National Pilot Shortage Affects Flyers - News and Weather For The Quad Cities -

National Pilot Shortage Affects Flyers

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Customers could end up paying more and seeing fewer options the next time they fly.  

A national pilot shortage could affect you the next time you head to the airport. Over 27,000 pilots are expected to retire over the next 20 years. 

Not only that but new federal regulations are making it harder to become commercial airline pilots. When those regulations go into effect, it could affect regional airlines, like some in Moline, the most. 

At Carver Aero in Davenport, two new flight instructors have been hired and a new Red Bird flight simulator brought in to prepare more students for the skies.  

"We saw it coming, we hired the instructors, universities are hiring instructors," Flight Instructor Jordan Bidwell says. 

The national pilot shortage has more students flocking to flight schools. 

"The odds are looking very good here if you want to become a professional pilot," Bidwell says, "This is the wave, this is where we catch the wave is right now." 

As several thousand pilots are forced to retire at age 65, Bidwell says one airline is retiring 230 in a month alone in February, new federal regulations to make flying safer require new pilots to have up to 1500 hours of flight time. That can take at least seven to ten years to achieve. 

Before some pilots were hired with as little as 250 hours. The federal mandates are also considering more rest time for pilots so new pilots are needed to fill that scheduling gap. 

"The airlines are going to have to cut back somewhere, in my opinion they're going to cut back in the regional airlines," Bidwell says. 

Smaller regional airlines, like Sky West and Go Jet serve big airlines like Delta, American and United, at airports every where, and they may be losing their pilots to those big airlines soon. 

"The main lines, the big ones, American, United, they're going to take those regional pilots," Bidwell says, "They're just going to suck them up, that's the way it's always been." 

As smaller airlines try to get new pilots in, Bidwell says, "They're either going to have to wait for them, or pay them more because they're going to have that experience under their belt." 

"The regional airlines are going to have to offset those costs somewhere," he adds. 

So travelers could see fewer options at the airport and increased fares.     

"It's going to cost more to fly, but it's going to be safer to fly," Bidwell says. 

QC airport officials say this is an airline issue, not an airport issue. They tell TV6 if airlines do choose to cut back, dozens or even hundreds of airports that rely on regional airlines would be affected. 

But right now they are not concerned.

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