GAO Report of Pilot Shortage is Inconclusive; so is the Industry Reaction/Inaction

Share this article: FacebooktwitterlinkedinFacebooktwitterlinkedin


Current and Future Availability of Airline Pilots


The Government Accountability Office was asked to examine the issue of whether there is, or soon will be, a pilot shortage. The above-linked report really does not provide a definitive answer. The GAO cites two studies

· One suggests classical economics for the proposition that alternative bidders, the military, foreign carriers or other occupations, have drawn the existing supply away from the US airline cockpit jobs and

· The other finds that the recent Congressional establishment of 1,500 hours as a minimum plus higher tuition costs for individuals who might seek to enter the profession will reduce the pool of available pilots.

In response to this bifurcated judgment, there were two immediate, contradictory reactions:

· The President of the Regional Airlines Association called for Congress and the FAA to fix the pilot shortage caused by the 1,500 hour rule, while

· ALPA asserted that the GAO found “a shortage of qualified pilots willing to fly for substandard wages and inadequate benefits”.

Clearly, this review by the GAO failed to provide divine wisdom which would settle this dispute and provide definitive guidance.

Somewhat contrary to the ALPA disparagement of airlines as employers, Fortune magazine issued its ranking of the most admired companies and three US airlines, Delta, Southwest and FedEx cracked the Top 50 list. The CEOs of these three air carriers all cited their employees for making their workplaces so positive.

The GAO did urge the airlines to increase “recruiting efforts” and to develop “partnerships with schools to provide incentives and clearer career paths for new pilots”. The report was not completely convincing that either tactic would be successful. Two real world examples seem to support that caveat.

First, Silver Airways, in conjunction with the Teamsters, have tried to improve the contract terms, but as reported Silver still has had to reduce its schedule .

Second, creating a better training trail also seems promising, but recent actions indicate that on at least one occasion, a foreign company grabbed a potentially useful US training campus for its own purposes . It seems odd that there have been no comparable US initiatives or at least they have not been publicized.

RAA announced its own leadership team to explore creative solutions . That group may find some specific ideas. Just asking Congress to get involved is comparable to asking GAO to study the issue.

President Obama has a number of initiatives on education. Perhaps RAA should fashion a variation on one or several of those themes to increase the flow of pilots. Something affirmative and concrete is more likely to be implemented and/or enacted. Something needs to be done, sooner rather than later.

Share this article: FacebooktwitterlinkedinFacebooktwitterlinkedin

Be the first to comment on "GAO Report of Pilot Shortage is Inconclusive; so is the Industry Reaction/Inaction"

Leave a comment