By Kerry Close
March 7, 2016

Have you ever dreamed of becoming an airline pilot? Thanks to a new trial program from JetBlue, your dreams could come true.

The airline announced Monday it’s now taking applications for 24 slots for its Gateway Select program, a pilot initiative to train novices to fly a passenger jet. But it’s not for people who have just a passing interest in flying: It will cost participants about $125,000 of their own money and take years to complete, according to JetBlue’s website.

Applicants must be at least 23 years old by the completion of the program, with a high school degree or equivalent. They’ll also need to put down at least $200 in application fees just to be considered.

After they submit an online application and essays, those who make the first cut will be invited for a round of in-person tests and interviews. They’ll be judged on their personality, hand-eye coordination, multitasking and critical thinking, among other attributes. The airline has said that applicants will not have to undergo a psychological screening.

The first six recruits will start training in late summer. In a program modeled off European training, the aspiring pilots will start training with other crew members in a cockpit or similar much sooner than most other American programs, JetBlue said.

The cost of the program is similar to that faced by current aspiring pilots who need to accumulate 1,500 training hours to get a pilot’s license. The novices in JetBlue’s program will be able to defray some of their tuition costs, though, by working on the side as an instructor for CAE, the flight simulator manufacturer that has partnered with JetBlue to offer the training. CAE has not commented on the specific salary the students would make.

Still, JetBlue believes the program will open the profession up to more people. The airline also promises that the trainees will be just as qualified as any other pilot flying for the airline, and the novices will be required to meet all federal requirements for becoming a pilot.

The airline’s union, however, doesn’t support the program: It thinks JetBlue should instead hire pilots from regional airlines, who are currently being passed over for jobs. Union president Jim Bigham also emphasized the importance of future graduates from JetBlue’s program gaining real-world airline experience before working at the airline.

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