RACCA warns of air cargo delays from looming pilot shortage

Americans can expect delivery disruptions in the coming months unless steps are taken to address a growing pilot shortage, according to a recent study conducted by the Regional Air Cargo Carriers Association (RACCA) on behalf of FedEx, UPS and DHL.

The report found that carriers connecting small-town America to large package delivery hubs, located in Memphis, Cincinnati, Atlanta and Fort Lauderdale, are being forced to downsize due to a lack of pilots. RACCA members reported being forced to abandon routes, furlough employees and ultimately sacrifice revenues for lack of pilots.

RACCA Board Chair Tim Komberec expressed frustration that members could not, “find the pilots to accommodate that growth,” but remained optimistic because, “the good news is demand is out there.”

According to RACCA, the problem stems from congressionally mandated pilot requirements that became effective in 2013 in response to the crash of Continental Flight 3407 near Buffalo in 2009. The new regulations raised the number of hours required before a pilot can fly in the right seat of an airliner to 1,500 – a six-fold increase – making newer pilots ineligible. Prior to the amendment, pilots were only required to to hold just a commercial certificate, requiring 250 hours of flight time.

While the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration said they oppose the new requirements, the U.S. Congress must act first to change the rule. The Air Line Pilots Association International (ALPA), the world’s largest pilots’ union, takes a different stance, arguing that the regulations keep make commercial aviation safer. The ALPA argues that low pay is deterring potential pilots.

Changes may be afoot, however, thanks to an amendment introduced by Sen. Mike Rounds last month that would allow pilots to use their training flights at the airline as credit toward the 1,500-hour goal.

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