Tucker Carlson’s Unhinged, Dishonest Airline Safety Rant

We’ve seen a series of aviation near misses in recent weeks, which is no doubt alarming. Tucker Carlson tried to tackle this issue last night on his Fox News show, and his complete disregard for reality and facts is just disheartening (though not shocking).

Of course I’m not a regular viewer of his program, but I know a lot of people take what he says as gospel, so it’s worth sharing what’s really going on.

Tucker Carlson blames Biden & minorities for aviation incidents

Tucker Carlson went on a nearly four minute rant last night. Let me summarize what he said, so you don’t actually have to watch it:

  • Aviation used to be safe until Biden became president, because “Biden imposed the principles of equity on the airlines, and that meant dramatically lowering hiring standards for pilots and for air traffic controllers”
  • Last week there was a go-around at Houston’s Airport that “terrified” passengers, yet the media isn’t talking about it (lol)
  • Carlson wants to know what’s going on, so he reached out to an unnamed United Airlines pilot, who claims that “under its woke CEO Scott Kirby, the airline has allowed politics and racialist ideologies to trump safety concerns,” putting the lives of passengers in grave danger
  • Carlson then quotes the same unnamed pilot who says he heard from another unnamed pilot that “the captain of the Maui flight was brand new,” and “there was a new-hire first officer,” and talks about how in the training simulators, a new pilot tried to make 25 landings, and “15 ended up in the dirt”
  • Southwest has also dramatically lowered its hiring standards, and people in Southwest’s academy largely end up flying for charter airline Swift Air, to “fly illegal aliens around the country without the American population knowing about it”
  • Carlson concludes that “this is what it looks like in real terms when you decide that identity is more important than aptitude in something critical like aviation”

This is such a spectacularly bad take

Watching clips like this really gives you some insights into why some people think the way that they do. This is one of the most baseless aviation news stories I’ve ever seen.

There’s one thing Carlson is right about here, which is that we have seen an increase in aviation safety related incidents lately, and that’s concerning. What he’s completely wrong about is the cause. At the start of the pandemic (when Biden wasn’t president), the aviation industry came to a standstill.

Airlines received tens of billions of dollars in government support, with one condition being that they couldn’t fire any employees. What they could do, however, is offer employees voluntary early retirement packages. Many people in the airline industry (including senior pilots) accepted these offers to retire early.

All of this was fine until we saw a sudden increase in the demand for air travel. Airlines quickly took their planes out of storage, and of course you need pilots to fly those planes. At that point many senior pilots had retired, causing a massive pilot shortage. We’ve seen airline pilots hired at an unprecedented rate in the past couple of years.

Not only that, but because of how pilot seniority lists work, we’ve also seen more pilots than ever before trained on new jets. That’s because pilots can bid on what plane they fly based on their seniority (and the plane they fly determines their pay). With seniority lists having moved so much in the past couple of years, a lot of pilots have only been on their current aircraft types for a small period of time.

So yes, at this point the cockpits at US airlines are on average much less experienced than before. That’s not only the case in terms of total flight hours, but also in terms of flight hours on a particular aircraft. However, this has absolutely nothing to do with Biden, and has absolutely nothing to do with “woke” hiring practices.

Now, to address Carlson’s bizarre claims:

  • Carlson claims that airlines have drastically reduced hiring standards in the name of equity; this is fake news, and the same 1,500-hour minimum still applies, as before, though some airlines have lowered the hours they require above and beyond that, due to the general pilot shortage (that comes down to supply and demand)
  • United has indeed opened a new flight academy for pilots, with a diversity quota; however, not a single pilot from that academy is flying at United Airlines yet, so you can’t blame any safety issues on that
  • I love that the source for a national news story is an anonymous pilot who says he heard something from another pilot; the information isn’t even correct
We have less experienced pilots due to a pilot shortage

Bottom line

Tucker Carlson is trying to insinuate that we’re seeing a series of aviation incidents because of President Biden’s “woke” policies. Regardless of where you stand politically, this is patently false.

Yes, there’s reason to be concerned by the alarming number of near miss aviation incidents we’ve seen recently. These incidents are on some level happening because of the industry currently being less experienced than in the past.

However, that’s not because of any “woke” hiring practices, but rather because we have a pilot shortage. That pilot shortage is happening because of how many pilots took early retirement packages at the start of the pandemic, and now we’ve seen a rapid recovery in demand for air travel.

Blaming the current lack of collective experience in the cockpit on “wokeness” is simply baseless and dishonest. But I suppose we shouldn’t let facts get in the way of a good story…

What do you make of Tucker Carlson’s take on aviation safety?

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