No Aviation Experience Necessary For JetBlue Pilot Training Program

(CBS) — A newly announced JetBlue program to train pilots is raising some eyebrows.

As CBS 2’s Mai Martinez reports, that’s because it’s looking for people with little-to-no-aviation experience.

Not a pilot? No problem, Jet Blue can train you. That seems to be the premise of its soon-to-be-launched “Gateway 7” program which will accept 24 people, regardless, of aviation experience and train them to be co-pilots by 2020.

“It doesn’t matter how many hours of pilot time you have or how thousands and thousands or a few, the standards are the same, you have to meet the proficiency standards to be qualified and have the FAA certification or certificate,” said Warren Christie, senior vice president of safety, security and training.

JetBlue hasn’t yet said how participants in the program would get the 1,500 flying hours required by the FAA, but aviation expert and DePaul professor Joe Schwieterman says at a time when finding pilots can be tough, the program is innovative.

“JetBlue is carving a whole new path here recruiting people, having them go through training for a job that’s waiting for them,” Schieterman said.

“It’s a very scientific method that we use to train,” Christie said. “We collect a lot of data on pilot training performance along with all of our other groups, so we know where additional emphasis is required.”

When asked if the program will make flying less safe, Schwieterman said, “I think JetBlue is trying to do the opposite. They’re trying to hire people that they can really get a profile of these people before they’re in the cockpit…It’s almost like an internship program. An organization can watch somebody after couple years you can see if they’re gonna be right.

The Air Line Pilots Association has already expressed some concerns about the program, but JetBlue is moving forward with its plans to launch it next year.

Similar programs are already used by some European and Asian airlines.

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