The FAA has denied a request from Republic Airways to allow an exemption for pilots completing its LIFT training program to fly commercial aircraft at 750 hours rather than 1,500 hours.
Republic Airways - a regional carrier for American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and United Airlines - petitioned the FAA in April to cut in half the minimum pilot training for its restricted airline transport pilot (R-ATP) certificate program. This would have allowed pilots to be hired on at Republic as first officers at 750 hours.
"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 agency's decision states.
Republic and other supporters, including Sen. Mike Braun and Rep. Trey Hollingsworth who both represent Republic's home state of Indiana, argued that an exemption would benefit local economies and help regional air carriers grapple with a pilot shortage.
However, industry groups including the Flight School Association of North America (FSANA) argued to the FAA in a 10-page letter that an exemption could risk the safety of passengers.
Ultimately, the FAA sided against Republic."We are pleased with the FAA‘s announcement earlier today not to grant the exemption requested by Republic Airlines last spring to reduce pilot training qualifications in this country," said Capt. Lee Collins, senior vice president of industry and government affairs for Florida-based Paragon Flight Training. "As a flight training organization, we have been solidly behind a better, blended solution for the industry, one that takes into account the entire issue of pilot production and throughput and enhances it from start to finish. We believe it is time to abandon the 10-year-old debate on flight hours and turn our attention to systemic improvements that can have an immediate, measurable impact on our ability to produce the world's best pilots efficiently and quickly while simultaneously maintaining quality and technological improvements in support of those goals." PREVIOUS COVERAGE:Republic Airways asks FAA to lower 1,500 hour rule for first officersRepublic's call for a 1,500-hour flight rule exemption: Why critics are fighting it andamp; what it could mean for aviation
"The FAA has previously concluded that the argument that an exemption would serve to address a pilot shortage is overly simplistic and does not present a persuasive argument to lower 14 CFR part 61 pilot certification standards," states the decision signed by Caitlin Locke, FAA acting deputy executive eirector of flight standards service. "Commenters disagreed that there is a pilot shortage and disagreed that there is a first officer pipeline problem. Some commenters stated that, instead, there is a captain retention problem that would not be addressed specifically by these changes."
Republic did not push to completely get rid of the 1,500-hour rule, instead requested for the rule to include alternative paths with fewer requirements to remove what could be unnecessary barriers to entry into the industry.
The airline said its R-ATP closely resembles the military-based training path but would include a revised civilian approach. The FAA said its regulations do not prohibit developing a mission-specific training program and analyzing and improving the program. However, the agency concluded that Republic failed to show that its LIFT program meets the standards of a military program, from which a pilot can fly commercially after 750 hours.
"While Republic provides the overarching structure of its training program, the FAA does not find that the curriculum facilitates the rigorous and comprehensive training reflected in military training," the FAA statement reads. "For example, military pilots are swiftly trained on mission-oriented maneuvers involving high performance, complex aircraft with advanced technology that are not typically available to part 141s due to differing resources.
"Republic states that training will be conducted on the Diamond DA40 NG and FA42-VI aircraft; however, the FAA does not find that the training set forth on these aircraft closely replicates the quality of military standard training on a military aircraft to such a degree that an equivalent level of training is provided."
"We're disappointed - but not surprised - that our petition to the FAA was not met with the review and engagement it deserves," Republic CEO Bryan Bedford said in an emailed statement, according to CNBC.