Republic Airways, a U.S. regional airline that operates flights for United, American Airlines, and Delta, asked the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to allow it -as a remedy to the ongoing pilot shortage- to hire personnel with half the flight hours normally required.

Republic operates services for American Eagle, Delta Connection, and United Express, the regional branches of the Big 3. To this end, the airline has a fleet of 218 Embraer 170s and 175s – the largest in the world.

Specifically, the company is seeking an exemption from the requirement of Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). Subchapter 61.159 sets forth the requirements for the ATPL (Airline Transport Pilot License), which is required to fly passenger aircraft in commercial operations. There, it states that a pilot requires 1,500 flight hours to obtain the rating.

However, there is an exception, found in paragraph 61.160: «a U.S. military pilot may apply for the restricted airline transport license (R-ATP) with a minimum of 750 hours of total flight time.» Republic has based its petition on this clause.

Airline’s arguments

Republic is the only regional airline that has its own training program: the LIFT (Leadership in Flight Training) academy. This program is taught in collaboration with universities and allows to obtain R-ATP licenses. However, these licenses require between 1,000 and 1,250 flight hours, depending on the career path taken in parallel with pilot training.

Now, in a presentation to the FAA dated April 15, Republic made a rather unique argument: since its training program is very similar to the training received in the USAF, pilots graduating from it have similar skills to military pilots. So, if military personnel is allowed to fly airliners with half the flight hours normally required, so should Republic Airways pilots.

Program design

Once admitted, students follow a very structured training plan. According to the airline, the design of its R-ATP program specifically conforms «to the regulations and training provided by the military.» The petition notes that «like the military, our training includes a rigorous selection and admission process. This is to ensure the aptitude and suitability of the candidates to become pilots».

In addition to learning to fly, they are also trained as company employees. So, apart from flight training, they also receive instruction about the company’s standard operating procedures (SOPs).

Related content: JetBlue assigns new vice president to its training program

Republic has structured its training program in successive «gates». These are designed to continually evaluate each student’s performance. The gates ensure that prospective pilots perform at a level that qualifies them to continue within the program.

If a candidate fails to pass one of these gates, they will be offered the opportunity to continue their training outside the R-ATP program – i.e., by accumulating 1,500 hours of flight time. This second path is implemented due to the high standards of the program.

Internal control system

In addition to this requirement, a very comprehensive internal control system is also used. The company states that its proposed program «is a closed-loop system in which students are trained in a highly structured and specific environment».

According to the presentation, «the entire training process will be analyzed as a whole. This guarantees the candidate’s suitability for each qualification requirement.» This data, according to Republic, gives it the ability to adjust the program’s content as needed. The airline says that «this is very similar to the way the military does it, so trained professionals should have the same skills».

Opening the door to diversity

«The slow progress toward flight crew diversification requires an industry-wide commitment,» Republic reads in its presentation. The airline notes that the current training process, as far as inclusion goes, «is broken.» According to the company, «existing methods have done little to erase structural gaps» in crew training.

A pilot’s career has historically been expensive and entirely self-funded. The cost varies, but a figure in the neighborhood of $200,000 is not far-fetched. Republic argues that its training plan would offer «an affordable means of training» that would be accessible to a large number of candidates, minorities included. The airline is confident that through grants, scholarships, loans, and stipends, qualified candidates will be able to access the career, regardless of their financial situation.

In addition to providing financial support, Republic will partner with social organizations to generate interest in aeronautics. They would also assist in identifying and recruiting potential candidates.

Republic indicates that if the request is accepted, it would benefit the industry as a whole. «Other airlines can offer a similar program, applying the same rigorous and structured criteria». This would «open up the game and generate opportunities for applicants to train while being sponsored by the airlines,» the company concluded.

The post Pilot shortage: Republic Airways asks to be exempt from flight hours requirements appeared first on