Regional airlines are beginning to feel the strain of an emerging pilot shortage, brought on by increasing retirements at major carriers and the FAA’s recent rule change requiring new airline pilots to have more flying experience before landing their first job in the right seat.
The FAA in July 2013 implemented new rules that require airline pilots to hold an Airline Transport Pilot certificate instead of a Commercial pilot’s license, upping the required time to become a regional airline first officer to 1,500 hours from 250 hours.
Graduates from approved aviation colleges and former military fliers can join the airlines a little sooner (with 1,000 and 750 hours, respectively), but with legions of young pilots stuck in flight instructor jobs or building hours in other ways, regional airlines are starting to feel the pinch.
“The pilot shortage is real, and its impact is already being felt,” said Faye Malarkey Black, interim president of the Regional Airline Association, according to an article in the Wichita Eagle. “Service cuts are taking place, and some regional airlines have had to park aircraft.”
Major airlines have so far avoided feeling the pain of a pilot shortage as they freely pilfer qualified pilots from the regionals. With starting pay of around $20,000 to fly in the right seat of a regional airliner, aspiring pilots are all to happy to move up the ranks.
But while RAA says the pilot shortage has begun, there’s no sign that wages for new first officers are rising. Considering that more than 500,000 pilots are forecast to be needed globally over the next 20 years, that might start changing in a hurry.
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