As an airline transport captain with a few gray hairs, I'd like to weigh in on the well-considered Viewpoint by Jeff Schneider about whether possession of an ATP makes a pilot and airline safer (AW&ST Sept. 9, p. 62).

The new Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) rules are all about numbers, regardless of actual experience, and will never address the real issues of pilot qualification and professional conduct. Suggesting there is a simple numbers point at which a pilot becomes capable of taking seat in a modern airliner cockpit is either naive, foolish or both. And truly, 1,500 flight hours takes no account of an individual's maturity and professionalism.

The new rule is indeed flawed, and the pairing of two low-time pilots is just one concern. Logging 1,500 hr. by towing a banner up Miami Beach and then calling yourself an airline pilot is rubbish. If I were to find myself seated next to a first officer with 300 hr. of approved school training, including heavy emphasis on multicrew, multi-engine, high-density airport operations via an appropriate simulator, I would be infinitely more assured.

The contents of certain cockpit voice recorder transcripts show a tragic lack of professionalism and leadership, regardless of the number of hours flown. Willful and continual ignorance and violation of a federally mandated sterile cockpit regulation gives me no confidence in an aircraft commander's ability to effectively lead and mentor.

Fighting complacency, fatigue and other safety-related concerns in the cockpit calls for extreme self-discipline and focus. Ignoring basic safety of flight-driven rules, regulations and company standard operating policies is surely a reckless act.

The captain must absolutely set the tone of the cockpit-working atmosphere. The airline has an obvious, though not always practiced, responsibility to select the right individuals, and not just be scrambling to satisfy the number-of-hours farce that is this new regulation.

Guernsey, Channel Islands