The Regional Airline Association (RAA), which represents 16 U.S. airlines that collectively offer the only source of air service to more than two-thirds of the nation’s airports, announced its first quarter workforce report, as well as a transparent message on the state of the industry. RAA President & CEO Faye Malarkey Black offered this statement about the report:

“Let me be very clear: an abrupt, temporary hiring disruption – driven entirely by an abrupt, aircraft delivery disruption – is not the same thing as fixing the pilot shortage. Despite misleading reports to the contrary, the pilot shortage has not been fixed, and if we do not act now to address the pilot shortage, small communities will continue to feel its impact.

“Despite the temporary slowdown, large airline hiring in the first quarter of 2024 outpaced the supply of new pilots and the pilot supply/demand balance will rapidly worsen as large carrier aircraft deliveries recover. While new pilot certifications vary from month to month, the pipeline has moderated from post-pandemic highs. Meanwhile, pilot retirements will skyrocket over the next five years – reaching a peak in 2029, when 57 percent more qualified Air Transport Pilots will reach mandatory retirement age compared with 2024. Retirements will then stay at or near peak for more than a decade. We must address the pilot shortage to be prepared when mainline aircraft deliveries resume amidst escalating retirements.

“Failing to act will undermine the efforts of hundreds of communities across the country that are trying to build back air service from the pandemic. Comparing January 2024 with January 2020 departures, 317 airports (74 %) have lost an average of 25% of their flights. During the same time, 12 airports lost all commercial service, 37 airports lost more than half their flights, and large carriers have exited more than 121 markets.

“Today’s pilot pool is not just shallow; it lacks diversity. Fewer than 10% of today’s pilots are women or people of color. Using a lull in attrition as an excuse to discourage policies to improve career access and training would be shortsighted and harmful.

“We urge all stakeholders to reject cynical ploys to barricade this transformative career and instead to take every needed step to strengthen pilot training, career access, and retention.”

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