Nationwide Pilot Shortage Impacts Region



HYANNIS – The December shutdown of Island Airlines may have been partially caused by a nationwide pilot shortage.

Cape Air Senior Vice President of Planning Andrew Bonney said new laws passed by Congress are hampering several airlines.

The law, which was passed in 2010 and went into effect two years ago, requires flights with 10 or more passenger seats to have two certified pilots.

“We understand that is a contributing factor to why Island Airlines closed the door,” Bonney said. “But it does restrict Cape Air from adding all the service we would like to do.”

The new law also eliminated first officer qualifications which now means a first officer for an airline needs 1,500 training hours.

“It was well intentioned. It was designed to enhance the safety and the professionalism in cockpits across the country,” Bonney said. “But it had the unintended consequence of making it virtually impossible to become a commercial airline pilot because, of course, where do you get those 1,500 hours so you can get your first airline job?”

Bonney said over the previous 70-plus years of airline operations individuals would join as a first officer with 300 to 500 hours.

“So people are retiring off the top end of the seniority lists, but it’s very hard, nearly impossible, for people to enter the profession,” he said.

Bonney said Cape Air is talking with several communities across the country that are losing air service and advising them to talk to their representatives in Congress to change the law.

Since the abrupt shut down of Island Airlines, Cape Air has increased its passenger service to the Islands along with transporting freight.

Rectrix Aviation, which provides private charters, is making its first foray into scheduled passenger service and has submitted an application with the Department of Transportation to provide flights between Hyannis and Nantucket.


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  1. No. Pilots have not been joining airlines with 300 hours for the last 70 years. Most regionals would hire with more like 1000 or higher,just ask any pilot. The problem isn’t the 1500 hour min, but the pay, benefits and schedules of these sorry airlines. Don’t mention that do they?

  2. Historically, airlines required around 5,000 hours to even apply for a pilot job. That dropped occasionally, but they usually had far more qualified pilots applying than they could hire. The rapid rise of the regionals in the late ’90s led to very low paying airline pilot jobs, that the major airlines copied to cut costs. Young people read about the low pay and conditions, lack of time off, loss of prestige, and threat of automation reducing need for pilots, and don’t go to flight schools. This has been happening for nearly a decade, kids stopped entering schools years ago, and 6 to 8 years later we’ve stopped seeing new pilots graduating. Higher standards didn’t dissuade young people from the career decades ago, and they don’t now. Low pay and conditions do.

    • John Hinderliter says

      Not exactly true in the 60s they were hiring people right out of Highschool with no time at the major airlines. It comes and goes. The majors control the whole thing. Historically people have been hired with zero time all the way up to 9k, it depends on their market. I love the Major captains that have never worked at a regional telling us that we need to fight for better pay, while we give them flow and their pay increases and they really never support us. I am not mad at them, but I did wish they understood that they are part of the poblem not the solution. If they wanted to support the regionals along with the almighty ALPA Union they could but have yet to even try. If would hurt their pay if they did.

  3. I love cap air, it is so sad to hear that.

  4. Would you like to for min wage? I have 2500 hours 4 year degree and years experience but they only pay min wage. I would love to have a flying job but will not work for min wage.

    • Yeshua Hayes says

      If I broke down what my pay was per hour at work it comes to nearly $3.50 an hour. I fly a 70 PX jet for a regional. I would love to get min wage.

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