COVID-19 Blog No. 5: Control the Controllables


Our last Airline Pilot Club COVID-19 Blog instalment focused on Third Level Education. So, after a little break, today I would like to write about what we, as an industry, can do to help ourselves in this crisis and how to control the controllables.

A few years ago, I turned to a simple phrase for guidance when a person I knew well was getting a bit overwhelmed by their circumstances. Some of their problems were caused by external shocks or events, others were being caused either by poor responses to these issues or indecisiveness in general.

“Control the Controllables”

I said that we have to “Control the Controllables” and take responsibility for areas that we have direct control over so that the effects of the external issues would be minimised. This is a great philosophy. It restores a sense of control. It forces you to recognise that you have the capability to influence matters and it requires action on your part. In the case of my friend, it worked wonderfully well.

Could this philosophy be of use to the aviation industry right now, when everything is being upended and external shocks are the norm rather than the exception? What are the “Controllables” that the Pilot Training and the Aviation Industry has responsibility for the and ability to take action about? Here is my list:

Return to Service Regulations

We need to be very careful how we manage this. It would be easy for the regulators to take decisions that might seem sensible but, in reality, have no value, are contradictory and would land another blow on an already reeling industry. We need reliable testing procedures and sensible onboard precautions to minimise the threat of contagion among passengers. We do not need the regulators to instruct our business to remove 33% of its stock from the marketplace by blanking the use of the middle seat in passenger cabins.

Pilot Requirements

For several years the industry has been gearing itself up to provide the required number of pilots that various expert groups have projected. Many of you will be familiar with these very large numbers which are based on pilot retirements and fleet expansion. Clearly the world has changed and these projections are now defunct.

“New Set of Calculations”

We need a new set of calculations from the same expert groups. CAE, the worlds biggest pilot training provider, has started the process. Airbus and Boeing need to do the same. The answer, whatever it is, will inject some confidence back into the pilot training industry, which has been savaged by the virus.

The answer, whatever it is, will inject some confidence back into the pilot training industry, which has been savaged by the virus.”

I believe that the number will be substantial because of the following:


  • Consolidation within the airline industry. There will be fewer airlines but a similar amount of aircraft will need to be flown
  • Cheap aircraft. Watch the airline CEOs who go on shopping trips to Seattle and Toulouse over the next 12 months. Expect big aircraft orders for their airlines. These are the operators that will come out of this crisis ready for the next 10 years.
  • Cheap Oil. There are so many pressures on the fossil fuel industry right now. Aviation fuel prices will remain affordable for airlines for some time. This offers support for existing carriers and hope to start-up airlines.
  • Pilot retirements. These retirements will happen. Every day is another day towards the retirement date for so many great pilots. They and their experience will be missed but this creates great opportunities for the next generations. 

Funding Solution

We in the Airline Pilot Club have been working in this area for some time, as you know. We know that there is an appetite in the finance industry to fund the training of future Airline Pilots. The key element in the process, from the bank’s perspective, is the commitment by an airline to guarantee a job to a well-trained pilot. If this guarantee is put in place, funding will flow to students who have passed a good assessment, attended a great ATO and have had their training loans insured. The decision to put a guarantee in place is entirely within the control of the airline industry.

B737 Max

Please, please, please Boeing and the FAA. Figure it out. Fix the aircraft and get it certified. We need that aircraft safe and in the air.

Brexit and EASA

Now that the UK Tory government values experts again, can the UK’s fantastic aviation experts and industry leaders call on the Prime Minister to find a way to keep the UK in EASA? Could the gentleman who thinks that the UK has a great future certifying “Urban Air Mobility” vehicles (Aviation Weekly) perhaps be open to a bit of expert advice? Please Mr. Transportation Secretary, listen to those who know. 

I think this shows that there are several steps that our industry can take to limit further damage and begin a recovery process. We can control our own destiny by making smart decisions.

Before I go, I would like to thank and commend my friend, Keith Fryer of Aviation Teamwork (ITS). Keith and his team have answered our call for organisations to offer some free content to student pilots who are stranded by the virus. ITS are a great provider of CRM and other aircrew competence training. You should check out their offerings here

Keep well, stay safe, stay at home and don’t inject yourself with disinfectant.



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