Will Potential Pilot Shortage Impact N.E.W. Airports? - WBAY

Will Potential Pilot Shortage Impact N.E.W. Airports?

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Northeast Wiscconsin -

New rules with regard to rest and the training needed by airline pilots may eventually lead to a shortage of those qualified to fly planes. The impact is already being felt by one regional carrier who announced this week it would not be flying as many planes. Regional jets are the majority of the planes that fly in and out of Austin Straubel and Outagamie County Regional airports.

The airline industry recently enacted new rules and regulations for the number of hours flight crews need to rest. That, coupled with a 1500 hour flight time requirement for new pilots has become a challenge for some airlines.

Tom Miller, the Director of Austin Straubel International Airport, says, "Because of that, the airlines aren't flying those hours so they need more pilots and what's happening is as these crew time regulations went into effect they needed to hire more pilots."

Some airlines are finding it hard to fill those openings and that's why some are choosing to discontinue small regional jet service into some airports.

Says Miller, "There's a concern, I'll say nationally, that there could have an impact at smaller airports where they are served solely by the smaller regional jets."

Regional jets make up most of the planes that fly into the two northeast Wisconsin airports. Officials at both airports tell us they've heard nothing about cutbacks from their carriers. In fact, Austin Straubel and Outagamie County Regional both say passenger demand is up.

"We've had no news from our carriers of any pilot shortages," says Pat Tracey from Outagamie County Regional Airport. "And in fact the opposite, United just added two new flights today into Appleton and also added larger aircraft on our first flight out and last flight in."

And while officials at the two local airports can't predict the future, there doesn't seem to be any immediate concern that flights might be cut. That's because there's a belief airlines will put planes where they can make money and with jets at or near capacity now there is plenty of need ahead.

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