* New U.S. rules seen as factor in pilot availability for
* Report, union also say low pay is a deterrent
* No major problems with hiring for bigger airlines
Feb 28 U.S. regional airlines have a hard time
finding pilots because of low wages and new rules mandating more
experience for entry-level aviators, according to a government
study published on Friday.
The U.S. Government Accountability Office, which analyzed
data on pilots from 2000 to 2012, said 11 of 12 regional
carriers it interviewed for its study had problems meeting their
The report added that while bigger airlines did not report
similar difficulties finding pilots, they were still concerned
that problems faced by regional partners could affect their
ability to provide flights to some areas.
U.S. Federal Aviation Administration rules that took effect
last year require co-pilots, or first officers, to have 1,500
hours of flight time to operate commercial jets, up from 250
hours previously. Airlines also must give pilots more rest under
separate U.S. rules that took effect this year.
The study comes as some regional carriers have voiced
concerns about a pilot shortage because of the new requirements.
Earlier this month, Republic Airways Holdings said
a scarcity of qualified pilots would hurt pretax income as it
cuts its planned flying. The company said the beefed-up
experience requirements were limiting the pipeline of employable
"When we talked to the regionals, there were a number that
indicated they were having a more difficult time now than in the
past of getting candidates that met their standards," said
Gerald Dillingham, director of civil aviation issues at the GAO.
He added that regional airlines were working to boost the
employment pipeline by forming partnerships with pilot-training
schools and offering tuition reimbursement for students.
In its report, the GAO said the number of pilots certified to
fly looked large compared with the number employed. The agency
said FAA data showed more than 137,600 pilots under age 65 had
Airline Transport Pilot certificates in early 2014, compared
with more than 72,000 who were working at airlines in 2012.
About 5 percent of pilots with ATP certificates and 14
percent of those with U.S. commercial certificates had a foreign
residence, the agency said, citing FAA data.
The Air Line Pilots Association, the largest U.S. pilots
union, has expressed concern that the pay scale at domestic
airlines discourages qualified applicants. It said in a
statement earlier this month that pilots' salaries at 14
regional airlines started below $22,000 a year.
The union added that many U.S. pilots chose to work for
foreign carriers such as Emirates, where new co-pilots are paid
$82,000 a year and receive housing benefits. That compares with
$61,000 for co-pilots at Delta Air Lines Inc and United
Continental Holdings Inc, the union added.
The GAO study also said fewer people were enrolling in and
completing pilot programs. It said low wages for entry-level
pilots, rising education expenses, limited financial help and "a
perceived lack of stability" in the industry accounted for the
profession's decreased appeal, based on feedback from officials
at schools that provide training.