A major regional airline’s push to have less training for pilots is rejected by the FAA.
Aviation-safety regulators rejected a proposal by a regional airline seeking to reduce the number of hours that some co-pilots need to begin flying passengers.
Indianapolis-based Republic Airways Holdings Inc. had asked the Federal Aviation Administration to allow pilots who go through a special program at the airline’s training academy to begin flying on a restricted license after 750 hours of training—half what is generally required.
The request came as regional airlines such as Republic say they are facing a shortage of pilots that has strained their ability to fly to small cities around the country. Republic operates flights for United Airlines Holdings Inc., American Airlines Group Inc. and Delta Air Lines Inc.
The FAA said in a letter to Republic on Monday that it didn’t agree that Republic’s plan served the public interest and doesn’t believe the airline’s plan would help address a “perceived pilot shortage.” The agency said granting an exemption to Republic could open the door to similar requests from other airlines.
The decision underscores the dilemma facing regional airlines, which are generally smaller carriers that play an outsize role in U.S. air travel, operating over 40% of U.S. passenger flights.
Republic’s request reignited an industry debate about a federal rule that requires aspiring U.S. airline pilots to have at least 1,500 hours of flying experience to qualify to be a first officer at an airline, unless they are former military pilots or graduates of colleges and universities with professional aviation programs.
That requirement, dubbed the 1,500-hour rule, was put in place in 2013 after a fatal plane crash in 2009 near Buffalo, N.Y., which investigators blamed on a tired crew that didn’t properly react to stall warnings. The Air Line Pilots Association (APLA), a pilots union, opposed Republic’s request and disputes that there is a pilots shortage.
If I believed anyone, I’d believe the APLA. And I’ll be avoiding any flights on Republic henceforth. If they’re trying to jeopardize passenger and pilot safety just to increase their bottom line by hiring less-experienced pilots, who knows what other ways they are cutting corners?