MODERN day pilots are spending as little as four minutes actually flying aircraft during short-haul services due to the increasing automation of planes.
Statistics shared at the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation annual conference revealed the average flying time on a Boeing plane was now just seven minutes, and a mere four minutes on an Airbus flight.
As a result, the rise of “fly-by-wire” aeroplanes was changing the qualities airlines sought from trainee pilots.
Australia and International Pilots Association President Nathan Safe said non-technical skills were becoming even more important for cadets than technical prowess.
“Because aircraft are becoming more automated and because the way of flying them is becoming more standardised there will be an increasing focus on non-technical behaviour when recruiting pilots,” Mr Safe said.
“Things like your ability to work in a team, your ability to handle non-normal situations, the way you interact with other people and personality traits — whether you’re suited to a multi-crew aircraft environment basically.”
Despite predictions of a global pilot shortage in coming years as demand for air travel continued to grow, Mr Safe said he was sceptical.
The Asia-Pacific region is forecast to need as many as 250,000 new pilots between now and 2035 — more than any other part of the world.
“We’re just not seeing it manifest itself in Australia in a really big way — not to the point where we’ve had to bring in hundreds of pilots from overseas like other countries have had to do,” said Mr Safe.
“Australia is still an attractive place to come for pilots and for people to live and the terms and conditions here are still for the most part, particularly in the bigger airlines, good enough to retain people.”
But he said pressure to attract more pilots had seen some airlines, like Emirates, lower the number of flying hours required to operate certain-sized aircraft.
“When supply and demand is out of step they can either lower entry requirements or raise terms and conditions (for pilots),” he said.
“Obviously lowering entry requirements is the cheaper option.”
Emphasis on pilot training has increased in recent years following aviation tragedies such as Germanwings and MH370.
Although the cause of MH370’s disappearance remains unknown, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau’s Chief Commissioner Greg Hood has admitted an FBI report showed “planning and intent” by pilot Zaharie Ahmad Shah.
In the case of the horrific Germanwings’ crash in March 2015, co-pilot Andreas Lubitz locked his captain out of the cockpit in order to fly the A320 into the French Alps killing all 150 people on board.
Following the tragedy, Australian airlines adopted a policy of two people in the cockpit at all times and stepped up psychological testing and support for pilots.