Pilots, Long Considered Abundant Commodity Becoming Scarce due to Perfect Storm of Rules and Increased Flying

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ARTICLE: Regionals Face Epic Challenge To Fill Pilot Positions


Dan Garton (pictured at right) American Eagle’s President and the RAA’s Chairman, described a pilot perfect storm. He cites

  • the new flight and duty time rules and
  • first officer qualification requirements and
  • the growth in passenger demand plus
  • the same influences on the major airlines’ crew requirements

as collectively (read the AIN article to get the calculations) requiring an increase in the number of qualified Regional Air Carrier pilots by 4,300, which is equal to 25% of the existing regional captains and first officers. The new pilot recruit supply has not been strong.

Garton’s conclusion is that there will be a pilot shortfall which will result in a reduction in capacity which will impact small communities first.

Cape Air’s President, Dave Bushy, summarized the problem aptly:

“We’ve seen a decline in the luster, in the image, of the airline pilot. And we all collectively own that… Some people just aren’t excited about this business anymore. So you have not enough supply coming from the military, not enough coming into the ranks of the regionals, and then, of course, we [the industry] don’t have pathway, pipeline programs. We rob Peter to pay Paul is a good way of putting it.”

His company has established an innovative relationship with Embry-Riddle and the University of North Dakota in which students are offered internship positions with the carrier and ultimately jobs with code share partner, Jet Blue. Even with that new program, Cape Air has few resumes on file.

It appears as though the major airlines, the regionals and the institutions, both academic and Part 142 schools should come together to design programs to attract new pilots and help them obtain the required experience levels. Perhaps equally important is Mr. Bushy’s comment that pilots have been treated as commodity items; ways to remediate that situation should also be given serious thought at such a convention. The design of such regulatory and recruitment practices might be facilitated by soliciting outside experts such as the professionals at JDA.

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