Regional airlines are experiencing a pilot shortage, but one company’s plan to help has been rejected by the Federal Aviation Administration over safety concerns.
Republic Airlines, a regional carrier based in Indiana, had sought to cut in half the number of flight hours required to become a certified co-pilot with the company.
Republic’s request to reduce the number from 1,500 hours to 750 hours was rejected this week. The airline would have required applicants to complete the company’s training program to make up for the reduced flying hours.
“After full consideration of Republic’s petition for exemption and the public comments, the FAA has determined that the relief requested is not in the public interest and would adversely affect safety,” the FAA said, according to the Associated Press.
Pilots who have been through military training can get certified with fewer hours. Republic argued that its training program is comparable to the military’s, but the FAA disagreed.
“The data does not sufficiently support Republic’s claim that [its] program is sufficiently comparable to the training program of a military branch to warrant a reduction in flight hours,” a spokesperson told NPR.
Republic argued their program would actually enhance safety due to its detailed training.
“Despite the rhetoric to the contrary, our proposal would enhance safety by providing students a highly structured, mission-specific training approach,” Republic CEO Bryan Bedford said in a statement.
Bedford said the plan would increase the number of pilots, an issue that has led to shrinking service in some regional markets.
Despite that claim, the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) agreed with the FAA and was pleased with the decision.
“[This] is a huge win for aviation safety and for the flying public,” said ALPA President Joe DePete.
He said that the union would oppose “any other efforts that seek to evade, undermine, weaken, or repeal first-officer qualification, experience, and training requirements.”
Previously, co-pilots or first officers were allowed to become certified with just 250 hours of flight time. That changed in 2009, however, in the wake of a Colgan Air crash near Buffalo, New York, that killed all 49 people on board.
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