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Some call for less flying hours for new pilots amid nationwide pilot shortage

Published: May. 5, 2022 at 9:26 AM CDT|Updated: May. 5, 2022 at 9:27 AM CDT
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(CNN) - A latest push by airlines to curb flight cancellations caused by a shortage of pilots is concerning for some people, including John and Marilyn Kausner.

Their daughter, Elly Kausner, was on board Colgan Air Flight 3407 on February 12, 2009, when it plunged into a Buffalo, New York, neighborhood.

She was among 45 passengers and four crew who were killed.

“I didn’t get the opportunity to walk my daughter down the aisle,” John Kausner said.

After the crash, the Kausners fought to mandate more pilot experience.

New airline pilots, once required to have 250 flying hours, now need 1,500 hours, but some airline executives say that requirement is contributing to the shortage.

“This is not a safety issue, and I think it’s important that some of the politicians start to act and take this up because, if they don’t, they’re putting the industry in jeopardy,” said Jonathan Ornstein, CEO of Mesa Airlines.

A change in regulations would be felt most at smaller, regional airlines contracted by major carriers. They operate short routes and make up 40% of all flights in the United States.

Regional Airline Association President Fay Malarkey Black supports substituting some flight time for classroom time.

“We should not be talking about roll back or repeal, but add and replace and enhance so that we can open up training pathways to people who have not had access,” Black said.

This week, an executive from JetBlue said pilots from other countries operate safely despite looser regulations.

The National Transportation Safety Board found pilots of Flight 3407 did not properly recognize an aerodynamic stall.

Elly Kausner’s family said that was due to lack of experience, something they insist regulators never forget.

“We put rules and regulations in place that have been preventing plane crashes, largely and that’s the legacy. Let’s not lower our safety standards,” her father said.

Earlier this week, the U.S. Transportation Secretary said the federal government is looking to fund workforce development grants aimed at increasing the number of pilots.

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