Pilots and copilots who fly passenger airlines must obtain Airline Transport Pilot certificates, which require 1,500 hours of flight time. Republic Airways, a carrier that operates an average of 1,000 flights a day and contracts with Delta, American, and United tried to get those hours way down. The FAA, in short, said no.
As Reuters reports, Republic Airways lobbied the FAA to allow for half the time of training required for copilots if they graduate from the company's internal training program. Pilots would still need 1,500 hours, but copilots could have a restricted ATP that would allow them to fly passenger airliners at only 750 hours. A similar exemption is currently offered to military and veteran pilots, but only to military pilots—even pilots with a four-year degree in aviation still need 1,000 hours of flight time to qualify for a restricted ATP.
Republic's CEO said in a statement he was "disappointed" in the decision; the ALPA, the largest pilots' union in the world with over 65,000 members, called the decision a "huge win" for safety. The FAA, for its part, said it made the decision because it considers this "to be of greater public interest to ensure and maintain the level of safety" further training gives pilots.
Since 2012, pilots and copilots alike have needed ATP certificates and 1,500 hours of flight time. Prior to that, only 250 hours were required, but in the wake of the fatal 2009 Colgan Air Flight 3407 crash where 50 people died on a regional flight due to pilot fatigue and improper stall recovery, Congress changed the requirements. That incident was the last multiple-fatality commercial airline crash in the U.S., and while it is true that pilot shortages continue to cause carriers to drop regional connections, I personally would still like the fully trained pilots—even if it means a few more delays.