U.S. airlines facing a pilot shortage are considering measures that would make it easier to get pilots trained faster, including halving the number of flight hours needed to become a pilot.
“At least one lawmaker is said to be considering legislation that could raise the federally-mandated retirement age for airline pilots from 65 to 67 or higher to extend aviators’ time in the skies,” CNBC reported.
A regional airline proposed reducing flight-hour requirements before joining a U.S. carrier, and airlines are rethinking training programs to lower the barrier to entry. Earlier this year, Delta Air Lines joined other big carriers in dropping a four-year degree from its pilot hiring requirements.
Several U.S. airlines, including Frontier, are recruiting some pilots from Australia. American Airlines is selling bus tickets for some short routes.
But some airline executives warn the shortage could take years to solve.
“The pilot shortage for the industry is real, and most airlines are simply not going to be able to realize their capacity plans because there simply aren’t enough pilots, at least not for the next five-plus years,” United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby said on a quarterly earnings call in April.
Kirby estimated the regional airlines United works with currently have about 150 airplanes grounded because of the pilot shortage.
The U.S. is facing its worst pilot shortage in recent memory, forcing airlines to cut flights just as travelers are returning after more than two years of the pandemic. https://t.co/6kTiWwDpNu
— NBC News (@NBCNews) May 15, 2022
U.S.Airlines is facing a major pilot shortage. They’re considering cutting the hours of needed flight training to half.
Never should have fired them!! pic.twitter.com/fjgRdAbi2B
— 🇺🇸ProudArmyBrat (@leslibless) May 21, 2022
On May 13, Alaska Airlines CEO Ben Minicucci posted a YouTube video where he apologized for flight cancellations, saying “we had 63 fewer pilots than what we planned for when we built our scheduled,” which he said led to a “ripple effect.”
“By the time we caught this error, April and May schedules were bid on by our pilots and flight attendants, making it impossible to sufficiently adjust schedules to avoid cancellations,” he said in the video.
The Daily Wire added:
Delta made the announcement in January, saying it would increase pilot pay and offer large sign-on bonuses while at the same time eliminating the requirement that pilots have a four-year college degree, Insider reported at the time.
“While we feel as strongly as ever about the importance of education, there are highly qualified candidates – people who we would want to welcome to our Delta family – who have gained more than the equivalent of a college education through years of life and leadership experience,” Delta announced. “Making the four-year degree requirement preferred removes unintentional barriers to our Delta flight decks.”
Republic Airways, a regional carrier operating on behalf of Delta, American Airlines, and United Airlines, is making a similar move. The carrier asked the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in April for permission to hire pilots out of their training academy when they have reached 750 flight hours, half the number currently required.
The proposal has some detractors, for sure. Families of the victims who died in the Colgan Air 3407 crash in 2009 have pushed back on the suggestion. That crash, the last fatal U.S. passenger commercial airline crash, according to CNBC, resulted in the 1,500 flight hours requirement.
And it’s unclear whether the FAA would even approve Republic Airways’ proposal, telling CNBC in a statement that “While anyone can request an exemption, it does not mean it will be granted.
However, airline companies continue to ignore another glaring factor that surely contributed to this pilot shortage.
COVID-19 jab mandates.
In addition to firing pilots that refused the experimental shot, injuries from the coerced medical experiment have taken a hefty toll on the aviation industry.
An international coalition of aviation and medical professionals shed light on pilot COVID-19 jab injuries in a recent statement.
American Airlines pilot Bob Snow is one pilot who suffered a catastrophic adverse reaction after taking the experimental COVID-19 shot.