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Airline launches fast-track training program to close US pilot shortage gap and relieve travel chaos



Airline launches fast-track training program to close US pilot shortage gap and relieve travel chaos

One airline is hoping to alleviate the nationwide travel chaos caused by the pilot shortage crisis with the launch of a program that aims to recruit 1,000 new pilots per year.
Mesa Airlines, a regional air carrier out of Phoenix, Arizona, announced on September 22 the formation of the Mesa Pilot Development (MPD) program, which will put cadets on a fast track to accrue the 1,500 flight training hours required by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to achieve their Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) certificate.
Currently, there is a deficit of over 8,000 new pilots needed per year to keep up with travel demands, federal statistics show. U.S. airlines have canceled roughly 55,000 flights and delayed more than 550,000 since Memorial Day weekend due to staffing and operational issues, reports say.
“The pilot shortage could become a permanent feature of the airline industry if we don’t get more aviators into the system,” said Mesa CEO Jonathan Ornstein. “It is basic math. If there aren’t enough trained pilots, customers suffer from loss of service and high-ticket prices.”
Source: Mesa Airlines

The program, which allows pilots to fly up to 40 hours per week, aims to reduce the amount of training time from years to months, Ornstein said.
The 1,500-hour requirement, a rule established by the FAA in 2013, is not only time-consuming but can be a steep out-of-pocket expense upwards of $250,000, for prospective aviators, the airline said.
The airline’s initiative will alleviate this financial burden for pilots by footing the bill for their $25-per-hour flight costs with zero interest. Pilots in the program will also receive a priority status for employment as a First Officer at Mesa Airlines. Training flight costs will then be repaid by pilots during their first couple years of employment at Mesa.
Mesa, which operates all its flights as either American Eagle, United Express, or DHL Express flights, believes the initiative is not only cost-effective for prospective pilots but puts them at an accelerated pace to begin their careers.
“We believe there is no faster way for a new aviator to enter commercial aviation and ultimately be employed at a major airline,” Ornstein added.
Source: Mesa Airlines
The program is made possible by Mesa’s recent purchase of 29 Pipistrel Alpha Trainer 2 aircraft, which will go into operation in Florida this month. The airline also has the option to buy an additional 75 aircraft over the next year.
The fleet is expected to allow for up to 2,000 daily hours of flying and bring in more than 1,000 pilots per year, the company said.
Flight delays and cancellations have become the norm, due in part to a lack of commercial flight operators. In August, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced a 34.9% increase in air travel service complaints from May to June which is a nearly 270% increase from pre-pandemic levels.
Source: Mesa Airlines

The FAA’s 1,500-hour rule, which before 2013 was a requirement of 250 hours, has placed training pilots in the U.S. at a disadvantage of kick-starting their careers, Mesa executives said.
“Mesa’s Pilot Development program is an example of the private sector working to solve the challenges created by new regulations. No other country in the world has adopted the 1,500-hour rule. This creates a situation where many foreign licensed pilots can fly over this country and into some of the world’s busiest airports even though they would not be considered experienced enough to fly a commercial aircraft by the FAA,” Ornstein added.
Source: Mesa Airlines

While Mesa’s program may appeal to cadets already struggling to meet FAA requirements, it aims to provide a more affordable and streamlined process for interested individuals from minority or disadvantaged communities who want to become commercial pilots.
“We want to make it as easy as possible for a whole new field of candidates to join Mesa, including and especially people who might not have traditionally considered aviation,” John Hornibrook, SVP Flight Operations at Mesa Inc., said.