Airlines Ditch Planes Thanks to Pilot Shortage

Airlines Ditch Planes Thanks to Pilot Shortage

( – Something became abundantly clear in 2019 — commercial airline pilots were dwindling in number, and the situation is likely to get worse. Chances are it won’t get better for years, if not decades. Carriers are now scrambling to find ways to continue moving passengers from point A to points B, C, D, and beyond, and some new ideas are coming forward.

The Wheels on the Bus

Both United and American Airlines are looking to put rubber on the road to supplement, or even replace, short flights. However, one needs to have no fear that a Boeing 737 will be trying to merge onto the highway during morning rush hour.

The companies have partnered with Landline Co., a new start-up headquartered in Colorado with a vision to integrate air travel with ground travel and Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checkpoints at locations around the country. The idea is to take a traveler from their door to a company “portal” where agents will do the security screening and then provide a seamless trip to the final destination.

While ingenious, this is likely only to be a feasible solution to replace short flights, for example, from Denver to places like Breckinridge.

So Why the Pilot Shortage?

There are actually several issues that combined to leave the airlines without sufficiently trained warm bodies to staff all the cockpits. For example, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has a 65-year-old mandatory retirement age for pilots to fly commercial airliners.

Additionally, military aviators are traditionally the main source for new, qualified commercial pilots. These men and women have a typical 10 to 20-year experience range and the basic skill set learned from their time in the Air Force or the Navy. They only need to become certified in the particular civilian craft that they will be commanding.

According to a 2019 study by Strada Education Network, the armed forces are also facing pilot shortages, and so they’re being more competitive on the pay scale side of things. That means fewer aviators are retiring from service and are therefore unavailable for civilian positions.

The study also noted that 68% of the current number of pilots are 45 years of age or older, and that limits their time until they are forced to turn in their wings. An ABC News report revealed the United States will lose about 50% of its pilots over the next 15 years.

Then, mathematics, and economic theory, rear their ugly heads to create more pain for the traveling public. If there are too few pilots to transport the number of people who desire to fly, which will cause a shortage in the number of seats available. After that, the theory of supply and demand comes into play, causing fares to increase.

There are so many different pieces to this puzzle, including the cost of schooling for potential pilots who don’t come from the military, that experts don’t see an easy solution to the problem. The general consensus seems to be that it’s going to be a long journey back to well-staffed cockpits and that it may be a painful trip — kind of like the narrow seats passengers have to shoehorn themselves into.

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