Flying calmly means not thinking too much.
If you spend any time considering that you’re in a huge metal tube 36,000 feet in the air, you won’t sit back and relax.
If you spend any time wondering if the plane was properly maintained, you can’t rest easy.
And if you’re wondering where the pilots were the night before, your nerves might shake a little.
You get on a plane and trust that everything will work out.
However, a current concern is that there are not enough pilots. All commercial airlines are looking for more, but training them takes time and most of those pilots in training must complete 1500 hours in the air.
Now, Republic Airways has applied to the Federal Aviation Administration for a waiver to reduce that number. In half.
You may not be familiar with Republic, but it is responsible for regional flights under the aegis of United, Delta and America Airlines.
So when you book a flight with one of those airlines, you may be on a Republic plane.
Republic now wants permission to reduce the number of hours prospective first officers need, through its own Restricted Airline Transport Pilot Certificate program. This, he states, “will provide the benefits and rigorous curriculum and structure of military-based pathway training.”
Republic leans heavily on its idea of fostering diversity. Specifically, it says it will allow those without the financial means or academic qualifications to become pilots under the current system.
However, I feel that some customers may have qualms. If you know that your pilot has only achieved half of the hours previously required, there will be an unavoidable concern.
To which Republic responds that its new training program “will not have an adverse impact on security and will provide a higher level of security.”
However, you may be wondering why 1500 hours became the standard. Is it like the somewhat mythical 10,000 steps to maintain health?
It was introduced in 2013, in reaction to the 2009 crash of a plane flying for the regional airline Colgan Air. The captain was accused of failing to show appropriate reactions and further investigation showed that his training may have been inadequate. 50 people died in the accident.
Before this rule, qualification to become a first officer was simply to have a commercial pilot’s license. That required just 250 hours in the sky.
Currently, many aspiring pilots obtain their qualifications from commercial flight schools. Many become flight instructors to increase their hours. Others fly crop dusters and planes dragging fascinating banners behind them.
Republic maintains that his training will be more strenuous and more appropriate for flying a commercial airliner.
Other countries don’t have the same strict rules as the US. In Europe, for example, commercial pilots can have as little as 200 hours of flight time.
But the crux of the problem is that airlines offered many older pilots early retirement during the pandemic. 4,400 left, allowing the airlines to get money from the government. Now, as business picks up, they don’t have the pilots and pilot trainers to fly more flights.
And where do the big airlines hire their pilots? Well, many of them come from the regional airlines.
Many in the know feel the FAA is unlikely to grant Republic’s request. Flight safety became a contentious issue again after two Boeing 737 Max planes crashed in 2018 and 2019.
However, if Republic was somehow successful, some passengers would surely have voiced their concerns deeply. On the other hand, many had expressed deep concern for the Max before she returned to the air.
These days, I suspect many don’t even think about that when they’re in a Max. They are too busy thinking about whether they will arrive at their destination on time.