Air Transport World

Pilot attrition taxes company resources as regionals struggle to keep up. (air lines)

Pilot attrition taxes company resources as regionals struggle to keep up There's a parasite feeding on the lifeblood of the nation's commuer/regional airlines--the larger major and national carriers. Due primarily to the major/national airlines' hiring binge, commuter and regional carriers in 1985 placed 3,046 new hires in their aircraft cockpits, according to Future Aviation Professionals of America. The attrition rate for pilots exceeded 60% at many of these short-haul airlines, and was nearly 50% industry-wide.

With these numbers in mind, what, if anything, can small carriers do to protect their investments in time and training? Can anything stem the tide of pilots going from small to large airlines? Indeed, will this problem even exist next year, given the speed with which things are changing in the industry?

Addressing the last question first, in 1985 large, jet-operating airlines hired 7,872 pilots, according to FAPA. The 1985 figures better the previous year's by about 33%; 1983 hirings amounted to only about one-third of last year's.

Building flying time

Nearly one-third of these new hires came from the ranks of the short-haul airlines. Most of the balance of the major/national carriers' new pilots came from corporate flight departments, with the minority coming from military backgrounds.

It's easy to see the root of the short-haul airlines' pilot attrition problem. Pilots land jobs with commuter/regionsl in order to build flying time before making the jump from turboprops to turbofans, attracted by the supposed glamour and money attached to a job in a jet transport's cockpit.

FAPA expects the major and national airlines to hire between 6,000 and 8,000 more pilots this year. …

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