (Interestingly, the FAA’s policy is more stringent than in other parts of the world — the European Union, for instance, mandates specific training and just 230 hours of flying experience.)

Aviation expert and United States Navy veteran Douglas Manfredi, who formerly served as the Senior Vice President Operations at private jet services provider flyExclusive, tells us why this rule will not make flying with Southwest any less safe.

Douglas’ Thoughts

“Hi, I am here to address Southwest’s recent announcement about reducing their new hire turbine time threshold from 1,000 hours to 500 hours. In a nutshell, I really don’t believe it’s gonna make Southwest pilots any less safe. All those pilots still have to meet minimum thresholds to earn an airline transport pilot certificate. Southwest has stated the training’s gonna remain the same. I will say though, that in general, applicable to Southwest and all operators, training could be better. It’s abbreviated due to capacity and instructor constraints. Nonetheless, all those people will still serve as first officers for a number of years before being promoted to captain and being put in charge of the aircraft. All in all, I understand why Southwest is making this move. It’s primarily driven by supply and demand of pilots. Without a sufficient number of pilots, they can’t meet their flight demand and their revenue targets. Thank you.”

Article written by Aarushi Maheshwari.

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