Regional airlines are facing a very serious pilot shortage. There already isn’t much wiggle room when it comes to achieving profitability for carriers in the United States that help to transport passengers on short-haul routes. That means that the nation’s regional carriers are extremely worried about the current shortage of qualified pilots that the industry is experiencing.
The Regional Airline Association (RAA) and regional carriers around the country are hoping that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will make a bold move in order to help the industry. Airlines being impacted by the pilot shortage would like to see the FAA create an exception to the rule that pilots need 1,500 hours of co-pilot training before being able to fly commercially.
The FAA’s current rule requiring pilots to put in 1,500 hours of training was put in place in 2013. The rule was designed to create safer flying experiences. However, granting exemptions isn’t totally out of the question for the FAA.
The FAA already makes exceptions for military pilots who have 750 hours of experience. In addition, pilots who have graduated with bachelor’s degrees from qualifying aviation programs are allowed to fly after finishing just 1,000 hours of co-pilot training.
Pilots who have graduated with associate’s degrees from qualifying programs can be considered ready after completing 1,250 hours.
The pilot shortage facing the regional airline market isn’t something that’s going to go away on its own soon. In fact, a forecast out of the University of North Dakota shows that the United States could be short by 3,500 pilots by as soon as 2020.
Convincing people to pursue careers as pilots is no easy task for airlines. It is not uncommon for a pilot to spend $200,000 in educational costs before completing a program. What’s more, the long training process for becoming a pilot takes years.
The current pilot shortage in the United States is creating a large chasm between regional carriers and larger carriers. The nation’s airline industry has increased by almost 15 percent in the last decade. However, regional carriers have seen a decline of 4.5 percent in that same span of time.
The loss of regional carriers would be a big loss for frequent travelers. Regional airlines are the only carriers to fly to more than 60 percent of the commercial airports in the United States. Regional carriers often fill in the gaps for major airlines like Delta and United.
Great Lakes Airlines and SeaPort Airlines are two popular regional carriers that have had to close operations recently in the face of the many challenges affecting the regional market. Republic Airways managed to reach agreements with Delta, American and United that allowed the regional carrier to stay in business after filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.