Airlines Fear Pilot Shortage Amid New Federal Safety Rules

There has been a lot of reporting on the shortage of qualified commercial pilots being suffered at this time by the Regional Airlines and soon the Major Airlines. Today I came across great job of reporting on the subject by NPR.

The article focuses on the affects the shortage is having on the Regional Airlines.

“Some airlines — especially the smaller ones — worry they won’t have enough pilots. They’re a number of factors in play, but they point to new federal safety rules as a big part of the problem.

“The issue here is this arbitrary 1,500 hours,” says Roger Cohen, head of the Regional Airline Association.

He notes the new regulation is roughly triple the number of hours many commuter airlines require today, and he says it will mean lots of otherwise qualified pilots won’t be able to get jobs.

“These people have already invested incredible amounts of time and an incredible amount of money investing in their aviation education. They have just been told you have to go back out and fly around in circles at your own expense just to get hourly experience,” Cohen says.

Cohen says most people now in training programs can’t get enough hours in before the deadline, so the pipeline for new pilots will be smaller. Any impact would be felt largely at the regional or commuter airlines, because that’s where pilots often begin their commercial career.

Cohen can’t say when the regional airlines might face an acute shortage of pilots, but warns that when they do, flights will be canceled and service to some communities will be cut. But others say Cohen is overstating his case. Still, there’s no question the industry is facing headwinds with respect to pilots.
“The retirements start tomorrow,” says Kit Darby, an aviation industry consultant.

Darby says thousands of pilots are closing in on the mandatory retirement age of 65. And military pilots who used to flock to the nation’s airlines are staying in the military longer or not leaving at all in part because of their pay.

“It’s quite a bit better than it used to be, and it’s competitive. It’s a good base pay. You’re going to be up in the $75,000 range. But then there’s all kinds of bonuses that could raise that well up over a hundred,” Darby says.