Pilot salaries are anticipated to grow in the next few years, partly because of the looming pilot shortage. The actuality of a pilot shortage on the horizon is still being debated though, airline consultants are wondering if one will ever exist and if a shortage does become apparent then how severe will it really be. THe effect it can have on the airlines and those the airlines serve can be quite drastic.
The pilot shortage is the result of some new regulations from the Federal Aviation Administration; one new regulation is the new federal requirement for all new pilots to have 1500 flying hours before they can even step foot into the cockpit of a commercial carrier. This is up from 250 total hours required to be a first officer (co-pilot). Quite a drastic difference! Commercial pilots flying under part 135 and 121 rules are also required to have more off duty time in between their flight time now as well. All of these factors are starting to have a negative effect on airline schedules, but on the other hand they were put in place to create a safer flying environment.
Some of the negative effects are flight cancellations around the country. Some of the smaller regional airlines are having difficulty finding pilots to fill these flight slots so they are canceling flights all together. These cancellations because of crew unavailability should remain in the regional airlines for the first few years of any shortage. The larger airlines have it a bit easier; they are able to pull from the regionals (minor leagues) when they need new pilots.
Great Lakes Airlines was forced to cancel 20% of all flights in and out of Pierre, SD last November. They are blaming the cancellation directly on a pilot shortage. In the Capital Journal’s story Pierre’s mayor Laurie Gill is quoted as saying,
“unreliable air service is one of the biggest issues currently facing the city and her office has received numerous complaints”.
The problem of the lack of reliable air service to the city has also been brought to the attention of Rep. Kristi Noem and Senator John Thune, they are all scheduling talks in Washington DC this week to see how this can be resolved.
Alliance, NE is also experiencing the same issues… KOTA News is reporting a 52% drop in scheduled service year over year for the month of December. Their airport director, Lynn Placek, is on the record saying she knows it’s not an airline problem but rather a pilot shortage.
Conversations can take place, but let’s be honest; it’s not that the airline doesn’t want to fly the route. They can’t fly the route! They are required to have a minimum flight crew! Aircraft of that size and performing that service require two competent pilots, if you don’t have a second pilot that is qualified with the minimum air time and also with the required amount of rest time then no go for that flight, loss of revenue for the airline and a city loses it connection to the outside world.
So what’s the solution? Pay the pilots more and begin to take them from other regional airlines… that’s what. This is good for the pilots, being in demand and needed to the point that someone will pay you more is a really good problem!
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