Mesa Airlines buys 29 Pipistrel trainer aircraft for pilot development

Mesa Airlines has purchased 29 two-seat Pipistrel Alpha Trainer 2 aircraft and has options to purchase 75 more over the next year to serve as the basis for the company’s internal training course, called the Mesa Pilot Development Program. In announcing the move Thursday, Mesa said he expects the program, which gives pilots the opportunity to accumulate the 1,500 flight hours required to become a Part 121 first officer, will help reduce the airline’s pilot shortage and offer them a direct route to long-term careers.

“The pilot shortage could become a permanent feature of the airline industry unless we bring more airmen into the system,” said Mesa Chairman and CEO Jonathan Ornstein. “This is elementary mathematics. When there are not enough trained pilots, customers suffer from a loss of service and high ticket prices.”

Mesa plans to put the aircraft into service in Inverness, Florida, starting next month, followed by expansion into Arizona within the next year. The airline expects the fleet to eventually provide capacity for up to 2,000 daily flight hours and train more than 1,000 pilots per year.

Qualified pilots who join the program fly up to 40 hours per week, allowing them to increase their company longevity, receive flight benefits and receive priority status for employment as an airline first officer. Mesa fully funds tuition at $25 per hour, interest-free.

Mesa’s recent high-profile efforts to attract pilots include participation in the United Airlines Aviate career development program, designed to give cabin crew members a clear path to mainline flight work while increasing their flight hours with the regional airline. Initially available only to Mesa pilots flying the United Express network, in June Aviate expanded the offer to all Phoenix regional pilots, including those flying the American Eagle network.

Last month, the Airline Pilots Association negotiated a record pay increase for Mesa pilots, resulting in a total hourly rate increase of nearly 118 percent for first-year captains and 172 percent for new first officers. Starting Sept. 15, first-year captains of the Bombardier CRJ900 and Embraer E175 at Mesa saw their pay increase to $150 an hour, while first officers saw their starting pay rise to $100 an hour. Captains with twenty years of service now earn $215 an hour, while first officers with five to ten years of service earn $110.

“Our program will be the most cost-effective and one of the fastest paths to a long-term professional pilot career,” said Mesa Vice President of Operations John Hornibrook. “We want to make access to Mesa as easy as possible for new candidates, including and especially for people who haven’t traditionally considered aviation.”

Mesa cites federal statistics that show the commercial aviation industry needs about 14,500 new pilots each year; however, the average annual production of new pilots meets only about 44 percent of demand. The airline also noted that each year, the U.S. produces an average of 6,335 new certified pilots eligible for airline employment, leaving a gap of 8,165 unfilled positions across the entire aviation industry. “In some cases, the routes being cut due to pilot shortages are the only commercial air service available to these communities,” Ornstein said. “Without action now, the US air transportation system could be under attack for the next decade. The stakes are high for both passengers and the U.S. economy.”

https://www.ainonline.com/aviation-news/air-transport/2022-09-22/mesa-airlines-buys-29-pipistrel-trainers-pilot-development Mesa Airlines buys 29 Pipistrel trainer aircraft for pilot development

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