Spirit Airlines has announced that it will launch a pilot pathway program called Spirit Wings Pilot Pathway. The program is intended to help the airline build a pipeline of consistent talent, allowing it to ensure that it remains adequately staffed for decades to come. The program is in collaboration with CAE flight school in Phoenix, Arizona. The partnership comes amid a worldwide shortage of qualified airline pilots. Spirit hopes these efforts to secure some of the limited aviation talent that exists will help it stay ahead of its competition.
Flight school partnership
The pathway program is designed to help aspiring pilots along their path to becoming airline First Officers. Once students at CAE complete their training and acquire a total of 500 hours, they will have an interview with Spirit. If selected, they will receive a conditional offer of employment along with a Spirit flight bag. From here, they will be mentored by Spirit pilots until they acquire the needed 1500 hours to obtain their Airline Transport Pilot Certificate (ATP).
Photo: Denver International Airport
The Senior Director of Flight Operations and System Chief Pilot for Spirit Airlines, Ryan Rodosta, stated,
“CAE is a great partner for us because of their commitment to safety and operational excellence, and also their dedication to finding solutions for student training needs,
“At Spirit, we recognize Pilots are at the core of an airline. We have one of the youngest and most fuel-efficient fleets in the industry, and we fly to world-class destinations. We’re growing fast and creating tremendous career-progression opportunities.”
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The President of Civil Aviation at CAE group, Nick Leontidis, shared how the program will benefit students and the airline. Leontidis said,
“This new program will ensure Spirit Airlines has a pipeline of qualified pilots as they expand their fleet and route network,
“CAE and Spirit Airlines share an unwavering commitment to safety, and the Spirit Wings Pilot Pathway will give cadets an immersive training experience that will equip them with the skills and confidence to begin a successful career flying with Spirit Airlines.”
Spirit is not the first airline to offer a pathway program; most airlines in the US offer some form of pathway program. These are generally geared towards helping young pilots reach the regionals before they can go onto the majors. With the ongoing pilot shortage, larger airlines such as Spirit have begun lowering their hiring minimums to that of ATP minimums. This has allowed Spirit to take on younger talent than before.
Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying
National carriers, including budget airlines such as Spirit and Frontier, have held a competitive edge in acquiring pilots for the past several years. With hiring minimums lower than those of the major airlines such as Delta and United, these national carriers could pick up less experienced pilots while offering more pay than the regional airlines. Since regionals recently doubled pay for all pilots, Spirit has lost this competitive edge.
The increase in pay for pilots is starting to draw new recruits to flight schools, albeit at a far slower pace than is required to combat the pilot shortage. Pathway programs such as Spirit Wings do not draw many people into aviation; what they do is help the airline secure existing talent. How much talent Spirit will secure with this new program will be determined in the coming years as CAE graduates move onto the airlines.
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