Mesa Airlines purchased 29 two-seat aircraft for its pilot development program as part of its efforts to combat the ongoing shortage of pilots, the regional airline announced Thursday.
The planes will help establish the airline’s pilot development program, which aims to give pilots an accelerated opportunity to earn the 1,500 flight hours the Federal Aviation Administration needs to fly commercial aircraft. according to a press release from Mesa Airlines. In addition, the airline can buy 75 additional aircraft in the coming year.
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According to Mesa Airlines, the newly purchased aircraft will go into service in Florida next month and later in Arizona. The fleet will have a capacity of up to 2,000 hours of combined daily flight time and more than 1,000 pilots per year once fully operational, it said.
“Pilot shortages could become a permanent feature of the airline industry,” Mesa Airlines CEO Jonathan Ornstein said in a statement. “It’s basic math. If there aren’t enough trained pilots, customers will suffer from service loss and high ticket prices.”
Airlines have seen a 4% drop in pilot numbers since 2019. More than 14,000 pilots would have to be hired for ten years each year to keep up with the shortfall, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports.
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Shortages of pilots and other airlines, inclement weather and other factors have wreaked havoc on flights in recent months, causing airlines to ramp up hiring and shorten flight schedules to combat delays and cancellations.
Mesa Airlines said its pilot development program aims to help reduce the pilot shortage. Through the program, qualified pilots receive up to 40 hours of flying time each week and benefits such as priority status for employment with the airline, the company said.
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The airline will fund $25 per hour of flight costs for pilots as they work toward their certifications, with the pilots committing to repay the costs for three years without interest while working for the company, Mesa Airlines said in the release.
“Our program will be the most cost-effective and one of the fastest routes to a long-term career as a professional pilot,” said John Hornibrook, Mesa Airlines’ senior vice president of flight operations, in a statement. “We want to make it as easy as possible for a whole new field of candidates to join Mesa, including and especially people who may not have traditionally thought of aviation.”
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