Six months ago, the Federal Aviation Administration boosted the number of hours it takes to qualify as a commercial pilot and that has made it difficult for small, regional carriers to get the pilots they need.
Adding pilots hasn’t been much of an issue for Republic in the past. The airline has hired about 850 over the past two years.
But Republic CEO Bryan Bedford says applications have nosedived since August.
“On an average month, Republic would receive several hundred resumes – not that all of those resumes were actually qualified pilots,” Bedford says. “But, we saw a significant decrease. Roughly – the population was cut in half in the September, October, November time frame.”
August is when new F.A.A. guidelines kicked in.
The changes came in the wake of Colgan Air Flight 3407 which crashed near Buffalo, New York five years ago this week. It was determined that the two pilots made a series of errors that resulted in the deaths of 50 people.
Previously, 250 hours of in-flight training were needed to fly a commercial jet. Now it’s 1,500.
There just aren’t enough pilots who meet the new higher threshold. So, Republic isn’t renewing contracts for 27 of its aircraft.
Bedford estimates fewer flights will result in a financial hit to Republic somewhere between $18 million and $22 million.
“It’s going to be about 750 fewer jobs created, which includes the pilots, flight attendants who are on the aircraft, our maintenance technicians, administrative employees, people in our flight dispatching office,” Bedford says. “So it runs the gamut.”
Bedford says the country needs to rethink how pilots are trained and there needs to be more of an emphasis on quality of hours not quantity.