WHY ARE AMERICAN SKIES THE SAFEST PLACE IN THE WORLD?

Every day, millions of airline passengers and tons of cargo arrive safely at their destinations thanks to the intelligence, training, and experience of their pilots. Learn what it takes to keep people safe at seven miles above the earth.

WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO SEE THIS VIEW EVERY DAY?

Airline pilots must pass the most rigorous standards in the world, ensuring that every flight is commanded by highly experienced professionals who are a cut above the rest.

Applicants must have extensive flying experience, in all types of weather conditions and operating environments, and hundreds of flight hours before they’re considered for passenger and cargo airline service. In addition, they must undergo a first-class medical exam and certification and pass stringent security, physical, and background checks. Once hired, they undergo continuous training and rigorous evaluations for the rest of their careers, so they’re always up to date on the latest aircraft, technology, and flight procedures.

When it comes to safety,
there is no substitute
for experience.

Since 2010, there have been 171 fatal airline accidents worldwide. None of them involved passenger fatalities on U.S. airlines. The difference? Improved training, safety, and hiring standards.

The last fatal incident in the United States happened on February 12, 2009, with Colgan Air Flight 3407. Investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board led to Congress passing the Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act of 2010, which required the FAA to create new rules on pilot experience, training, qualifications, and flight duty and rest.

Before COLGAN U.S. Major Airline Pilot
First Officer Requirements:

Commercial Pilot Certificate

18 years of age

2nd Class Medical Certificate

250 TOTAL FLIGHT HOURS, INCLUDING:

  • 50 hours of cross-country
  • 5 hours of night-time
  • 10 hours of instrument time

Airline Transport Pilot (ATP)

21 years of age

1st Class Medical Certificate

1,500 TOTAL FLIGHT HOURS*, INCLUDING:

  • 500 hours of cross-country
  • 100 hours of night-time
  • 75 hours of instrument time
  • Multi-engine aircraft experience
  • Aircraft Type Rating

THE RESULTS SPEAK FOR THEMSELVES:

0

FATAL PASSENGER AIRLINE ACCIDENTS CAUSED BY U.S. CARRIERS SINCE FEB 12, 2009

*Individuals who already have extensive training, such as former military pilots and graduates of college or university aviation and professional pilot programs, can apply for a Restricted ATP with lower hour requirements.

Dealing with invisible and
unpredictable hazards?

Just another day On the job.

A professional pilot’s workday is anything but routine. They’re required to think and make critical decisions quickly, based on judgment developed from years of experience, readings from sophisticated equipment, the environment, and their own knowledge.

Here are common events that pilots experience, and how they contend with them:

Icy Conditions

Icy Conditions

Icy conditions can change the aerodynamics, handling qualities, and performance of the aircraft and its engines. Pilots are trained extensively in recognizing specific types of icing, how they affect various aircraft, and the procedures to use when those conditions are encountered.

Turbulence

Turbulence

The result of differing air density, attributable to many causes. Although modern airliners are designed to withstand these conditions and pilots are well equipped to fly in turbulence, pilots are trained to avoid areas of reported or forecasted turbulence in order to maximize passenger safety and comfort.

Wind Shear

Wind Shear

A sudden change in the direction and strength of wind, especially dangerous at low levels. Both ground-based radar and onboard systems are used to detect it. Wind shear recognition and recovery are regularly practiced in simulators. Recognition includes a sudden loss or increase of airspeed, while recovery may include advancing the throttle to maximum power while controlling aircraft pitch to optimize aircraft performance.

Storms

Thunderstorms & Hail

The most common way to navigate these hazards are to avoid them altogether. Pilots rely on weather forecasts, weather radar, and other pilots’ reports to gain foreknowledge of these conditions. They then use their best judgment to consider other options, such as delaying a departure or arrival or flying around a storm’s path.

CAN YOU GUESS WHAT YOUR PILOT
IS CHECKING WHILE YOU’RE
CHECKING IN FOR YOUR FLIGHT?

Pilots work to keep you safe long before you board the plane. Before every flight, they inspect their aircraft from top to bottom, personally confirming that critical systems are in working order. Take a look at everything they check to make sure your flight is safe and trouble-free:

  • Weather conditions at departure and anticipated arrival point
  • Alternate airport availability and conditions
  • Maintenance log check
  • Flight deck prep
  • Aircraft weight and balance
  • Hydraulic systems
  • Caution and warning lights
  • Gear pins and covers
  • Fuel quantity
  • Windows/door
  • Navigation equipment and aircraft lighting
  • Engines
  • Parking brake
  • Anti-ice
  • Electronic Centralized Aircraft Monitor status
  • Crew briefing
  • Flight controls
  • Flap setting
  • Flex temperature