Republic Airways, an American regional airline that operates flights for United, American Airlines and Delta, has asked the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to allow it, to remedy the current shortage of pilots, to hire staff with the half of the flight hours normally required. .
Republic operates services for American Eagle, Delta Connection and United Express, the regional branches of the Big 3. To this end, the airline has a fleet of 218 Embraer 170s and 175s, the largest in the world.
Specifically, the company is seeking an exemption from the requirement of Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). Subchapter 61.159 sets out the requirements for the ATPL (Airline Transport Pilot License), which is necessary to fly passenger aircraft in commercial operations. There, it is said that a pilot needs 1,500 hours of flight to obtain the qualification.
However, there is an exception, listed in paragraph 61.160: “A US military pilot may apply for the Restricted Air Transport License (R-ATP) with a minimum of 750 total flight hours”. The Republic based its application on this clause.
The arguments of the airline
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Republic is the only regional airline to have its own training program: the LIFT Academy (Leadership in Flight Training). This program is taught in collaboration with universities and makes it possible to obtain R-ATP licenses. However, these licenses require between 1,000 and 1,250 flight hours, depending on the professional course followed in parallel with pilot training.
Now, in a submission to the FAA dated April 15, Republic made a rather unique argument: because its training program is very similar to the training received in the USAF, the pilots who graduate from it have skills similar to those of military pilots. So if military personnel are allowed to fly airliners with half the flight hours normally required, so should Republic Airways pilots.
Once admitted, students follow a very structured training plan. According to the airline, the design of its R-ATP program is specifically compliant “with regulations and training provided by the military.” The petition notes that “Like the military, our training includes a rigorous screening and admissions process. It is a question of ensuring the aptitude and the aptitude of the candidates to become pilots”.
In addition to learning to fly, they are also trained as company employees. So, in addition to in-flight training, they also receive training on company standard operating procedures (SOPs).
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Republic has structured its training program into successive “portals”. These are designed to continuously assess the performance of each student. Gates ensure that potential pilots are performing at a level that qualifies them to continue in the program.
If a candidate does not pass through one of these doors, he will be offered the possibility of continuing his training outside the R-ATP program, that is to say by accumulating 1,500 flight hours. This second pathway is implemented due to the high standards of the program.
Internal control system
In addition to this requirement, there is a very comprehensive internal control system. The company specifies that the program it offers “is a closed-loop system in which students are trained in a highly structured and specific environment”.
According to the presentation, “the entire training process will be analyzed as a whole. This ensures candidate suitability for each qualification requirement.” This data, according to Republic, gives it the ability to adjust program content as needed. The airline says “it’s very similar to how the military does it, so trained professionals should have the same skills.”
Open the door to diversity
“The slow progress towards flight crew diversity requires an industry-wide commitment,” reads his presentation. The airline notes that the current training process, with regards to inclusion, “is broken”. According to the company, “existing methods have done little to address the structural gaps” in crew training.
A pilot’s career has always been expensive and entirely self-funded. The cost varies, but a figure of around $200,000 is no exaggeration. Republic argues that its training plan would provide “an affordable way to train” that would be accessible to a large number of applicants, including minorities. The airline is confident that through grants, scholarships, loans and stipends, qualified applicants will be able to access the career regardless of their financial status.
In addition to providing financial support, Republic will partner with social organizations to foster interest in aeronautics. They would also help identify and recruit potential candidates.
Republic says if the request is successful, it will benefit the industry as a whole. “Other airlines may offer a similar program, applying the same rigorous and structured criteria.” This would “open up the game and generate opportunities for candidates to train while being sponsored by airlines,” the company concluded.