Regional Airline Association (RAA) President & CEO, Faye Malarkey Black testified before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Subcommittee on Aviation at the hearing titled, “FAA Reauthorization: Examining the Current and Future Challenges Facing the Aerospace Workforce” and offered the following statement:
“The regional airline industry, like most of the airline industry, has experienced workforce challenges. Most acute among these challenges is a severe and ongoing pilot shortage. Regional airlines have adopted many self-help measures to address the shortage, but these measures are not enough alone. That is why we are focused on partnering with Congress, the Administration, and interested stakeholder groups to safely address the impacts the pilot shortage is having on our industry, passengers, and the communities we serve.
“Working together, it is critical that we increase equitable career access, reduce the cost barriers associated with pilot training, and update and modernize the training provided. These actions will expand the pilot development pipeline to include a more diverse population, while improving aviation safety and creating an environment where air service can be restored and grow.
“Despite soaring passenger demand, a worsening pilot shortage has hindered the regional airline industry’s recovery from the pandemic and is decimating small community air service. This shortage has been growing for decades, driven by the inability to create a sustainable pipeline of new pilots. One of the main challenges has been the FAA’s inaction in advancing and evolving pilot training standards as envisioned under the Airline Safety and FAA Extension Act of 2010 (2010 Airline Safety Act.) Most pilots only have access to an hours-based pilot qualification standard, which incorporates little actual training after completing flight school. To maintain safety, every regional airline has significantly expanded its training footprint, but more candidates fail out today than they did before the qualification standards favored flight time over quality training. This prevents air carriers from maximizing the pilot development pipeline.
“The impacts of the pilot shortage are real. Currently, more than 500 regional aircraft are parked, and those aircraft remaining in service are underutilized. The impact has been felt by 308 airports, or almost 72 percent of all U.S. airports. These airports have, on average, lost one quarter of their flights, with smaller airports experiencing a disproportionate impact. This is happening despite industry self-help measures, including dramatic compensation increases and enhancing partnerships and pathways with training providers and larger carriers.
“Unfortunately, despite targeted efforts, airlines have not been able to successfully expand the recruitment of pilots outside the industry’s core demographic, which is overwhelmingly comprised of white males. The main obstacles to accomplishing this goal are barriers to entry related to access and wealth; bottom line, this is an expensive career path.
“Currently, the pilot shortage is further complicated by an acute captain shortage. Twelve large carriers alone hired 13,128 pilots in 2022, sourcing nearly all these pilots from regional airlines. This hiring spree specifically targeted captains and captain-eligible first officers. Exacerbating the captain shortage is the forecasted growth in pilot retirements. Over the next fifteen years, approximately 50 percent of the workforce will be forced to retire. Thousands of willing, healthy, and skilled pilots, who would like to continue working, are being forced out of the profession at age 65, to the detriment of air service across the country.”