Mesa Airlines MESA, -0.52% said Thursday it has purchased 29 Pipistrel Alpha Trainer 2 aircraft, along with an option to acquire up to 75 more in the next year. The new fleet will be used to offer pilots an accelerated path to chalking up the 1,500 flight hours required to fly a commercial aircraft and aims to address the pilot shortage currently hurting U.S. airlines. “The pilot shortage could become a permanent feature of the airline industry if we don’t get more aviators into the system,” said Jonathan Ornstein, Mesa CEO, in a statement. “It is basic math. If there aren’t enough trained pilots, customers suffer from loss of service and high-ticket prices.” Data shows the airline and commercial industry need about 14,500 new pilots annually, but that it is meeting only about 44% of that need on average every year. “This is despite many airlines dramatically raising pilot pay,” said the statement. “The shortage has forced airlines to reduce routes to many destinations and increase ticket prices, adding to overall inflation.” Mesa shares were up 1.6% premarket, but are down 66% in the year to date, while the S&P 500 SPX, -0.84% has fallen 20%.