Mesa Orders Pipistrel Trainers For Pilot Development Program


Mesa Airlines has placed a firm order for 29 Pipistrel Alpha Trainer 2 aircraft with options to buy an additional 75 aircraft over the next year. The trainers will be used to launch the Mesa Pilot Development Program (MPD), a new initiative intended to “close the pilot shortage gap” by helping qualified pilots build flight time to meet ATP requirements. Pilots who join the program will get up to 40 hours of flight time a week with “flight costs of $25 per hour, per pilot, … fully financed by Mesa with zero interest.” Mesa noted that the flight costs will then be repaid over three years while employed with the airline.

“Our program will be the most cost effective and one of the fastest routes to a long-term career as a professional pilot,” said John Hornibrook, Mesa senior vice president for flight operations. “We want to make it as easy as possible for a whole new field of candidates to join Mesa, including and especially people who might not have traditionally considered aviation.”

Mesa says it is aiming to launch MPD operations next month in Inverness, Florida, with plans to expand to Arizona within a year. According to the airline, the full MPD fleet will have capacity for up to 2,000 hours of flight time daily and accommodate more than 1,000 pilots per year. MPD pilots will also get flight benefits and priority status for employment as a first officer at Mesa.

Kate O'Connor
Kate O’Connor works as AVweb's Editor-in-Chief. She is a private pilot, certificated aircraft dispatcher, and graduate of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

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  1. While all these companies are training and hiring pilots, no one talks about the real elephant in the room…….you can have all the pilots you want, full staffing 100%, but when there are NO A&P’s to work on the aircraft, all the new pilots and passengers will be left sitting at the gate with no maintenance personnel to fix anything. People are always talking about the pilot shortage, and rightfully so……..BUT…..the shortage of mechanics is the far greater threat to aviation, GA and Commercial that will not be able to recover. The shortage of mechanic’s is so severe, GA will not have the manpower with actual GA experience . The airlines are hiring any and all graduates from A&P schools leaving GA gutted for personnel.

    • Absolutely correct, Ronnie. This is a personal pet worry of mine that I’ve brought to EAA and others numerous times.

      As an A&P, I have a ‘new’ idea that I’m going to present to the right folks at EAA to — hopefully — present to FAA during their winter tete-a-tete in Oshkosh.

      Let’s take the case of a 172 that doesn’t fly but 25 hours / year. Year on year, that airplane is being opened up — and worn out — for what? Especially in the hands of a private owner who hangars it, other than a look see of the engine, that airplane is not needing a full annual IMHO. Now lets look at a parallel 172 in a flight school which flies 500 hrs/year. I can sign the 100 hr inspection off four times during that same year. What’s the difference?

      SO … my idea is that– at the discretion of the A&P, any airplane not being flown more than 100 hrs/year could be signed off for a period not to exceed five years by an A&P signing off a 100 hr inspection. On the fifth year, it would have to have an IA second set of eyes looking at it. There are a lot of A&P’s out there; a lot more than IA’s

      I talked with Earl Lawrence about this last year — before he departed FAA — he thought it was a viable idea. He said maybe there could be an annual requirement for A&P’s wanting to do this like attending the online IA seminars. I do that anyways even tho I’m not an IA.

      • I like the idea, but as usual, it’s the DETAILS that count.

        Nearly every aviation publication warns against little-utilized airplanes. The engine is especially vulnerable “other than a look see of the engine, “. Those are the aircraft I would worry about the MOST–as opined by so many aviation engine experts, the build-up of acids and moisture in an underutilzied engine is far more damaging than putting on hours. Most aircraft dealers (myself included) won’t have anything to do with selling “hangar queens.”

        Theoretically, you could have an aircraft that has been sitting for 4 1/2 years–then flown, “annual inspected” (NOT) and sold.

        Don’t get me wrong, I LIKE the concept–but need to adjust the details. Perhaps something like “a minimum of hours AND time between flights” could be adopted–with inspections not to exceed ___years.” It should also be limited to simple airplanes–a complex fuel-injected aircraft should not sit very long.

        You are absolutely correct–a simple fixed-gear non injected airplane flying a minimum of 40 hours a year could alternate an inspection annually between the engine and airframe–(you wouldn’t believe the things we find in airframes that are not flown regularly), effectively drastically reducing maintenance and inspection costs–and freeing up mechanics for aircraft that DO fly more.

        • An A&P signing off a 100 hr inspection is signing off the recurring AD’s, Ronnie. A 100 hr inspection on an airplane used for rental or commercially is identical to an annual except that an A&P can perform it vs an A&P with IA required for the annual. I’ve been an A&P for over 50 years, hold the Taylor Master Mech award and am the go to guy for the IA at our airport. He has the ticket and I have the experience. Someone will ask me why I don’t get an IA … fair question. I’m retired, don’t want the work or income and split my time between two places. I’m happy to help the IA during summertime and that’s as far as it goes for me.

          I do not necessarily agree that hangar queens should be left out. I recently sold a ’67 PA28-140 with its original engine. I bought it with 2000 hrs, I flew it for 200 hours and the new owner flew it for 200 hours and the next owner flew it 100 more before it went down for an engine at 53 years and ~2500 hours. It all depends on where it is, how it’s ‘stashed,’ who owns it and etc. That’s why I said, “At the A&P’s discretion.” An airplane parked outside in St Augustine, FL is a far different aminal from one parked inside a hangar in Wisconsin with appropriate safeguards. MY 172 sits for 6 mo each year that way with no noticeable issues. We’ve got half a dozen airplanes that sleep all winter that way here in WI and none suffer.

          Here’s the bottom line. If WE — the GA guys — are gonna second guess everything, we are our own worst enemies. SOMETHING has to be done. When the IA here gives it up … the airport dies !! In fact, I’ve got MY end date for flying set to that time when he does give it up. There’s no one else around, sadly, as Ronnie said above.

          • Thats awesome you have the Charles Taylor award, something we all are striving for. I have 40 years in aviation myself, as I go to the IA renewal seminars each year 70% of us attending are over age 50. Last checking the stats we have about 20% annually retiring from aviation with only 5% coming in. Sadly I thing I am part of the last generation working with dope and fabric, wood and radial engines.

    • I agree, Ronnie. Having just lost the A&P/IA I have used for the past 11 years to a major health issue, I can attest to the challenge of replacing him. The new IA does a good job, but he has continuous turnover in his staff because the airlines keep poaching his younger guys. His business is thriving because two other shops in the area have closed down due to age of the IA. I don’t think most people realize the tremendous amount of people (mechanics) it takes to perform a C or D check on an airliner. What concerns me is the airlines subcontracting that type of work out to foriegn shops because of their own staffing problems. Finding qualified people to do avionics work (both repair and installation) is another problem. Most avionics shops are booked up many months in advance and it is only getting worse.

  2. Replying to Larry S.: The Alpha 2 is conventionally powered with the 80hp Rotax 912. It burns around 2.5 gph of unleaded mogas for boring holes in the sky or pattern work; it has a glass panel for instrument work. Looks to me as though Mesa has made a smart move.

    • MY BAD … SPANK ME. The choice of pic led me to gloss over that fact. Everyone is foaming at the mouth over electric everything that I just read it too fast.

      Good choice on the Rotax but I think I’d have picked the 100hp version for the hard trainer duty.

  3. Looks to me to be an end run around the 1500 hour requirement to be in a right seat.

    Why not a fully automated air plane in which the pilot can just sit there and log 10 hours of flight time per day. Maybe he can study ATP procedures while the air plane does circles.

    7 days a week at 10 hours per day and he will be qualified in no time.

    • You are not all wrong, which is part of the problem with the 1500 hour rule. One would think there’s all sorts of training that would be better than cruising around in a piston trainer.

  4. Mesa gets a twofer. They are addressing a pilot shortage issue while filling in the equity and virtue signaling boxes in the hopes of attracting other than white males. Interesting that they are not trying to “cash in” by going for the E model, but certainly not surprising.

  5. Dale, I’m as oriented towards fairness as you but I don’t see an anti white male racist aspect here, as admittedly there often is nowadays.

    “The trainers will be used to launch the Mesa Pilot Development Program (MPD), a new initiative intended to “close the pilot shortage gap” by helping *qualified* pilots build flight time to meet ATP requirements.”

    Qualified is qualified. Sex (or whatever perversion of same exists currently) or race do not factor in. This is the way it should be.

    Not choosing the electric model was also a foregone conclusion. These planes will need to work and spend a lot of time in the air. Also I’d suspect that Mesa heat would degrade the batteries even faster than the normal rate.

  6. Good on Mesa for picking something which isn’t a C172. I’d suggest they also get some of the motor glider versions and develop a syllabus to teach some additional skills to their new pilots.

  7. A follow-on to Larry S. (The thread above got too long)
    Larry, I totally agree with you that something needs to be done about the inspection process for GA airplanes. I’m not sure I am comfortable with extending the calendar time between inspections unless it is a combination of both time and hours – say three years or 50 hours, whichever comes first. Living on the Texas Gulf Coast, I fight a continual battle with the heat and humidity, similar to Florida, if not quite that extreme. I like to participate in the inspection process by being the one who opens up all the inspection covers and does the engine borescope and compression check, etc. because I want to see what is going on inside my plane. I have not gotten an A&P license because of all the stuff they insist on teaching about large aircraft that I have no interest in. When working, I did not have the time nor the flexibility to attend all those classes. What I would like to see the FAA do is come up with a provisional A&P license that would allow an owner to get classroom training in GA type airplanes similar to those that they fly. The license would allow the owner to legally work on his own plane and sign off an inspection each year for, say, three years before needing an IA to sign it off in the fourth year. The license would only allow you to work on your own plane and not perform any work for hire or compensation. Completing that type of training could be done in a much shorter time than a full A&P. However, I doubt that the hidebound FAA would ever go for something like that.

  8. Only $185K new, butter than $486K for a new 172sp. Also for $235 extra Pipistrel will upgrade the plastic engine control levers with aluminum.