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2014年5月13日 (火)

パイロット不足 格安でも安全運航が大前提だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun 7:20 pm, May 12, 2014
Low-cost carriers must secure, train enough pilots to ensure flight safety
パイロット不足 格安でも安全運航が大前提だ

Securing enough pilots has emerged as an important issue for airlines, particularly low-cost carriers (LCCs), which have grown drastically in recent years by offering cheaper fares than those of major airline companies.

It is essential for airlines to increase the number of flights and routes to better cater to the needs of passengers, but they must give top priority to securing the safety of flight operations and come up with measures to that end.

Peach Aviation, a domestic LCC, has decided to cancel more than 2,000 scheduled flights from May through October in the worst-case scenario, an unprecedented number of cancellations.

As for the reason for the cuts, Peach cited its failure to hire as many pilots as it needed and an increasing number of pilots who are taking leaves of absence because of illness or injury. The airline, therefore, failed to secure a sufficient number of pilots for its operations.

Peach increased its flights and routes at a fast pace after its inauguration two years ago, a move that many say led to sloppiness in running the company.

Recently, there was a serious problem in its flight operations. On April 28, a Peach airliner nosedived abnormally to as low as 75 meters above sea level just before landing at Naha Airport.

The Japan Transport Safety Board, naturally, started investigations into the incident as a “serious case” as it could have led to an accident.

The captain of the flight, an Argentine national in his 40s, possibly misheard what a traffic controller told him. Peach should conduct a thorough investigation to determine if there were problems in the health of crew members or in its operations.

Peach broke own rules

Peach’s in-house regulations stipulate that airplanes must be grounded for inspections and other reasons if there are problems, such as in the latest incident. In spite of this, the aircraft in question flew on to Kansai International Airport after landing at Naha.

It is problematic if the company’s safety regulations were not observed. Peach should educate its employees to follow the rules to the letter and make an all-out effort to prevent a recurrence of such an incident.

Other LCCs also should take measures to ensure they have sufficient pilots and that there are no operational problems.

Together, more than 15 LCCs operating from Japanese airports have more than a 6 percent share of the domestic market. Competition is expected to intensify further among carriers serving domestic airports.

However, an excessive emphasis on cost reduction and personnel streamlining by any airline in search of increased profit could hurt public trust in its safety. LCCs have heavy management responsibilities in this regard.

An increase in civil aviation demand is one factor blamed for the shortage of pilots, which is increasingly becoming a headache for airline companies across the world. An annual shortage of about 9,000 pilots is forecast for the Asia-Pacific region in 2030.

Training pilots requires long hours and massive costs. Airliners should gear up efforts to hire and train pilots based on strategies that consider future situations.

The government should both expand the number of pilots to be trained at the Civil Aviation College and encourage Self-Defense Force pilots to take jobs in the private sector.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 12, 2014)


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