Key Points:

  • Mesa Airlines debuts a novel pilot training strategy to expedite cadet progress toward the FAA's required 1,500 hours of flight time.

  • The newly launched Independent Pilot Development programme revolves around the Pipistrel Alpha 2 aircraft, recently added to Mesa's fleet.

  • The ongoing shortage of trained flight-deck crews, notably affecting regional carriers, has sparked innovative recruitment strategies.

Mesa Airlines' Pipistrel Alpha 2 to shape the future of pilot training.

A Fresh Approach to Pilot Training: Mesa Tackles Pilot Shortage with Innovative Training Initiative

PHOENIX —Mesa Airlines, a U.S. regional airline based in Phoenix, unveiled its Independent Pilot Development program on October 9, a unique "pay-as-you-go" pilot training initiative. Centered around the airline’s recently procured Pipistrel Alpha 2 light aircraft, the program seeks to expedite cadets' journey to achieving the 1,500 hours of flight time stipulated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for commercial pilots.

"Our focus isn’t merely on building flight hours but molding a holistic career development pathway that readies pilots for both the intricacies and rewards of serving in an airline capacity," Mesa's CEO, Jonathan Ornstein, expressed.

The Pipistrel Alpha 2 Advantage 

To participate, cadets need to buy a minimum of 50-hour blocks at an hourly rate of $60 and ensure a monthly flight duration of at least 25 hours. Mesa’s acquisition plan, announced in September 2022, highlighted the procurement of 29 Pipistrel Alpha 2 planes, coupled with an option to buy 75 more, underpinning this ambitious training project.

Mesa sheds light on the distinct features of the Alpha 2, which include dual flight controls, a cutting-edge Garmin instrument panel, the Rotax 912 80hp engine, a spacious and quiet cockpit, an advanced autopilot system, and a state-of-the-art ballistic parachute rescue mechanism.

Addressing the Pilot Deficit 

The aviation industry, particularly regional carriers in North America, grapples with a significant dearth of adept flight-deck personnel. Mesa, a regional partner flying for United Airlines under the United Express banner, confronts similar challenges, struggling to hire enough pilots to optimally utilize its fleet.

"Although we've consistently onboarded pilots from the start of this year, we are operating at roughly 70% of our total capacity," Ornstein, during a quarterly earnings discussion in August, revealed. He indicated that Mesa would need about 150 additional pilots, predominantly captains, to reach United’s desired operational level. An estimated 400 regional aircraft, comprising jets and turboprops, remain grounded across the U.S. due to the pilot shortage. In this context, Mesa currently has 26 aircraft, primarily Bombardier CRJ900s, in storage.