Airlines - any aviation employer for that matter - do look at the type of hours flown as well as the sheer number. If they say “minimum 1500 hours” they might well mean “and 1200 of them better be in high power/complex aircraft” as opposed to, say, Ercoupes. I know pilots with 10,000 hours who couldn’t get a job for a regional airline because ALL their time is in simple SEL pistons - no high power, no retracts, no in-flight adjustable props, and certainly no turbine!
The guys who want an airline career are for the most part being nudged towards dedicated academies/programs that teach you from the ground up, the program focused strongly on the idea you will be flying jets with passengers… so while they might, in the initial stages, start in something like a C172 they’ll be transitioning to higher power/more complex as soon as possible. In other words, not an issue. If prior to joining the academy the person in question had 500 hours in LSA fine, but when seeking that airline job they’ll just have to understand that their future employer is doing to discount that experience to a large degree - the employer will look at flying relevant to the job at hand.
It’s a completely different track (or should be) from the private/rec/sport/ultraight pilot is. I mean, most folks learn to drive cars, right - if you want to learn to drive a semi-trailer for pay you get training specific to that, right? Would be silly to require Aunt Martha to learn how to drive a big diesel if all she wants is to go to the grocery store and church, right?
In fact, what Aunt Martha really needs is training focused on how to get the most out of her car, right?
IF Sport Pilot works out well - and that remains to be seen - then recreational/sport/whatever we’re calling them this week pilots will be receiving training in recreational flying, which is what they actually DO, with minimal forays into the arcana of commericial flying and the airborne “big rigs”.
Or, as I told a CFI not too long after I got my license - sure I’d like an instrument rating, but I can’t justify the cost for a rating that, honestly, I’m not likely to ever use in real life (the planes I fly are either very miminally equpped for instrument flight, or not equipped at all for it) so, if it’s all the same to you, I’d rather spend my training time and money becoming a better VFR pilot because that’s what I actuallly do
The tendency over the last decade or so to shove people who just complete a private license into an IFR training program I think has backfired in many cases. Rather than letting people enjoy the fruits of their labor and become more comfortable with just basic flying they’re nudging, cajoling, and shoving them into yet another expensive training program, for another round of costs, tests, and frustration. And people drop out. Then after you get the IFR it’s “when are you getting your complex/high power rating” Or your twin rating. Or a commercial ticket. It all seems to be done with the assumption we all want to fly for the airlines in the end… and we don’t. Shove-shove-shove to bigger and more expensive and you wind up with people who just can’t afford to fly their big complex machines often enough to stay current, much less safe.
Naw… better to have MORE options on the “low end” of the scale. The simpler the machine, the better the “weekend pilot” will be able to handle it. Even with limitless money (ha!) the weekend flyer doesn’t have the time to really gain proficiency in the very complex machines… there’s work (frequently unrelated to aviation, but necessary to pay the bills), family, other obligations.
It’s rather like saying that if you aren’t interested in learning to drive semis full of hazmat AND qualify for the Indy 500 you might as well not bother with learning to drive a car, because you aren’t “professional” enough.
I think a LOT of people are willing to learn to fly, but they really don’t want much more than an hour or two in the air on nice days. Maybe take one or two folks along for the ride. Nothing really complicated. But yeah, if it looks achievable I think folks are willing to pay a few bucks for the privilege.
And we HAVE TO get some new planes on the low end of the fleet - the average age is what, 25? 30? They’re starting to eat a lot of maintenance money, and they’ve had 3 decades of attrition to thin the ranks.
So - again - done well Sport will bring in some new planes (hopefully reasonably priced), some new blood, and will have instructors focusing on people who don’t want to fly big, huge people/cargo haulers but most certainly do want to fly as safely as they possibly can.
I have serious reservations as to whether this will actually happen.