It has been said for some time now that the new law that increases the number of hours a person has to fly before they can be hired as an airline pilot is going to cause major disruptions for the airlines and it is happening now with the smaller regional airlines causing flight cancellations and some routes being chopped.
A spokeswoman for the Cheyenne-based regional airline Great Lakes said the new law, which went into effect Aug. 1, has made it harder for Great Lakes and other regional airlines to hire and retain pilots.
Speaking to the Cheyenne Regional Airport Board on Wednesday morning, Great Lakes spokeswoman Monica Taylor-Lee said the law has forced the airline to drop 30 pilots who hadn't yet accumulated enough flight time.
"We did start planning in advance and only would hire guys we thought would definitely have the 1,500 hours by Aug. 1," Taylor-Lee said. "Unfortunately, they were somewhere between 1,450 and 1,499, and July 31 didn't matter. If they were one hour short, they could no longer fly for Great Lakes, even though they'd been doing it for a year."
Most of those are now attempting to hit 1,500 hours on their own so they can be hired back on, and a few already have been. But as of Wednesday, Great Lakes is still 15 pilots short and is now seeing higher-than-normal attrition as larger airlines attempt to meet the same requirements.
"All the majors are trying to grab all the guys that have at least 1,500 hours, and they always pick out of the pot of Great Lakes because we have a great training program," Taylor-Lee said. "So we are experiencing a pretty severe pilot shortage at the moment."
"We're hoping that the majors will increase their requirements for number of hours ... and (stop) taking all the 1,500-hour guys off the street, which are the guys we need now too," she said.
Great Lakes is the largest regional carrier in the Essential Air Service program, a federal program that provides small towns across the country with connections to a regional hub airport. In other words, a large portion of Great Lakes' flights are to and from small towns that other larger airlines refuse to serve.
And Great Lakes isn't the only regional airline concerned by the new flight-time requirement for pilots. Kelly Murphy, the communications manager for the Regional Airline Association, said regional airlines across the country have cause for concern.
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