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In a speech yesterday at the Wichita Aero Club, Regional Airline Association (RAA) president Roger Cohen cited the remarkable safety enhancements, as well as growth and prominence of regional airlines. However, he warned that a looming pilot shortage could force flight cutbacks in many of the nearly 500 cities that rely exclusively on regionals for scheduled passenger service.
“Absent a game-changing shift in the supply of trained aviation professionals, particularly pilots, communities even larger than Wichita – and certainly those smaller – are in jeopardy of losing some, if not all their scheduled flights,” Cohen said. “This could cut off communities from today’s global economy where airline service is as important as an Internet connection.”
Cohen said there was widespread consensus among aviation, academic and government experts about a future pilot shortage, but that predicting an exact timeframe was difficult due to the ever-changing dynamics of the economy and airline business. He cited Federal Aviation Administration statistics showing a steady decline in the number of pilots, and warned that new requirements arbitrarily increasing applicant’s flight hours by 600 per cent would further discourage students from pursuing pilot careers.
“In Wichita – on the Mt. Rushmore of aviation cities – this message is especially chilling,” Cohen said. “It’s telling young people who’ve gone into debt getting their aviation education, they must fly around in circles for a year before even applying for an airline job. This is encouraging quantity versus quality flight time – towing banners can’t compare to sophisticated structured programs when it comes to training safe, professional airline pilots.”