FAA Rejects Airline Request To Cut 1,500-Hour Rule

FAA Rejects Airline Request To Cut 1,500-Hour Rule

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We’re currently dealing with a major pilot shortage in the United States, which has been particularly bad for regional airlines. During the pandemic many senior pilots at the major airlines accepted early retirement packages. With demand roaring back, lots of pilots from regional airlines have been able to land jobs at the major network airlines, leaving regional carriers without qualified pilots.

Fortunately we’ve seen huge pay increases at regional airlines, which is long overdue, and will likely lead to more people wanting to pursue the pilot career in the long-run. However, actually getting trained to become a pilot is a long process.

Back in May 2022, one of the biggest regional airline in the United States asked the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to lower the minimum number of hours required to become an airline pilot. The FAA has now responded, and it’s not good news for the airline.

Republic asked for exemption to 1,500-hour rule

Republic is an Indianapolis-based regional airline that operates nearly 220 Embraer E170/175 jets on behalf of American Eagle, Delta Connection, and United Express. You may have flown with Republic without even realizing it, given how the marketing of regional airlines works.

As it stands, the FAA requires pilots to have at least 1,500 flight hours before they can work at an airline that’s a Part 121 operator (operating scheduled flights with planes that have 30+ seats). There are a couple of exceptions in place, including that former military pilots can get that requirement cut in half, to only 750 hours.

Republic’s logic for the request was that the airline runs its own pilot training academy, called LIFT (which stands for “Leadership In Flight Training”). The airline argued that:

  • The training pilots receive at LIFT is just as good as they’d get in the military, and arguably even better for the purposes of flying a commercial jet
  • This would help airlines deal with the pilot shortage, which is a problem right now
  • This would make becoming a pilot more economical, as it would make the cockpit more diverse, including for people who historically couldn’t afford to become pilots
Airline pilots currently need 1,500 flight hours

FAA rejects Republic’s request for lowering flight hours

The FAA has this week rejected Republic’s request to lower the number of flight hours required to become a pilot. In the response to the airline, the FAA wrote the following:

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

The response went on to say that “the FAA lacks statutory authority to regulate based on a perceived shortage of pilots,” and that “lowering pilot qualifications through the exemption process is not the proper vehicle to recruit talent from diverse communities.”

Regional airline pilots will continue to require 1,500 hours

Should the 1,500-hour rule be eliminated?

The 1,500-rule is one of the highest requirements you’ll find anywhere in the world, as other countries will let pilots fly airliners with just a couple of hundred hours experience. However, arguably the US takes this requirement to the extreme.

First it’s worth considering the origin of this rule. In 2013 the requirement for new airline pilots was increased from 250 hours to 1,500 hours, which is a massive increase. This was done following the 2009 crash of Colgan Air flight 3407, which crashed primarily due to pilot error.

The catch is that both the captain and first officer on that flight had over 1,500 hours, so that wouldn’t have even been a factor there. While I can appreciate the logic of wanting to make requirements to become a pilot more stringent (250 hours was arguably too low), I’m not sure what exactly this was intended to address.

On the surface, the desire to find avenues that allow pilots into the airline cockpit with fewer hours makes sense to me:

  • Lots of hours as such doesn’t make someone a good pilot, but rather it comes down to the training that they’ve received; in other words, someone spending 1,000 hours on a Cessna giving people first time flight lessons isn’t necessarily going to make them a better airline pilot
  • If these flight academies have good programs and a rigorous process for certifying people to get into the cockpit of a plane with passengers, then I’m all for it, regardless of whether a pilot has 750 hours or 1,500 hours; however, it sounds like the FAA wasn’t pleased with Republic’s academy in that regard
  • If the FAA believes it’s safe for pilots from the military to fly with 750 hours, then there should be a similar pathway for civilians to do this, in my opinion
  • Becoming a pilot is expensive, and that excludes a lot of people who may potentially be interested in this as a career path; if becoming a pilot can be made more affordable without compromising safety, I’d consider that to be a great thing

Interestingly keep in mind that airline pilot unions generally oppose lowering the hour requirement to become a pilot. It’s pretty clear that’s because they want there to be a pilot shortage, so that they have a lot more leverage to negotiate higher wages.

Personally I don’t follow the logic of the current 1,500-hour rule

Bottom line

With a significant pilot shortage, Republic asked the FAA to waive the 1,500-hour rule for hiring pilots. Republic has its own aviation academy, and the airline argued that after 750 hours, pilots would be more than qualified to get behind the controls of a regional jet.

This request was rejected by the FAA, as the FAA argued that the academy’s historical data doesn’t sufficiently support the claim that the training is comparable to what pilots get in the military.

What do you make of Republic’s request, and the FAA’s denial of it?

Conversations (13)
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  1. Frank Guest

    Idea...they could let those of us who just became 65 and healthy keep working who have decades of experience...but nah..that makes too much sense.

  2. Eric Guest

    Just look other airlines with high record of safety and training , flying with copilot with less than 500 hours, but, experienced captain .
    Airlines may also use retired captain for on the job training in the third seat.
    But….. unions has much power to allow that.

  3. Ictpilot Guest

    Congress initiated the 1500 hour rule because they felt they had to " Do something". Knee jerk reaction. Pilots of the Colgan crash had 1500 hours or more, didn't help them did it? The FAA and the industry has no data to confirm the 1500 hours contributes to more safety. The FAA screws over pilots again. Remember pilots the FAA is your enemy not your friend.

  4. john christmas Guest

    There is nothing common sense about this request, its a way to cut safety to save money. Airlines should ask
    themselves why pilots DONT WANT to fly with them. instead of abusing them, they should take care of their staff.
    Longer schedules, more flights per day, poor accommodation etc etc. More accidents are related to tired pilots, so it should be about what can we do to help alleviate these problems. Airlines have...

    There is nothing common sense about this request, its a way to cut safety to save money. Airlines should ask
    themselves why pilots DONT WANT to fly with them. instead of abusing them, they should take care of their staff.
    Longer schedules, more flights per day, poor accommodation etc etc. More accidents are related to tired pilots, so it should be about what can we do to help alleviate these problems. Airlines have seen the results of Boeing management, walking away with $millions and no penalties, and realised, hey we are home free, whats the problem with killing a few more passengers and crew? its good for the bottom line. America is a business, not a country. iTS f.. the public -the dollar is king. Capitalism at its worse.

  5. Stannis Guest

    The military requirement is an incentive to recruit and also a way to recoup some of that sunk investment by the taxpayer.

  6. Amar Guest

    I read this Forbes article by Ben Baldanza stating that the 1500 hours rule has broken the pilot pipeline training
    https://www.forbes.com/sites/benbaldanza/2022/07/11/the-1500-hour-rule-has-broken-the-pilot-pipeline-in-the-us/

  7. Evan Guest

    I think Republic made the mistake of putting "more economical" and "relieve pilot shortage" in their argument. Yes, these points are true, but you're trying to sell this to the FAA. As I'm sure everyone's aware, the FAA has taken a lot of heat lately (i.e. the Max issue, etc.), so they are in uber safety mode. The last thing the FAA is going to do is put themselves in a position where they are or even appear to be compromising safety.

  8. JH Guest

    We really need a flowchart to explain when policies are racist/sexist/homophobic/generally -ist or -ism and when they aren't. It appears, much like Covid policy, that the Feds are making it up as they go.

  9. European FO Guest

    The 1.500h requirement is pretty pointless. Looking at major European operators with a great safety record (Lufthansa, Eurowings, Swiss, Condor, Austrian, Brussels just to name a few), who succesfully employ cadet pilots with 170h ttl experience (the relevant kind of license is called MPL), it becomes obvious that there is no real benefit from flying 1.500h SEP when it comes to the requirements of operating a larger aircraft comercially.

  10. Def Guest

    The Congressional response to the Colgan air crash in Buffalo (increasing the required hours to 1500 from 250) was ill advised and has created this crisis. The lowest cost I have found to obtain flight time is $85 per hour wet (with fuel). That puts the cost of obtaining the time required at over $120,000 and that does not include all the others costs necessary to become a pilot.

    Additionally, a number of airlines are...

    The Congressional response to the Colgan air crash in Buffalo (increasing the required hours to 1500 from 250) was ill advised and has created this crisis. The lowest cost I have found to obtain flight time is $85 per hour wet (with fuel). That puts the cost of obtaining the time required at over $120,000 and that does not include all the others costs necessary to become a pilot.

    Additionally, a number of airlines are reporting the need to increase training time and intensity of the new pilots as many have developed bad habits in their never ending quest to obtain the necessary 1500 hours by whatever means possible. Much more difficult to break a habit established with 1500 hours of flying versus 250. These new candidates are simply building time however possible and not gaining as much valuable experience as one would hope.

    There are pilots out there with 500 hours or less that are outstanding aviators and some with over 10,000 hours that are marginal at best. Flight experience is a reasonable factor when considering competence but should not be the only measurement. Determining the appropriate pilots to operate our airliners is a job that should be left to the operators and not by a government official with limited or no aviation experience.

    1. Eskimo Guest

      Somehow I feel Congress is always ill advised.

      It's a conspiracy to recruit more military aviators and sell more Cessna.

  11. Eskimo Guest

    If you don't lower the hours, or have Tom Cruise promote. Who's going to be a military aviator.
    Everyone wants to fly those F-22 but ended up flying the KC-135 or the C-130. They save 750 hours because they get to fly analog and obsolete 707.

    If you don't require the 1500 hours in a Cessna, who's going to buy the American built Cessna.
    All those fly-by-wire and advanced avionics still needs an...

    If you don't lower the hours, or have Tom Cruise promote. Who's going to be a military aviator.
    Everyone wants to fly those F-22 but ended up flying the KC-135 or the C-130. They save 750 hours because they get to fly analog and obsolete 707.

    If you don't require the 1500 hours in a Cessna, who's going to buy the American built Cessna.
    All those fly-by-wire and advanced avionics still needs an American made single engine dinosaur proficiency.

    Just like my neighbor who had over 1500 hours in a sailboat and kayaked almost every weekend, he's ready to control a 200k GT container ship carrying 20k containers. Spot on FAA.

  12. Morgan Diamond

    Disappointing that the FAA did not approve a common sense initiative like this

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

Frank Guest

Idea...they could let those of us who just became 65 and healthy keep working who have decades of experience...but nah..that makes too much sense.

0
Eric Guest

Just look other airlines with high record of safety and training , flying with copilot with less than 500 hours, but, experienced captain . Airlines may also use retired captain for on the job training in the third seat. But….. unions has much power to allow that.

0
Ictpilot Guest

Congress initiated the 1500 hour rule because they felt they had to " Do something". Knee jerk reaction. Pilots of the Colgan crash had 1500 hours or more, didn't help them did it? The FAA and the industry has no data to confirm the 1500 hours contributes to more safety. The FAA screws over pilots again. Remember pilots the FAA is your enemy not your friend.

0
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