Republic Airways, regional carrier for American Airlines, wants the Department of Transportation to award restricted airline transport pilot status to 750-hour pilot candidates who successfully complete its in-house training program, which Republic claims is as rigorous as military training. Military trainees are eligible to start flying for the airlines at 750 hours, which explains why Republic chose that figure. If granted, the move would enable Republic to get new pilots behind the First Officer’s yoke with paying passengers on board much sooner than today’s requirements, given that the best-case for a civilian R-ATP requires 1,200 hours total time and a 2-year aeronautical degree. Pilots become eligible to earn a standard ATP certificate at 1,500 hours, regardless of academic degree.
If granted, and if it proves precedent-setting, the move would be exciting for pilots seeking a path to Part 121 airline employment but have logged only the minimum times to complete Private, Instrument, Commercial, and Multi-Engine ratings. Candidates with Republic would obviously be employed full-time as trainees in Republic’s own program that it claims can “meet or exceed the safety of” military training, thereby justifying the request to match the 750-hour requirement enjoyed by military training candidates to earn the R-ATP.
It’s not known what commitments such hires would owe to Republic, if any, as part of the deal to start right-seat duty at the 750-hour mark. If the regional carrier does convince the FAA to okay its lower-flight time exemption, it’s a sure bet that other airlines would be asking, as well.
The 1500-hour minimum flight time for most candidates dates back to just over a decade ago when the FAA stiffed the requirement after a Colgan Air Q400 turboprop crashed outside of Buffalo, killing all 49 on board and one person on the ground.