Mesa Airlines invests in planes for pilot development program
PHOENIX — Mesa Airlines announced Thursday an investment of 29 planes for its pilot development program aimed at alleviating the shortage in the industry.
The program will provide qualified pilots up to 1,500 flight hours fully financed by Mesa with zero interest, with up to 40 hours of flight time each week, according to a press release.
“The pilot shortage could become a permanent feature of the airline industry if we don’t get more aviators into the system,” Jonathan Ornstein, chairman and CEO of Mesa said in the release.
“It is basic math. If there aren’t enough trained pilots, customers suffer from loss of service and high-ticket prices.”
As part of the commitment, flight costs will be repaid over three years during employment at Mesa Airlines, the release said.
Pilots will also begin building company longevity, receive flight benefits and be given priority for employment as a first officer at Mesa Airlines.
The shortage — which has forced airlines to reduce routes to various destinations and boost ticket prices — mainly comes after the 2013 Federal Aviation Administration regulation that increased the amount of flight hours prospective pilots needs for an ATP certificate from 250 to 1,500.
“In some cases, routes that get cut as a result of the pilot shortage are the only commercial air services to those communities,” Ornstein said.
“Without action now, the U.S. air travel system may be snarled for the next decade. The stakes are high for both passengers and the U.S. economy.”
Due to the 1,500-hour federal mandate, it’s been particularly difficulty for disadvantaged communities and minority groups to become commercial pilots due to rising costs and required training time, Mesa Airlines said.
The airline and commercial industry needs about 14,500 new pilots annually, although, the nation produces about 6,335 newly certified pilots each year — only meeting about 44% of the need.
Mesa currently has the highest pay rate in the regional industry at $100 per hour. Its pilots can also join the United Aviate program which can directly connect them to United Airlines.
“Mesa’s Pilot Development Program is an example of the private sector working to solve the challenges created by new regulations. No other country in the world has adopted the 1,500-hour rule. This creates a situation where many foreign licensed pilots can fly over this country and into some of the world’s busiest airports event though the would not be considered experienced enough to fly a commercial aircraft by the FAA,” Ornstein said.
The newly purchased, FAA approved Pipistrel Alpha Trainer 2 aircraft is a two seat, high wing, modern fiber design.
Interested pilots can read more about the program online.