FAA rejects proposal to hire less-experienced pilots

(NewsNation) — The FAA‘s rejection of a proposal to hire co-pilots with half the usual minimum amount of flying experience is stamped as a win for aviation safety. However, the airline making the request said its request didn’t receive a fair review, and that the decision will only continue to hurt the aviation industry.

Republic Airlines proposed that any hopeful pilot attending school could earn their co-pilot license with only 750 hours of flying experience. That’s only half of the 1,500 hours that are currently required by the FAA.

Smaller carriers called regional airlines were once allowed to hire co-pilots, who are called first officers, with as few as 250 hours of flying experience. But the minimum was increased after a 2009 Colgan Air plane flying for Continental Airlines crashed near Buffalo, New York, killing all 49 people on board and one on the ground.

The airline’s argument was that per FAA standards, pilots with military experience can earn their license with 750 hours. The company claimed that its schooling is similar to military flight training. But the FAA disagreed with the airline’s comparison.

“After full consideration of Republic’s petition for exemption and the public comments, the FAA has determined that the relief requested is not in the public interest and would adversely affect safety,” the FAA said in its official statement denying the proposal.

Republic CEO Bryan Bedford said he was disappointed but not surprised by the FAA’s decision. 

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Republic disagreed with the FAA’s ruling, saying the proposal would enhance safety by providing an exceptional education to new pilots and would also alleviate pressure on the industry by increasing the number of pilots in the air.

As of this month, the airlines have canceled around 146,000 flights and have delayed about 1.3 million others this year. But no one specific organization is taking the blame for such delays.

The FAA blames the airlines for cutting staff during the pandemic, while the airlines are blaming the FAA, which employs traffic controllers.

But when it comes to this recent proposal, the union representing the pilots praised the FAA’s decision to reject the airline’s proposal, saying it would only serve to weaken the grueling requirements and qualifications that pilots go through when they earn their wings.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.