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Regional Airline Association Issues Statement on Republic Airways Petition

FAA Denies Request to Consider Private, Part 141 R-ATP Flight School Equivalent to Military Pilot Training

The RAA has weighed in on the FAA's decision to deny a Republic Airways attempt to lessen the experience requirement for those pilots graduating from their LIFT Flight Academy. 

The airline filed a petition last April requesting an exemption from Part 61.160, arguing that its Restricted-ATP program sufficiently resembles US Military training in quality and spirit. If granted, the exemption would allow graduates of its pilot school to fly under the same experience requirements as former military aviators. If it had been approved, the graduates of the LIFT Academy would be able to fly for Republic Airways at 750 hours of total flight time instead of the ATP-standard of 1,500. 

Republic Airways argued that their closed-loop, integrated program was sufficiently similar to military pilot training, and should meet the requirements outlined in 14 CFR §61.160. Republic believes that their "comprehensive and structured training…satisfies the spirit of regulations, while enhancing safety and providing a benefit to the public." They argue that LIFT Academy, the airline's subsidiary flight school, shares "close alignment" with its parent, allowing them to maintain similarity in SOP, operations, assessments, and AQP data analysis. The "zero-to-hero" aspect of the school, where students progress from initial flight training to a First Officer applicant at Republic Airways was hoped to be close enough to military R-ATP training that there would not be an appreciable difference between them.

The FAA disagrees entirely, saying that even if the schooling were equivalent, the airline sought to address their desires the wrong way. “FAA disagrees with reducing the amount of required aeronautical experience at this time. Further, the FAA finds that, if a reduction in hours was appropriate, an exemption is not the appropriate vehicle with which to make such a determination." They do not agree that the exemption would help to address a pilot shortage, saying that the idea it would is “overly simplistic and does not present a persuasive argument to lower 14 CFR Part 61 pilot certification standards.” 

The Regional Airline Association was understandably crestfallen at the refusal. Were the exemption granted, it might have opened a new path to cultivating sorely needed first officers right as the pilot shortage looms closer. “We are still reviewing the FAA's decision," said Faye Malarkey Black, CEO of the RAA. "It is the mission of all airlines to have robust safety programs and to improve flight training on a continuous basis. The first focus must be safety. Expanding structured training pathways would improve access for people who can’t access a pilot career today."

"It is important to note that Republic’s petition was designed to be in compliance with the information and conclusions reached by FAA’s Aviation Rulemaking Committee recommendations & conclusions on two separate meetings of that group. We look forward to reviewing the FAA’s response. None of this changes our sentiment that flight training must continuously advance."

FMI: www.raa.org

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