A major pilot shortage in the United States has been bad for regional airlines. Senior pilots at the major airlines accepted early retirement packages. Regional airlines have been left without qualified pilots due to the fact that many pilots from regional airlines have been able to land jobs at the major network airlines.

Is it reasonable for one of the biggest regional airlines in the United States to ask the FAA to lower the minimum number of hours it takes to become an airline pilot?

Republic asks for exemption to 1,500-hour rule

American Eagle, Delta Connection, and United Express all use Republic as their regional airline. It is possible that you have flown with Republic without even knowing it.

The FAA requires pilots to have at least 1,500 flight hours before they can work for an airline. Former military pilots can get that requirement cut in half, to only 750 hours.

The airline runs a pilot training academy called LIFT, which stands for Leadership In Flight Training. The airline believes 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

Should the 1,500-hour rule be eliminated?

The 1,500-rule is one of the highest requirements in the world, as other countries will allow pilots with just a couple of hundred hours experience to fly airliners. The US takes this requirement to the extreme.

It is worth considering the origin of this rule. The requirement for new airline pilots was increased from 250 hours to 1,500 hours. The crash of Colgan Air flight 3407 was caused by pilot error.

The captain and first officer on that flight had over 1,500 hours, so that wouldn't have been a factor. I'm not sure what this was intended to address, but I can appreciate the logic of wanting to make requirements to become a pilot more stringent.

Republic's request seems reasonable 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
  • If these flight academies have good programs and a rigorous process for certifying people to get into the cockpit of a jet with passengers, then I’m all for it, regardless of whether a pilot has 750 hours or 1,500 hours
  • 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
Hopefully Republic can have a 750-hour exception granted

Bottom line

Republic wants the FAA to waive the 1,500-hour rule for hiring pilots. Republic argued that after 750 hours, pilots would be more than qualified to operate a regional jet.

This seems like a reasonable request.

Do you think the number of hours required for pilots should be lowered?