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Sat, Dec 10, 2022

Regional Airline Association Looks Back on 2022

76% of Regional Airports Lost Service Amid Worsening Pilot Shortage

The RAA has published its yearly report, providing stakeholders a comprehensive image of the regional airline market, and worrying things to come. 

A number of difficulties have beset the industry, from a long-awaited pilot shortage to a roiling inflation problem, all hitting a resurgent aviation industry gaining its footing after an extended pandemic response. Today, more than half of ATP-qualified pilots lie within 15 years of mandatory retirement, bumping up what used to be a "First Officer shortage" into a "Captain shortage", too. Increased flight time requirements put into place in 2009 continue to provide extensive job security to those experienced enough to qualify, but a continuing shortage of young, up-and-coming pilots has only gotten worse, from one crisis to another. 

Today, the majority of American airports receive their sole air carrier service from regional airlines, rising to 67.2% in 2022, from 63% in 2018. The increase coincides with a decline in overall connectivity throughout the country, with 76% of all US cities seeing a decline in the level of service compared to 3 years prior. Smaller communities lost an average of 1 in every 3 flights, meaning small communities face long layovers, slower air ambulance service, and decreased shipping capacity. "People from all walks of life are forced to drive hours to a city with air service because there are too few pilots to take them by air," said Faye Malarkey Black, CEO of the RAA. "Talented, aspiring pilots, without $200,000 to finance flight training, cannot enter the career because student loans are not geared to provide equitable access to aviation careers."

And that's just one crisis among many. This year's RAA report carries the distinct air of alarm, an industry seeing its foundations shaken on a dozen fronts as it pleads for help. Black hopes that they can bring some eyes to these issues and stem the tide while they're still small enough to solve. 

"We are relentless in our fight to advance safety-centered policy solutions to open aviation careers to people from all walks of life, and to protect and rebuild air service to small and medium-sized communities. We need the full participation of our community, more than ever. We must each reach out to policymakers and urge reasonable, safety-centered solutions to the needless barriers to entry—financial and otherwise—barring the career for most Americans. We must hold our policymakers accountable for the air service collapse that is unfolding on their watch."

FMI: www.raa.org

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