With an ongoing pilot shortage affecting service in small airports, the Air Line Pilots Association is offering a series of solutions that focus on drawing in new pilots and improving the financial stability of the airports.
In recent years, the airline industry has faced a nagging problem—a lack of pilots, especially in rural areas.
And it’s also something that airline groups, including the Air Line Pilots Association, International, have struggled with for years, in part because those pilot gaps often mean a loss of service in areas where the need is high. This week, ALPA brought forth a list of specific policy recommendations to help mitigate the shortage, which it presented to U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao.
“No organization is more committed to ensuring we have an adequate pilot pipeline and has done more to promote the pilot profession than ALPA,” the association’s president, Tim Canoll, wrote in a letter to Chao [PDF].
The association’s policy solutions [PDF], announced ahead of the FAA Aviation Workforce Symposium on September 13, are twofold, focused on encouraging more people to become pilots and taking care of those rural communities. In the case of drawing in new pilots, ALPA recommends legislation that makes it easier for veterans to become pilots, creating programs specifically targeted at women, and changing student loan programs to make education for airline pilots more affordable.
In the case of rural markets, the association leaned heavily on efforts to improve the Essential Air Service program, including through predictable funding, a review of EAS markets, and creating a framework that allows the EAS program to grow. ALPA also called on the government to fully fund the Small Community Air Service Development Program, a program aimed at helping small communities establish airline service.
The labor union notes that it is deeply familiar with what’s needed to get more pilots in the air and has built programs to target schools at all levels. It also has supported minority-targeted industry events and created scholarship and training programs to encourage pilots to travel.
“Every one of our members has made the decision to become an airline pilot, which gives ALPA a unique understanding of what it takes to inspire the next generation of trained and qualified aviators to join the profession,” Carroll said in a news release.
Carroll added that ALPA “stands ready, willing, and able to work with anyone who is serious about addressing the pilot supply issue while keeping our passengers, crews, and cargo safe.”