Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Inexpensive Way to Reach 1,500 Flight Hours


Air carriers have ramped up hiring to contend with a surge of retirements.  Mesa Regional Airlines is also working hard to overcome the pilot shortage.  The biggest hurdle to finding employees is the high cost of earning the flight experience necessary to fly for an airline. 
Pilots, once earning their commercial pilot certificate at around 250 hours, are generally left on their own to get the flying hours necessary for their ATP certificate.

Many pilots become flight instructors, while others fly smaller aircraft for hire, known as Part 135, for example, glider towing, areal photography, scenic flights,
crop dusting, banner-towing jobs, etc.  Other pilots just fly for fun — often to earn the requisite number of hours for a Part 135 job.  Many of those opportunities require 500 hours or more. 

Perfect Solution:

Mesa Airlines offers flying opportunities in a Pipistrel Alpha Trainer 2 aircraft.  Pilots can fly up to 40 hours per week, and the flying will be billed at $25 per hour — a rate significantly below market for aircraft rentals - just over 10% of what a Cessna 172 costs.  It means, in the best case a pilot could accumulate the necessary flying hours in only seven months!  It would cost the young pilot only $7,500 which is payable (interest-free) in three years, while she or he works as a first officer at Mesa Airlines.

Mesa's initial fleet of 29 aircraft will be based in Inverness, Florida, and eventually, in Mesa's home state of Arizona.  Pilots will be able to earn time on sensational favorable terms, earn a spot on Mesa's seniority list, and earn flight benefits before they are eligible to become Mesa's first officers.  Participants in the program are also eligible to join United Airlines' Aviate program, the carrier's pilot pathway program.  In exchange, Mesa gets three years of service from these pilots at a time when pilots often spend two years or less at regional airlines.  

Best-paid in the Regional Airline Industry

Pilots will fly for Mesa upon reaching 1,500 hours and will pay back their flying costs over a three-year term during their employment at this regional airline.  The pilots at Mesa Airlines are about to be the best-paid in the regional airline industry. Mesa began paying its first officers a starting rate of $100 per hour, the highest rate in the regional industry. The Phoenix-based regional airline, which operates the Canadair Regional Jet 900 for American Airlines and the Embraer 175 for United Airlines, will pay its first officers a starting rate of $100 per flight hour and its captains a starting rate of $150 per hour, the union representing its pilots, the Air Line Pilots Association, announced on Friday. It's the first regional airline to break the $100 per hour starting pay mark for first officers. 

This new Mesa Pilot Development Program is not a training program — pilots who apply need to have a commercial license with a multi-engine rating add-on.  Instead, it's designed to be an economical way to get pilots to the 1,500 hours they need to earn an FAA airline transport pilot certificate (ATP), the license that's required to fly as an airline pilot.

Mesa is the first airline in the industry to help pilots reach 1,500 flight hours as quickly and inexpensively as possible.  Hopefully, other airlines follow their example!

The 1,500-Hour Rule Will Stay

The FAA denied regional airline Republic Airways' request to hire certain pilots with fewer flight hours. The nation's second-largest regional airline will not be allowed to move forward with a plan to hire pilots with fewer hours than what would normally be required.

The Federal Aviation Administration denied an exemption petition from Republic Airways that would have allowed it to hire graduates from its flight training academy with 750 flight hours.  The Indianapolis-based Republic Airways operates Embraer E170s and E175s for American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and United Airlines. It also operates the LIFT Academy, a flight school that trains students from zero hours of flight time.  Republic had argued that graduates of LIFT Academy were trained in a closed-loop format, similar to how the U.S. military conducts training.  Military veterans are eligible to receive what's known as a restricted Airline Transport Pilot (R-ATP) certificate at 750 hours.

The FAA finds that the supporting materials and LIFT historical data do not sufficiently support the Republic’s claim that their R-ATP Program is comparable to the training program of a military branch to warrant a reduction in flight hours.

Many in the industry believe that this so-called 1,500-hour rule, which was part of a package of aviation safety legislation enacted a year after the Colgan Air Flight 3407 accident in 2009, is one cause of the pilot shortage.  The FAA's denial comes amidst a significant lobbying campaign by both Republic, in favor of the exemption, and the vocal opposition, led largely by the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), the union representing pilots at many regionals, though not specifically at Republic.  ALPA had argued that Republic would be compromising safety had it been allowed to proceed with the exemption. However, the regional air industry strongly denied ALPA's claims.


The Only Exceptions to the 1,500-Hour Rule:

You can earn an ATP with restricted privileges at age 21. A restricted ATP (R-ATP) lets you serve as a first officer, but not as a captain.  In certain cases, you can even get an R-ATP with fewer than the usual 1,500 flight hours.  Here are the exceptions:

  • Military pilots only need 750 total flight hours.

  • Graduates holding bachelor's degrees from aviation programs at qualified four-year universities only need 1,000 flight hours if they completed at least 60 credit hours of aviation courses and received their commercial pilot certificate through the school's Part 141 training.

  • Graduates holding associate degrees from aviation programs at qualified two-year colleges only need 1,250 hours of flight time if they completed at least 30 credit hours of aviation courses and received their commercial pilot certificate through the school's Part 141 training.




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