Air Transport World

Reducing the pain of pilot turnover. (small carriers)

Reducing the pain of pilot turnover

While the pilot retention problem the commuter /regional carriers have had for the past few years has not yet been resolved, it has started getting a lot of attention and something is finally being done about it.

An estimated 9,000 new pilots will be hired during 1987. According to the Future Aviation Professionals of America (FAPA), up to 52,000 will be needed during the next decade. This comes at a time when the military is supplying fewer pilots to the commercial industry.

With the major carriers hiring more pilots and the military feeding less pilots to them, the prime grazing ground has been the smaller carriers. The 9,000 new hire figure actually counts many pilots twice, once when they are hired by a regional carrier and once when they are hired by a major carrier. Although the regional carriers have been hiring pilots at the rate of approximately 3,000 per year since 1984, the total number of pilots (between 5,500 and 6,000) has remained constant, FAPA said. That means that a lot of money is being spent to train pilots who are here today, gone tomorrow. It also means that the large surplus of available pilots is quickly moving into the deficit column.

However, relief is now starting to find its way to the regionals in three areas-- source, training costs and retention.

Surplus vs. non-surplus

It used to be that any airline that was hiring could stand on any street corner, wave some money in the air and literally have hundreds of applicants for each available slot. And these were high-quality pilots--former military pilots and civilian flight instructors. Not so anymore.

"Actually, there really isn't a pilot shortage,' according to Scott Ketcher, Eastern's operations coordinator for Pilot Entry Program. "There are still a lot of pilots out there. The problem is the shortage in well-trained pilots.'

Because of this, Eastern has established a joint relationship with Miami Dade Community College (MDCC) to provide ab initio training that will take a student from ground zero to a Commercial Multi-Engine Instrument rating. Under this new program, a student will spend almost three years at MDCC earning an Associate Science degree in Aviation Transportation, the Commercial Pilot rating, and 85 credit hours toward a Bachelor's degree. Under the program the student will spend approximately $15,000, of which almost three quarters is the cost of the flight training. …

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