Indianapolis-based Republic Airways seems to be encountering public resistance with its proposal to federal regulators requesting an exemption to the “1,500-hour ATP rule” for graduates of its in-house LIFT Academy training program. The airline claims it can exceed the standards of comparable military training programs with its “closed loop” training program and wants its graduates to be eligible for an R-ATP at 750 hours. At least as far as industry groups and flight schools are concerned, that’s coming off as a bad idea.
The standard requirements to earn your Airline Transport Pilot rating are, in part, to be 21 years old with at least 1,500 flight hours, in addition to the required prerequisite ratings and endorsements. The R-ATP, or restricted version which allows right-seat duties in Part 121 operations, is available at 1,250 hours to graduates with a two-year degree in aviation, 1,000 hours to graduates of a four-year degree in aviation from an approved university, or 750 hours to military pilots.
The collective response from the flight school industry and groups representing airline pilots has the potential to make you see the larger “airline pilot shortage thing” in a slightly different light. Reading the comments in the public docket (the FAA is accepting comments on the proposal), the sentiment ranges from those who identify as flight school operators whose business depends on the 1,500-hour rule to those who claim to have flown in the armed forces, one of whom said, “I flew for the military, and I’m insulted an airline would claim to out-train Uncle Sam.” Still others state the somewhat arbitrary 1,500-hour ATP minimum should remain in place since Congress did establish it as law following the crash of Colgan Air Flight 3407 to Buffalo in 2009. Out of 34 comments published since April 15, there are precious few that support Republic’s proposal.
No word yet on when the FAA might rule on the request.