(CNN) — Federal regulators have firmly rejected an airline’s controversial request to cut hiring standards for commercial pilots in half to tackle the global pilot shortage.
In April, regional airline Republic Airways petitioned the Federal Aviation Administration to allow graduates of Republic’s own LIFT Academy to become airline co-pilots with 750 hours of flight experience, not the 1,500 hours of typical flight requirements of new airline pilots.
On Monday, the FAA said it denied Republic’s application after the agency “determined that the airline’s new training program does not provide a level of safety equivalent to regulations requiring 1,500 hours of flight experience. flight before a pilot can work for an airline”.
Republic is an Indianapolis-based regional airline that claims to operate 1,000 daily flights for American Eagle, Delta Connection and United Express.
What Republic Airways wanted
Republic asserted in its initial application to the FAA that its internal training program was up to the rigors of military flight training. Therefore, the carrier said, an FAA regulation allowing military pilots to be hired by less experienced airlines should be extended to Republic.
“With its rigorous curriculum and structure, this program will exceed military R-ATP safety standards [training program]“, argued Republic, adding that its program “would offer a higher level of security”.
The program includes class and flight time, mentorship and frequent exams. Failing a test, Republic proposed, would put a student on the normal path to a 1,500-hour license.
Graduates who would have received a special pilot license under this program would then have received a full license when they reached 1,500 hours.
Republic argued that its program would increase diversity in the pilot ranks. Racking up the 1,500 hours typically involves a college degree, a low-wage job, and renting planes to fly — an expense that Republic says can cost anywhere from $170,000 to $220,000.
“The costs of the four-year degree program can be a significant barrier for some highly skilled students and put pilot training out of reach, especially those in socioeconomically disadvantaged communities,” Republic’s proposal said.
The Regional Airlines Association, representing the Republic and its counterpart airlines, had supported the Republic’s proposal. He said approval of the program would recognize “that flight time is not the only element in developing a safe and skilled pilot”.
Association CEO and President Faye Malarkey Black released the following statement Monday in response to the FAA’s decision:
“We are still reviewing the FAA’s decision. It is the mission of all airlines to have strong safety programs and continuously improve flight training.
The first objective should be safety. Expanding structured training pathways would improve access for people who cannot enter a pilot career today.”
Trade union opposition to the project
The Air Line Pilots Association, the largest pilots’ union, had strongly opposed the Republic program.
“This decision is a huge victory for aviation safety and for the flying public,” Capt. Joe DePete, ALPA president, said in a statement Monday afternoon.
“The FAA’s findings confirm what we have always said about Republic’s request, which is that it is not in the public interest and would be detrimental to safety.
“Furthermore, in its official denial of petition, the FAA affirmed its support for the regulatory requirements in place to facilitate pilot qualification – the Aviation Safety Act which reduced the number of aviation fatalities by 99.8 % since its implementation.”
The US requirement of 1,500 hours is much higher than the entry level in many other countries. The Transport Department’s inspector general wrote in a report earlier this year that 18 of the 29 countries he reviewed require co-pilots to have only 240 hours.
The US once had a lower requirement for co-pilots – 250 hours – but lawmakers raised the bar after the 2009 Colgan Air crash that killed 50 people. Investigators said the pilots of the commuter plane failed to properly recognize and respond to the plane stalling a few miles from Buffalo-Niagara International Airport.
Opponents of cutting first officer hours include Sully Sullenberger, the retired airline captain who landed a US Airways jet on New York’s Hudson River.
“There are no shortcuts to experience. There are no shortcuts to safety. Standards are standards because they are necessary,” he told a congressional panel. in 2015.