Mesa orders up to 104 Pipistrels to combat pilot shortage

US regional carrier Mesa Airlines will purchase 29 state-of-the-art Pipistrel Alpha Trainer 2 aircraft with an option to purchase an additional 75 over the next year.

The new fleet will be the backbone of the Mesa Pilot Development Program (MPD), an important initiative to address the pilot shortage that has affected the industry over the past several years. Through the program, pilots will be given the opportunity to accumulate up to 1,500 flight hours required to operate a commercial aircraft for Mesa Airlines.

The Phoenix, Arizona-based company is investing in a new program to ease the pilot shortage while giving new pilots a direct path to long-term careers. Jonathan Ornstein, chairman and CEO of Mesa, said, “The pilot shortage could become a permanent feature of the airline industry unless we bring more airmen into the system. This is basic math. When there are not enough trained pilots, customers suffer from a loss of service and high ticket prices.”

The aircraft will enter service in Inverness, Florida starting in October, with expansion to Arizona over the next year. When fully staffed, the fleet will have the capacity for up to 2,000 daily flight hours and is expected to host more than 1,000 pilots per year. Ornstein continued, “We believe there is no faster way for a new aviator to enter commercial aviation and ultimately be employed by a major airline.”

In April 2022, Textron eAviation acquired Pipistrel Aircraft, which also became the first manufacturer to certify an all-electric aircraft. More than 2,700 Pipistrel aircraft are in operation in the United States and other countries around the world.

Qualified pilots who join the program will be offered up to 40 hours of flight time each week. In addition, MPD pilots will begin earning company longevity, flight benefits and priority employment status as a first officer with Mesa Airlines. Flight expenses of $25 per hour per pilot will be fully funded by Mesa at zero interest, with no out-of-pocket advance for flight time, while the candidate accumulates the required hours for the Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) certificate. . As part of their commitment, flight expenses will be reimbursed for three years during their employment with Mesa Airlines. Mesa’s first-year pay rate of $100 an hour is currently the highest in the regional industry. In addition, all Mesa pilots can join the United Aviate program, which offers a direct flow to United Airlines.

“Our program will be the most cost-effective and one of the fastest paths to a long-term professional pilot career,” said John Hornibrook, senior vice president of flight operations. “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.”

The 1,500-hour federal mandate has made it especially difficult for minorities and other disadvantaged communities to become commercial pilots because of the high costs and time required for training. Mesa said this program helps mitigate that significant barrier to entry.

According to federal statistics, the airline and commercial industries need about 14,500 new pilots each year; however, the average annual production of new pilots meets only about 44 percent of demand. Each year, the US produces an average of 6,335 new certified pilots eligible for airline employment. This leaves a gap of 8,165 unfilled jobs in the aviation industry. And this despite the fact that many airlines are sharply increasing the wages of pilots. The shortage has forced airlines to cut routes to many destinations and raise ticket prices, contributing to general inflation.

“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.”

The lower number of pilots coming out of training was largely influenced by a 2013 Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulation that increased the number of flight hours required for prospective pilots to obtain an ATP certificate from 250 to 1,500. After graduating from flight school, pilots, newly licensed may have to pay up to $250,000 to accumulate enough flight hours to be eligible to fly with a commercial carrier, a process that often takes two to three years.

“The Mesa pilot development program is an example of how the private sector is working to address the challenges created by the new regulations. No other country in the world has adopted the 1500 hour rule. This creates a situation where many foreign licensed pilots can fly over this country and into some of the busiest airports in the world, even though the FAA does not consider them experienced enough to fly a commercial aircraft,” said Jonathan Ornstein.

The Alpha trainer 2 is a two-seater high-wing aircraft with modern carbon fiber. The project is configured by Right Rudder Aviation and built Pipistrel planenew addition to Textron eAviation portfolio. Since 1989, Pipistrel has produced innovative aircraft used by the US and foreign armed forces, as well as leading flight training providers worldwide, with more than 2,700 in service. The FAA-approved aircraft features a modern, comfortable cockpit with a computerized touch screen and digital autopilot, enhancing safety through technology. The airframe’s Kevlar-reinforced cockpit and full ballistic parachute add to its safety focus. The aircraft was purchased from Pipistrel Aircraft’s exclusive American distributor, Right Rudder Aviation.

https://www.aviationbusinessnews.com/low-cost/mesa-orders-up-to-104-pipistrels-to-combat-pilot-shortage/ Mesa orders up to 104 Pipistrels to combat pilot shortage

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