Mesa Airlines’ new training program can help ‘break the pipeline’ of pilot shortage: CEO

The so-called “summer of travel hell” is behind us, but the ongoing national pilot shortage is still causing plenty of headwinds for the industry.

Estimates vary, but one government estimate projects a shortfall of 18,000-plus pilots each year for the next decade.

Mesa Airlines, a regional airline that flies for both United and American as well as cargo carrier DHL Express, says his company has a solution.

CEO Jonathan Ornstein told Yahoo Finance his company is rolling out a program to provide would-be pilots with interest-free loans to help them accumulate the required number of in-air training miles to fly commercially in the United States.

“What we’ve done is we just made an order for up to 104 smaller, light training aircraft, where we’re effectively going to give people the opportunity to fly those aircraft, finance it completely. They don’t pay us any money until they come to work. And the basic price, $25 an hour, is about literally 1/6 of what it would cost them to do it on their own. So it’s just a terrific opportunity for new aspiring aviators to get into commercial aviation, which has now never been more lucrative,” Ornstein said.

The response from eager pilots has been overwhelmingly positive, with nearly 70 new signups in one day, Ornstein said. “There are 25,000 or more folks out there who want to fly in commercial aviation but cannot build the time quickly enough.”

Ornstein said the company plans to hire everyone that completes the program, with…

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