Last updated: 01:00 PM ET, Wed December 02 2015

JetBlue Looking to Train Pilots with No Experience

Airlines & Airports | Donald Wood | December 02, 2015

JetBlue Looking to Train Pilots with No Experience

Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

The JetBlue Airways Corp. is attempting to change the way it recruits pilots by announcing a plan to open the application process to potential candidates with no previous flying experience.

According to Mary Schlangenstein of, JetBlue is looking to train wannabe pilots in a program that would require all to complete 1,500 hours of flying experience before ever getting the chance to fly one of the company’s airplanes.

The airline has made the formal request for the change in policy with federal officials, and receiving clearance would buck the trend of using mostly former military pilots and aviation school graduates who earned their hours of experience on their own.

While many airlines are suffering from a shortage of pilots, JetBlue spokesman Doug McGraw told Bloomberg that his company employs about 2,600 pilots and is not experiencing any shortage, citing the fact that the airline gets thousands of applications every year.

The new training program—dubbed Gateway 7 by JetBlue—is meant to help get possible pilots of the future acquainted to the larger commercial aircrafts as quickly as possible to ensure that the required 1,500 hours of flight time are maximized.

McGraw also said Gateway 7 wouldn’t replace JetBlue’s six other pilot-recruitment programs, and that the program would be introduced to a select few students for a trial period in 2016.

JetBlue’s proposed training program would use a competency-based approach that can be found in programs run by airlines in other countries and even the United States military. Recruits will learn on smaller planes and work their way up the ladder to larger aircraft.

JetBlue Air Line Pilots Association Chairman Captain Jim Bigham released a statement about the new program, saying, “We’re opposed to it. We think there are thousands of pilots available that have higher qualifications right now than any pilot coming out of an ab initio program.”


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