Republic Airways (YX, Indianapolis International) has petitioned the US Department of Transportation for an exemption to allow it to recruit pilots with 750 flight hours - half the current requirement - to start operating commercial flights under strict conditions.

The US regional capacity provider is petitioning to expand the current exemption from the 1,500 flight hour requirement for ex-military pilots. Under Federal Regulations (C.F.R.) §61.160(a), former military pilots can enter commercial operations with 750 logged hours, provided that they have not been removed for a lack of flying proficiency or disciplinary actions.

Republic Airways wants to have the requirement lowered to 750 hours for civilian candidates who are enrolled in the Republic Airways Restricted Air Transport Pilot (R-ATP) Program, the carrier's in-house training pathway. This would allow them to complete their training while already operating as full-time employees of the airline. Republic Airways said its training standards exceed legal minima as well as military ones.

"The Republic R-ATP Program is designed to make airline pilot career opportunities more accessible for qualified individuals from underrepresented groups who meet the selection criteria but may not have the financial means or academic support to pursue an aviation career path," the airline said.

Republic Airways clarified that the R-ATP pilots would only be allowed to fly commercially at the airline to ensure "rigorous" standards. They will, however, be able to move to other carriers as soon as they have obtained unconditional licences.

Chief Executive Bryan Bedford recently told ch-aviation in an interview that the pilot shortage was hampering Republic Airways' growth.

"Our three partners - American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and United Airlines - have significant demand for what we're doing, and we can't satisfy that demand... If we had more pilots, we would be flying a lot more block hours than what we're doing today," he said.