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FAA rejects airline request to hire less-experienced pilots

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Federal officials have rejected a request by a regional airline facing a pilot shortage to hire co-pilots with half the usual minimum amount of flying experience.

Republic Airways asked for permission to hire pilots with at least 750 hours of flying time if they complete the airline’s training program. However, the Federal Aviation Administration said that it was in the public interest to maintain current standards, which generally require 1,500 flight hours for a co-pilot.

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Republic did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday.

Smaller carriers called regional airlines were once allowed to hire co-pilots, who are called first officers, with as few as 250 hours of flying experience. But the minimum was increased after a 2009 Colgan Air plane flying for Continental Airlines crashed near Buffalo, New York, killing all 49 people on board and one on the ground.

While the minimum is 1,500 hours, pilots with military experience or a degree from an approved university program can qualify with less experience. Republic argued that its program would be comparable to military flight training.

Republic uses smaller planes to operate mostly shorter routes for big airlines under the Delta Connection, American Eagle and United Express brands. The airline is based in Indianapolis, Indiana.

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