For years, experts have wondered about the correlation–or the lack of one–between pilots’ flight-time experience and how they perform in the cockpit. Two Australian human-factors researchers–Matthew Thomas and Melanie Todd–have tackled the question.
When studying first officers already flying for the airlines, the two researchers concluded that there was not much difference between relatively experienced versus less experienced pilots. The study was conducted much like a line-oriented-safety audit, in which evaluators observed flight crews in action from the cockpit jumpseat to evaluate their technical and non-technical skills, situational awareness, task management and decision-making.
About the only difference the research did show between high-time and low-time first officers was that low-time pilots took longer to switch off the automation than their higher-time colleagues during stabilized approaches. Thomas and Todd concluded that low-time first officers were just as capable as their higher-time counterparts.