JetBlue's new pilot training program requires no flying experience

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JetBlue's new pilot training program is accepting applicants with no flying experience, and it has some questioning the safety of future flights. (KABC)

JetBlue's new pilot training program is accepting applicants with no flying experience, and it has some questioning the safety of future flights.

Being a commercial airline pilot is an exciting job - jetting across the country and around the world. Now, JetBlue is ready to train potential young pilots - no experience required.

"To fly a plane? Hopefully they train them well," said a traveler at Burbank's Bob Hope Airport.

In a statement, JetBlue said candidates for its "Gateway Select" program will go through "an unprecedented level of screening."

Thomas Anthony, the director of the aviation safety program at USC, says this type of program is not new. In fact, it's already used in other countries, and it has some advantages.

"The pilot is overseen continuously by a single training organization, which in a way allows a more comprehensive over time evaluation of the pilot's skills and weaknesses," Anthony said.

Many airlines use former military pilots to fly their commercial jets, but Anthony says aviation is growing so quickly there simply won't be enough pilots in the future.

"Boeing has estimated there is going to be a shortage of about half a million pilots - commercial pilots - in the next 20 years," Anthony said.

To qualify, you have to be at least 23 years old by the end of the program, have a high school diploma or GED and be able to pass certain medical requirements.

According to JetBlue, candidates who are accepted into the program will receive four years of rigorous training designed specifically for future commercial airline pilots and achieve their 1,500 (hours) of flying time required by the FAA.

Many travelers say it's all about safety.

"Experience definitely is important, so I hope that the program is robust enough that they get enough experience before they're taking control," said Kelly Robinson, an airline passenger.

"If they have the experience and they are a good pilot, it wouldn't bother me, and if they have a clean track record of flight," said Rose McDermott, another passenger.

JetBlue is currently taking applications, and only 24 people will be accepted. The cost for all four years of the program is $125,000.
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