Thursday, March 10, 2016

West Virginia Airport Officials Express Concern Over National Pilot Shortage

The first thought a passenger has when flying in an airplane is usually, “Who’s in the cockpit?” “Who’s flying the plane?” Because of a national pilot shortage, for some smaller airline flyers, the answer may soon be no one.

The Colgan Air Flight 3407 crash in 2009 that killed 49 people in Buffalo, New York upped the hours needed to become a pilot. The crash pushed legislation through that requires go from 250 to 1,500 hours of flight practice.

“It sounds great for safety reasons but I think some of the indirect results of that action are being felt today,” said Jerry Brienza, the president of the West Virginia Airport Managers Association. “In that, we can’t fill those seats that were going to be filled by pilots that had almost 500 hours that were ready to be pilots. Now, they’re having to basically triple the amount of time they’re in school.”

 “They used a bad example to change this legislation to begin with. The Buffalo crash had a very weak captain, I think he had failed two or three of his check rides, had a very low time co-pilot, and put those two together and you had a disaster,” said Captain Steve Alford, a retired US Airways Pilot who is currently working as a pilot with Sun Air Express.

Pilots are also required to retire at the age of 65. Meaning pilots flying those small connector flights are being pulled up to fly the larger planes for the major airlines to fill retirees’ seats.

“The students coming out of school that are trying to get into these small aircraft to build up their time to get into the large aircraft, we’re experiencing a huge void of people that are missing that can not fill these seats on these smaller regional air craft. What airlines are doing to counter that is, they’re reducing their frequency into small airports like ours. We’re experiencing that today,” said Brienza. “A few more years, we’re going to be experiencing that there just are no pilots to fly these aircraft.”

Experts will show the major affects the pilot shortage can cause for not only the state, but the nation as a whole in the next segment. 

Story and video:

State Media Series Set to Focus on Issues that May Arise due Nationwide Pilot Shortage

The West Virginia Airport Managers Association has been working together to address the nationwide pilot shortage.  Nexstar/WV Media Statewide Stations including NBC, ABC, CBS and Fox affiliate TV Stations of WV Media are set to air Part 1 of a 3 part series this Thursday, March 10 at 5:30 to discuss this potential crisis.  (in the North Central WV Region it will be WBOY.  You can also find it on:  ). 

The pilot profession is highly regulated to drive a high level of safety, with laws dictating the level of experience and proficiency a pilot must acquire before flying a commercial aircraft, as well as when and how a professional pilot may work.  In the past, commercial pilots needed at least 250 flight hours, which takes at least six months and can cost up to $100,000. U.S. pilots have traditionally absorbed these costs themselves, sometimes by combining the training with college degree programs. Prior to August 2013, pilots who had completed this stage of training were eligible to become U.S. commercial airline co-pilots.

New regulations introduced in 2013, designed to increase pilot proficiency, mandate that co-pilots working for commercial airlines hold airline transport pilot (ATP) certificates. This typically requires 1,500 flight hours and other experience gained by working at lower-paying pilot jobs.  The effect of the new regulations is further compounded by the fact that, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, the military, traditionally the largest source of airline pilots, now accounts for only 30 percent of new airline pilots. (

Regional carriers pay pilots an annual average of $27,350, according to Paul Ryder, ALPA Resource Coordinator. That compares with an annual salary of $103,390 at large airlines, according to US Labor Department data.  Aspiring pilots must pay between $150,000 to $200,000 to obtain their license, Ryder said.  Three years ago, US regulators stiffened the requirements on pilots following a 2009 Colgan Air crash near Buffalo, New York, that killed 49 people.  Commercial pilots must now have 1,500 hours of flight time before qualifying for their pilot's license, compared with just 250 prior to the rule shift. (

Just recently Short-haul carrier Republic Airways Holdings Inc. filed for bankruptcy Thursday, blaming a lack of pilots for its failure to succeed when major airlines are enjoying record profits.  Indianapolis-based Republic operates a fleet of smaller planes that provide flights for larger airlines including American Airlines Group Inc., Delta Air Lines Inc. and United Continental Holdings Inc. Read more here:

Original article can be found here:

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