Aircraft Accidents and Meeting Quota

Headline from the BBC on Thursday, December 15, 2016: EasyJet Wants More ________ in the Cockpit. The subject is purposely omitted for this paragraph so my reader(s)’ attention is focused on my intent, not what is assumed.
EasyJet wants more women in the cockpit; this amounts to setting a quota aimed, not only at gender, but, in this case, particularly at age. EasyJet flies between the British Isles to international destinations, e.g. Iceland, Serbia, Spain, etc. and is a quite successful low cost airline. This raises my question: Is this the stupidest concept I’ve ever heard? Answer: YES! It isn’t that I think the concept of hiring women as pilots is stupid; not by a long shot. As an airliner mechanic, accident investigator and aviation inspector for over thirty-five years many of the more qualified pilots I’ve dealt with have been women pilots, professionals who don’t resort to hubris to prove their worth or skill.
This quota seeking is a dangerous precedent to set … and insulting. “We realize the fact you’re a (poor, mediocre, good, great, fantastic [choose one]) pilot, but what we’re really interested in is that you fill a quota.” Personally, as a manager, I’ve been held to strict hiring standards, hiring only those that fill a certain gender or ethnic requirement; it doesn’t work in many instances. Let me elaborate: it would be next to impossible to find enough Inuit Eskimo aircraft mechanics to hire to an airline based in Miami, Florida; the Inuit Eskimo aircraft mechanic numbers just aren’t there. Not to mention, this practice denies equally qualified aircraft mechanics from being offered the jobs.
But let’s look at EasyJet’s last milestone: Captain Kate McWilliams. She is the youngest female A320 captain in the industry, 26 years old. I’m sure she’s more than qualified, but how much experience does she really have?
But it doesn’t stop there; she recently posed for a selfie with her first officer, Luke Elsworth, 19 years old. These two pilots’ ages added together barely reaches 45 years; NOT 45 years of experience, but age. Coincidentally, Captain Sullenberger and First officer Jeffrey Skiles, the flight crew of US Airways 1549 each had been flying longer than Captain McWilliams has been alive. Sullenberger and Skiles each drew from their many years of experience to successfully save that A320 in New York that day. Think about that.
Ironically, First Officer Luke Elsworth is too young to drive an eighteen passenger Autobus (public transportation bus) through the streets of Piccadilly Circus in London – qualified drivers are twenty-one years old or more – yet he can fly an Airbus with 150 passengers OVER Piccadilly Circus. Since he is a heartbeat away from taking control of the aircraft, it isn’t a matter of if he could fly the A320; the problem is nobody has questioned whether he should fly the A320.
The industry’s response would be: Airliners are so technologically advanced that the aircraft practically flies itself – no safety concerns. But then we look at accidents like British Airways 38, Asiana Airlines 214, US Air 1549; and we’re forced to conclude that these ‘infallible’ aircraft – designed by fallible humans – are only as good as the humans that fly them.
We are light years ahead of where we were even twenty-years ago when it comes to technology and qualifications. That doesn’t mean we relax our standards; or settle on the more attractive to snag the brass ring of being first. It is the diligence we exercise in putting safety first, popularity second, that will allow us to keep the planes flying; the passengers’ freedom to travel, secure.

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