The shortage of American pilots is forcing airlines to cut back on air services and fight for a solution

Pilots walk through Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington, Virginia on December 27, 2021.

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As passengers return two years after the Govt-19 epidemic, the United States faces its worst pilot shortage in recent memory, forcing planes to reduce flights.

This crisis is chasing the industry for a solution.

At least one legislator is said to be considering legislation raising the retirement age for pilots from 65 to 67 or more in order to extend pilot time in the sky.

A regional airline has proposed reducing air travel requirements before joining a US carrier, and airlines are reviewing training programs to reduce the entry barrier. Earlier this year, Delta Airlines Joined with other major carriers in dropping the four-year degree from its pilot hiring requirements.

Many American airlines including BorderSome pilots are being hired from Australia. American Airlines Sells bus tickets for some short routes.

But some airline executives warn that the deficit could take years to resolve.

“The shortage of pilots for the industry is real, and most airlines will not realize their capacity plans because there are not enough pilots, at least not for the next five years.” United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby said in a quarterly revenue call in April.

Kirby estimates that about 150 planes have landed due to a shortage of pilots.

The roots of the crisis

The Govt epidemic pilot stopped hiring due to lack of training and license. Handed over by the airlines Early retirement Packages for thousands of pilots and other crew are aimed at reducing labor costs as travel demand increases in the depths of the crisis.

A former captain of a major American airline who picked up an early retirement package in 2020 said, “I feel like I’re gone from the top.

Now the airlines are in despair For rent And Train pilotsBut haste to avoid air cuts can take longer.

Leading U.S. airlines are looking to hire more than 12,000 pilots this year alone, more than double the previous record of annual hiring, says Kit Darby, pilot payroll consultant and retired United captain.

The shortage of regional carriers catering from small cities to major airlines’ hubs is particularly acute. Even though the hiring and retention bonuses on those airlines have returned, the pay is lower than the majors, and they are actively recruiting from those smaller carriers.

Phoenix based Mesa Air GroupFlying to US and United companies, it lost nearly $ 43 million due to increased air cuts last quarter.

Mesa CEO Jonathan Ornstein said, “We never knew of such depreciation.” We lose money if we do not fly our planes. You looked at our quarterly numbers. “

According to Ornstein, it takes Mesa 120 days to replace a pilot who gives two weeks’ notice to go to another airline.

“Now we can use 200 pilots,” he said.

Some carriers, such as Frontier and Regional Airlines Skywest They are recruiting pilots from Australia under special visas to overcome the shortage, but the number is small compared to their overall ranks and recruitment goals.

Regional carrier Republic Airways, which flies to the US, Delta and the United States, last month petitioned the U.S. government to allow half of the 1,500 people currently needed to fly for 750 hours if they went to the pilot training program. There are already exceptions to the 1,500-hour rule, namely for pilots trained in the U.S. military and those attending two- and four-year programs that include flight training.

The proposal has received backlash from family members of the victims in 2009 Colcon Air 3407 Crash, the last American passenger commercial plane crash. The tragedy killed all 49 people aboard the ship and was called the 1,500-hour rule, which aims to ensure pilot experience.

Sen. Lindsay Graham, RSC, is considering introducing legislation in Congress that will be at least 67 from the current age of 65, according to those familiar with Graham’s plans. The Regional Aviation Association estimates that one-third of all airline qualified pilots in the United States are between the ages of 51 and 59, and that 13% of the nation’s pilots will reach retirement age within five years.

Graham’s office did not respond to requests for comment.

Growth was stunted

Shortages of pilots and other workers have forced airlines Rethink their growth Projects. Jet Blue Airways And Alaska Airlines Includes recently reduced capacity carriers.

SkywestFor its part, the Department of Transportation said it plans to drop service to 29 smaller cities subsidized by the government through essential airlines.

The service cuts could isolate smaller U.S. cities, but Darby, a pilot payroll consultant, said it would mark an opening for smaller competitors who do not trust regional airlines like large network airlines.

“If they don’t fly it, there will be a smaller airline,” he said.

One of the biggest hurdles in bringing in new pilots is the cost of schooling. Salaries for whiteboard captains at major airlines can be as high as $ 350,000 a year, and it takes many years to qualify.

ATP Flight School, the largest in the country, spent $ 92,000 on a seven-month full-time program to obtain initial licenses. It can then take about 18 months or more for pilots to develop enough hours to fly, either by instructing student pilots or sometimes flying banners near beaches.

“This is not a car wash,” Darby said. “You can’t let anyone come in from the street.”

In December, United began training first-year students at its own aviation school, the United Aviate Academy, Goodyear, Arizona. 5,000 pilots by 2030. United says half of that number should be women or people of color. The company covers the cost of pilot training until you obtain a private pilot’s license, valued at about $ 17,000 per student.

Other carriers have turned to low-interest loans or other efforts to reduce the financial burden on students.

“There is no quick fix,” Darby said.

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