If it ain't broke...
Experience matters in just about every serious enterprise - perhaps nowhere more so than in an airliner cockpit.
Just ask Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger, who famously guided his U.S. Airways Airbus to a safe landing on the Hudson River in 2009, after both of the planes engines were knocked out by bird strikes near LaGuardia Airport.
Mr. Sullenberger has said that his and First Officer Jeff Skiles' thousands of hours of experience made the difference in the "Miracle on the Hudson."
That's important to remember as some airlines warn of a potential pilot shortage due to a new law requiring at least 1,500 hours of flying experience for a commercial pilot to be rated as a first officer, along with impending retirements of a large number of pilots.
According to Mr. Sullenberger, the claim is a scare tactic by the airlines to try to get the Federal Administration to diminish the minimum number of hours required by the new law, when it writes the actual regulations.
The new training rule is particularly important because of the shift in the industry to regional jets operated by subsidiaries and affiliates of major airlines. Regional airlines typically feed passengers to the parent airlines at their major hubs. In this region, for example, several affiliates operate regional jets that carry passengers to connections in hubs at Chicago, Atlanta, Detroit, Philadelphia and Newark.
Congress unanimously passed the new training requirement to end the practice, as Mr. Sullenberger described it, of on-the-job training for first officers.
"When they go into the right seat of a regional jet as a new-hire pilot, they're still getting on-the-job training with you as the passenger in the back," Mr. Sullenberger said. Those first officers should have abundant training before taking that seat.
The FAA should maintain the clear direction set by Congress and enforce the minimum training requirement.