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Pilots

Will the FAA Change the Rules to Avoid a Serious Pilot Shortage?

Will the FAA Change the Rules to Avoid a Serious Pilot Shortage?
Scott Dylan

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.

View Comments (4)

4 Comments

  1. zarkov505

    November 6, 2018 at 1:48 pm

    The FAA did not put in the new 1500-hour rule. Congress did it, and it was a serious mistake.

  2. PHL

    November 6, 2018 at 2:36 pm

    One does not need “1500 hours of training” to be eligible for a part 121 airline job. They need 1500 hours of total time. That’s a big difference. Airline captain positions have always been required to have an ATP rating, which requires a minimum of 1500 hours of flight time. These 1500 hours could be a combination of all hours gained from their first flight as a student pilot in a single engine Cessna, sightseeing flights for hire, flight instructing, charter flights, etc. It’s about having experience.

    Previously, the first officer only required a minimum of 250 hours and a commercial rating. This meant that they would be considered equally qualified to fly the plane in the event the Captain became incapacitated. As they built up their time, they could transition to an ATP rating and be eligible for a Captain position, as their position on the seniority list allowed.

    But this 1500 hour rule isn’t necessarily the reason for the looming pilot shortage at airlines. There are also shortages in charters/corporate jobs, which do *NOT* require 1500 hours of flight time. The bigger issue is that it’s prohibitively expensive for someone to embark on an aviation career along with the declining number of student pilots. Military pilots with 750 hours are qualified to obtain an ATP rating and airline position. Many of our soon to be retiring airline pilots came from the military to an airline job, and the vast majority of the pilots who have retired in the last 20 years were military.

    I don’t see congress or the FAA ever going back to allowing a 250 hour pilot to qualify for an ATP job in the right seat of an airline jet. But some of the carve outs they’ve made for 750, 1000 and 1250 hour pilots with the other criteria met is a good start.

  3. southpac

    November 7, 2018 at 10:44 pm

    umm there’s a huge recession coming. Already many airlines in Europe are closing down. This is only the start. Many 1000s of pilots will soon be unemployed.

  4. N1120A

    November 8, 2018 at 1:36 pm

    The real reason for the shortage is that the regionals are unwilling to pay enough money to make it worth the training costs.

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