Spirit Airlines Partners with CAE for New Pilot Pipeline Program

Spirit Airlines is partnering with CAE (NYSE: CAE) to launch the Spirit Wings Pilot Pathway program with a goal to widen its pilot pipeline as it looks to hire more pilots.

Spirit Wings Pilot Pathway is designed to mentor future Spirit First Officers as they progress through their path to the flight deck. [Courtesy: Spirit Airlines]

Spirit Airlines (NYSE: SAVE) is partnering with CAE (NYSE: CAE) to launch the Spirit Wings Pilot Pathway program with a goal to widen its pilot pipeline as it looks to hire more pilots. 

The program will be hosted at CAE's flight academy in Phoenix, Arizona, giving trainees a direct route to Spirit Airlines. CAE offers accelerated training at its academy and advertised a program that trains pilots from zero hours to airline readiness in as little as 56 weeks. 

"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,” said Ryan Rodosta, senior director of flight operations and system chief pilot for Spirit Airlines. “We're growing fast and creating tremendous career-progression opportunities." 

To qualify for the program, Spirit said in a statement that candidates could apply after they complete flight training at CAE Phoenix Aviation Academy and gain 500 hours of total flight time. If selected, they will receive a conditional offer of employment (COE) from the airline and a Spirit Electronic Flight Bag (EFB). Spirit also said the candidates would be mentored by Spirit personnel as they gained the rest of their minimum hours required for an ATP certificate.

Rodosta described CAE as a great partner "because of their commitment to safety and operational excellence," as well as CAE's commitment to finding solutions to support student training needs.

The timing seems good.

This summer, JetBlue Airways (NASDAQ: JBLU) bested Frontier Airlines (NASDAQ: ULCC) to acquire Spirit in a $3.8 billion deal. Last week, Spirit said its stockholders approved the merger based on a preliminary vote. The transaction is expected to complete no later than the first half of 2024, pending regulatory approval. If it closes, JetBlue would become the fifth largest domestic airline, allowing it to compete with the big four airlines—Delta (NYSE: DAL), American (NASDAQ: AAL), United (NASDAQ: UAL), and Southwest (NASDAQ: LUV), who have also ramped pilot hiring.

At the same time, Spirit has been expanding its own network. The company said today that the program with CAE would support that. The airline said it plans to accept 24 new airplanes in 2022, bringing its fleet total to 197 aircraft, and 33 more airplanes are planned for delivery in 2023.

"This new program will ensure Spirit Airlines has a pipeline of qualified pilots as they expand their fleet and route network," said Nick Leontidis, CAE's group president, civil aviation.

Michael Wildes holds a master’s degree in Logistics & Supply Chain Management, and a bachelor’s degree in Aeronautical Science, both from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. Previously, he worked at the university’s flight department as a Flight Check Airman, Assistant Training Manager, and Quality Assurance Mentor. He holds MEI, CFI & CFII ratings. Follow Michael on Twitter @Captainwildes.

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