Regional Airlines call for change regarding 1,500-hour rule.
With the travel industry in a post-pandemic boom, many airlines are facing the immediate pressure of a pilot shortage and are pressuring the FAA to change their 1,500-hour rule as a result. During a Regional Airlines Association Leadership Conference on Tuesday September 28th, regional airline officials criticized the 1,500-rule, and argued that pilots can be trained faster with more comprehensive and quality training.
It is unclear if any changes can be expected. Congressman Rick Larsen (D-Wash.), who was present when the rule was indoctrinated, is not showing signs of relinquishing to the pressure. This decision will be interesting to watch unfold, as it will have a substantial impact on airlines, training pilots and the industry.
The 1,500-hour rule – which requires Airline Pilots to have 1,500 hours of flight time prior to their ATP/CTP or fewer hours for a R-ATP – is the focus of Regional Airlines as it adds time to the process for the pilots, they are able to hire. Time in which is low in supply at the moment. Training a Commercial Pilot may take 10 months, whereas gaining for 1,500 hours of flight time adds an additional 18 – 24 months. Due to the decrease in flight time in 2020, prospective pilots have been delayed in becoming eligible for the airlines.
The current pilot shortage stems from the fact that many major airlines offered incentives to older pilots for early retirement, desperate to cut payroll costs due to the decrease in travel revenue from 2020. Now that travel has recovered to near pre-pandemic levels, these major airlines are under-staffed and many cancelling flights as a result. To solve this issue, major airlines will be able to hire pilots from Regional Airlines, who will then feel the squeeze between this and pilots still working toward their 1500 hours.
The 1500 rule itself is unique to the U.S. and relatively new having entered the industry in 2013 as part of the 2010 Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act. Support for the required hours is dwindling, and the focus has shifted from the quantity of hours to the quality of training. Proposed solutions include hybrid training with 300 hours of flight school training and 300 hours of highly structured flight have been mentioned. Changing the 1,500-hour rule by lowering the hours would enable pilots to get to the airlines quicker, dampening the pilot shortage.
With the likelihood that this FAA rule will change – at least in the short term – seemingly low, many regional airlines are looking to boost their hiring in other ways, such as incentives and hiring bonuses. SkyWest Airlines, for example is offering $17,500 in tuition reimbursements to all AeroGuard pilots upon completion on Initial Operating Experience. Also, pilots who have graduated AeroGuard Flight Training Center are guaranteed a First Officer interview with SkyWest Airlines.
Whatever the future holds, AeroGuard Flight Training Center will offer the quickest path to future commercial airline pilots. Currently this program meets all the needs of the 1,500 hours rule by offering student graduates employment as a CFI after graduation.