- In a blow to Republic Airways, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration last week rejected its request for a waiver of the 1,500-hour rule for new pilots. The regulator repeatedly shot down Republic’s claims that training through its Lift Academy was on par with that of military flight training schools and should qualify for what is known as a “restricted airline transport pilot,” or R-ATP, certificate at 750 hours. The FAA said the Lift program was not as “rigorous and comprehensive” as its military counterpart. What’s more, and in something of a nod to the position of the Air Line Pilots Association, the regulator called the pilot shortage, which is agreed on by Republic and the rest of the airline industry, a “perceived shortage of pilots.” “The FAA considers it to be of greater public interest to ensure and maintain the level of safety provided by the foundation of an integrated aviation education,” the regulator said, upholding the requirement of 1,500 hours for new ATP certificates.
Republic’s request for a waiver is one of several approaches the industry is taking to address the pilot shortage. SkyWest Airlines wants to create a new charter subsidiary under Part 135 rules that require fewer hours for new first officers, while Congress is considering legislation that would raise the mandatory retirement age for pilots. ALPA, which denies that there is a shortage, objects to all of the measures.
- But the rejection of Republic’s waiver has not stopped airlines from coming up with new ideas to boost the supply of pilots. Mesa Airlines said last week that it will buy up to 104 training aircraft as part of the Mesa Pilot Development Program. Qualified pilots will be able to use the aircraft to fly up to 25 hours per week for $25 an hour financed interest-free by the airline. The aim is to speed up the production of new pilots that can be hired when they are at, or at least near, 1,500 hours.
- Alaska Airlines and ALPA reached a tentative agreement after three years of talks. The accord includes an immediate up to 23 percent pay increase for both captains and first offers depending on their years of service, as well as other quality of life and other improvements. Pilots will vote on the agreement in the coming weeks.
- Across the Atlantic, Swiss Air is seeking mediation with its Aeropers pilots union after two years of contract talks and the rejection of a proposed agreement in August. Swiss expects a mediator to provide a “non-binding recommendation over the next few weeks [that] pays due and full regard to both parties’ interests.” Fellow Lufthansa Group carrier Lufthansa reached a deal with its pilots earlier in September that gives entry-level crew members a 20 percent pay raise and senior pilots a 5.5 percent raise.
- And JetBlue fleet service employees plan to organize with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM). The union will file an application with U.S. authorities to conduct a union election among the roughly 3,000 fleet service staff, which include luggage handlers, at the airline.
September 26th, 2022 at 12:01 AM EDT