Airlines Scrambling For Pilots May Reduce Training Standards

U.S. airlines experiencing a pilot shortage are contemplating measures that would expedite pilot training, such as reducing the number of flight hours required to become a pilot by half. 

Flights Cancellations

According to Business Insider, the pilot shortage has contributed to canceled flights across the nation and reduced regional aircraft by airlines. 

“The pilot scarcity for the sector is real. Most airlines will not be able to meet their capacity forecasts for the next five years and beyond,” United CEO Scott Kirby warned in April during a quarterly profit call, as reported by CNBC. 

Alaska Airlines’ CEO Ben Minicucci, uploaded a video on YouTube on May 13.

He apologized for canceled flights, explaining “we had 63 fewer pilots than we anticipated when we established our schedule,” which caused a “ripple effect.” 

“By the time we discovered this issue, our pilots and flight crews had already bid on April and May schedules, making it nearly impossible to modify work schedules to avoid disruptions,” he added. 

Some U.S. airlines declared they will reduce the prerequisites to become a pilot to get more pilots into the air, including eliminating degree criteria.

They will also reduce by 50% the number of flight hours required and raise the pilot age of retirement from 65 to 67, a proposition Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is contemplating presenting in the U.S. Senate. 

Incentives and Exemptions

The Insider noted at the time that Delta released a statement in January stating it would enhance pilot compensation, award big sign-on incentives, and eliminate the need for pilots to hold a four-year college degree. 

“While we feel as strongly as always about the value of education, there are extremely competent individuals who have achieved the equivalent of a college degree via years of life and relevant work experience,” Delta declared.

Republic Airways, a minor airline that operates for Delta, American Airlines, and United Airlines, is taking similar action.

The airline requested authorization from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in April to hire pilots from their training program with 750 flight hours, which is half the existing requirement. 

Certainly, the proposal has its skeptics. Families of those who perished in the 2009 Colgan Air 3407 tragedy have rejected the proposal.

This incident, the last fatal U.S. commercial airline passenger crash, as per CNBC, resulted in the requirement of 1,500 flight hours. 

In response to CNBC, the FAA said, “While anyone can request an exclusion, it does not necessarily imply that it will be granted.”

Local airlines are the hardest hit by the pilot shortage, as larger carriers frequently recruit their pilots.

Jonathan Ornstein, President of Mesa Air Group, which runs both United and American revealed to CNBC that about 200 pilots are needed by his airline immediately but that it requires 120 days to replace any pilot who has given two weeks notice.