The Regional Airlines are still a good source of qualified pilots for the Major/Legacy airlines and when they start hiring again they will begin recruiting the most experienced regional pilots. Those pilots, for the most part, will be senior Regional Airline Captains.
When a regional airline begins to lose their Captains, they have no choice but to upgrade First Officers from among their ranks to fill those positions. Those First Officers have to be replaced and the regionals will begin recruiting pilots from the pool of civilian pilots who have been training and instructing in the flight training industry and Part 135 operations mentioned earlier in this series.
In a relatively short time, the Regional Airlines will have difficulties when they look to the civilian sector to recruit pilots. The recent economic recession and the resulting credit crunch have caused a reduction in the number of student pilots. These pilots, after they have finished training and have gained experience, have traditionally been entry level airline pilots for the Regional Airlines. Today’s shortfall in aviation students is tomorrow’s shortage of aviators qualified to fly for the airlines, and it is getting worse.
The combination of all these factors has formed a Perfect Storm for the U.S. Airline Industry that experts and airline management have recognized and discussed publically for some time. The Major/Legacy Airlines will find the pilots that they need to hire, but the Regional Airlines will have a difficult time finding pilots to replace them in short order.
The inevitable shortage of pilots qualified to go to work for the airlines may well result in a situation similar to the shortage that peaked in 2006, where airlines were willing to pay hiring bonuses to attract pilots from the shrinking pool of well-trained students who had relatively low flight experience.
The opportunities for advancement in both the Regional and Major/Legacy sides of the business will be numerous for pilots at all levels of the airline industry who are trained and prepared to take advantage of those opportunities.