Small community air service threatened by pilot training rules says RAA

The US pilot shortage is taking its toll on air service to smaller communities and the related economic impact is being felt across the USA, according to the Regional Airline Association (RAA) testimony to the House Aviation Subcommittee hearing on Air Service to Small and Rural Communities.

Representing the RAA and its Pilot Supply Task Force, Republic Airways chairman, president and CEO Bryan Bedford explained how the FAA’s new 1,500 hour First Officer Qualification (FOQ) rule has sparked a pilot shortage. “We cautioned lawmakers and regulators, throughout the lawmaking and regulatory process that including a largely inflexible and arbitrary flight-hour experience requirement as part of the final mandate would not only fail to improve safety, it would hasten the growing pilot shortage and imperil air service at communities across the country,” he remarked.

Following the release of the recent GAO report on the Aviation Workforce, RAA urged Congress and the FAA to work together to fix the pilot supply challenges emerging from the 1,500 hour rule. The extraordinary time and financial burden for the nation’s highly trained aviators attempting to enter the workforce has severed the traditional pilot supply pipeline and impacted the US economy with both job cuts and community air service reduction.

“I cannot think of a single greater challenge to air service to small and rural communities than the very real and significant pilot shortage facing US regional airlines and ultimately the flying public,” added Bedford.

Bedford asked Congress to direct the FAA to allow structured training credit for a greater number of the ATP’s required 1,500 flight hours, expedite the approval process for all institutions seeking to provide credit for structured training academies and programmes, and to consider statutory improvements, such as student funding support, in order to work with the airline industry to attract new pilots now and in the future.

“By emphasising quality-of-training over an arbitrary flight time experience, instead of the reverse, we can pursue our goal of protecting the world’s safest aviation system, while preserving access to that system for communities large and small. At the same time, we will stimulate job creation throughout the entire aviation marketplace,” Bedford concluded.

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