Major U.S. airlines are looking down the barrel of a massive pilot shortage are considering taking steps that would make it much easier to get pilots trained quicker, including dropping the number of flight hours required to become a pilot by almost half.
The pilot shortage has caused many a flight cancellation across the country and many airlines dropping regional planes, read a report from Business Insider.
“The pilot shortage for the industry is real, and most airlines are simply not going to be able to realize their capacity plans because there simply aren’t enough pilots, at least not for the next five-plus years,” stated Scott Kirby, the CEO of United, back in April as part of a quarterly earnings call, as reported by CNBC.
Back on the 13th of May, Alaska Airlines CEO Ben Minicucci put out a video on YouTube in which he put out an apology for the flight cancellations, stating “we had 63 fewer pilots than what we planned for when we built our scheduled,” which he claimed have led to a massive “ripple effect.”
“By the time we caught this error, April and May schedules were bid on by our pilots and flight attendants, making it impossible to sufficiently adjust schedules to avoid cancellations,” he stated in the video.
As a way to deal with the massive pilot shortage, various U.S. carriers have stated they would reduce the overall requirements needed to become a pilot in order to get more planes into the air, such as stopping the degree requirements, cutting in half the total amount of flight hours needed to certify, and increasing the current retirement age for pilots from 65-67, which is a proposal that Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is considering taking to the floor of the U.S. senate.
Delta issued its announcement this past January, stating that it would increase pay for pilots and offer a massive sign-on bonus while at the same time reducing the requirements that pilots obtain a four-year college degree, reported Insider at that time.
“While we feel as strongly as ever about the importance of education, there are highly qualified candidates – people who we would want to welcome to our Delta family – who have gained more than the equivalent of a college education through years of life and leadership experience,” stated Delta in a release. “Making the four-year degree requirement preferred removes unintentional barriers to our Delta flight decks.”
One regional carrier that has been working on behalf of Delta, Republic Airways, United Airlines, and American Airlines, has stated that they will be taking similar steps. The carrier asked permission from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) back in April for its permission to hire pilots out of their current training academy once they have gotten their 750 flight hours, which is half of the currently required numbers.
This request has quite a few detractors. The families of the victims who died in the Colgan Air 3407 crash in 2009 have pushed back on the suggestion. That particular crash, the last major fatal U.S. passenger commercial airline crash, as reported by CNBC, is what caused the current 1,500 flight hours requirements.
It is still entirely unclear as to whether the FAA would even approve Republic Airways’ proposal, stating to CNBC that “While anyone can request an exemption, it does not mean it will be granted.”