Flying serenely means not thinking too much.
If you spend time thinking you’re in a vast metal tube 36,000 feet in the air, you won’t sit back and relax.
If you spend time wondering if the aircraft has been properly maintained, you cannot be at peace.
And if you’re wondering where the pilots were the night before, your nerves might shake a little.
You get on a plane and trust that everything will be fine.
A current concern, however, is that there are not enough pilots. Every commercial airline wants more, but their training takes time and most of these trainee pilots have to complete 1,500 hours of flight time.
Now Republic Airways has applied to the Federal Aviation Administration for an exemption to reduce that number. A half.
You may not know Republic, but it is responsible for regional flights under the United, Delta and America Airlines umbrella.
So when you book a flight with one of these airlines, you might actually be on a Republic plane.
Republic now wants permission to reduce the number of hours prospective co-pilots need, through its own restricted airline pilot certificate program. This, he claims, “will provide the rigorous advantages, curriculum and structure of training by military means.”
Republic relies heavily on its idea of fostering diversity. Specifically, he says he will allow those without the financial means or academic qualifications to become pilots under the current system.
I sense that some customers, however, may have qualms. If you know that your pilot has only completed half the hours that were previously required, there will inevitably be some apprehension.
To which Republic replies that its new training program “will not have a negative impact on security, and will provide a higher level of security”.
You might be wondering why 1500 hours has become the norm. Is it like the somewhat mythical 10,000 steps to maintain health?
It was introduced in 2013, in response to a plane crash in 2009 flying for regional airline Colgan Air. The captain was accused of failing to show appropriate reactions and subsequent investigation showed that his training may have been inadequate. 50 people died in the accident.
Before this rule, the qualification to become a first officer was simply to have a commercial pilot’s license. It took barely 250 hours in the sky.
Currently, many aspiring pilots obtain their qualifications from commercial flight schools. Many become flight instructors in order to bank their hours. Others fly with feather dusters and planes that trail fascinating banners behind them.
Republic maintains that his training will be more intense and more appropriate for flying a commercial aircraft.
Other countries do not have the same strict rules as the United States. In Europe, for example, commercial pilots can have as little as 200 flight hours.
But at the heart of the matter is that, during the pandemic, airlines have offered many older pilots early retirement. 4,400 left, allowing the airlines to get money from the government. Now, as business picks up, they don’t have the pilots or the pilot trainers to do an increased number of flights.
And where do the major airlines hire their pilots? Why, many of them come from regional airlines.
Many insiders think the FAA is unlikely to grant Republic’s petition. Flight safety has once again become a controversial topic after two Boeing 737 Max planes crashed in 2018 and 2019.
However, if Republic somehow succeeded, some passengers would surely have expressed deep concerns. Again, many had expressed their concerns deeply about the Max before it returned to the air.
These days, I suspect many don’t even think about it when on a Max. They are too busy wondering if they will get to their destination on time.