U.S. regional airlines are preparing to ask the government to loosen 2013 pilot safety restrictions they say have unnecessarily caused a shortage of qualified flight crews.

The airlines, which perform about half of all air-carrier flights under contract to mainline operators, want to be able to hire pilots with fewer than 1,500 hours of flight time, according to the Regional Airline Association, their Washington trade group.

Just as regulations now allow pilots to qualify for the airlines with fewer hours after academic or military aviation training, the association wants to be able to hire pilots with less experience if they complete specialized training focusing on high-performance aircraft and airline operations, according to a draft of the group’s proposal provided to Bloomberg News on Wednesday.

The training would provide pilots an “equal or improved level of safety and training versus current regulatory requirements,” the group said in the proposal. The proposal will be sent to the Federal Aviation Administration.

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1,500 Hours

The current 1,500-hour requirement was prompted by concerns over pilot performance in the last fatal accident involving a U.S. airline, the Colgan Air crash near Buffalo, New York, on Feb. 12, 2009. Pilots on that flight misunderstood a relatively benign cockpit warning and lost control, crashing into the ground and killing all 49 on the plane and a man on the ground. Colgan, a unit of Pinnacle Airlines Corp., is no longer in operation.

The regulation, mandated by Congress in 2010 legislation, has baffled airlines because both of the Colgan pilots had more than 1,500 hours. The results, they say, have been a shortage of qualified pilot applicants at lower-paying regional carriers.

The FAA allows pilots to qualify for the airlines with fewer hours — as little as 750 — if they have completed military flight training or gotten a degree from a qualified aviation college. The RAA wants to create a similar streamlined pathway based on completion of what it calls Air Carrier Enhanced training.

The RAA’s proposal was first reported in the Wall Street Journal.

This article was written by Alan Levin from Bloomberg and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

Photo Credit: SkyWest is a regional carrier that is a member of the Regional Airline Association. Cliff / Flickr