The Regional Airline Association (RAA) has requested the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approves additional safety-enhancing structured training pathways for Part 121 airline first officers.

The proposal requires FAA to modify 14 CFR 61.160 and authorise more pathways. It is expected to increase structured training under the first officer qualifications (FOQ) rule.

The FOQ rule was implemented in 2013 to provide structured training pathways that are approved in limited circumstances.

RAA represents 22 North American regional airlines. It noted that empirical data supports that structured training pathways are effective in producing skilled pilots.

“If the current situation continues, several US commodities that are transported through flights may lose their air connectivity as a whole.”

The creation of additional structured training pathways is expected to improve aviation safety as well as ensure consistent supply of proficient pilots in the future.

RAA president Faye Malarkey Black said: “Improving aviation safety and reopening the pilot career path are not mutually exclusive objectives.

“We urge the FAA to review the available data and carefully evaluate additional pathways, approving them where they will enhance safety.”

Currently, there is a growing shortage of commercial airline pilots in the US, primarily driven by regulatory obstacles and high training costs.

The unavailability of trained pilots to serve all routes throughout the US is gradually leading to a decline in the regional airline industry.

RAA added that if the current situation continues, several US commodities that are transported through flights may lose their air connectivity as a whole.