Federal regulations that have significantly increased the minimum number of flight hours required for new pilots are costing both airlines and pilots, reports Bloomberg Businessweek.
After a fatal crash of a Continental Express regional flight in 2009, which investigators believed was a consequence of the pilot’s lack of experience, Congress demanded that first officers have at least 1,500 flight hour under their belt.
Prior to the 2010 mandate, commercial pilots were only required to have 250 in-air hours.
Regional airlines have disproportionally suffered from labor shortages and service cuts since the legislation came into effect this past August. One of the leading regional airlines, Republic Airways Holdings (RJET), reported that it plans to stop flying 27 of its 41 Embraer 50-seat jets due to pilot shortages. This decision will reduce the company’s earnings by about $22 million this year.
And pilots who have been able to keep their jobs must now take more money out of their own pockets in order to comply with the federal regulations regarding flight hours. Before a pilot even gets a job, it can cost him or her up to $100,000 to reach the mandatory number of training hours.
With starting salaries for regional pilots dipping as low as $21,000, these monetary burdens have further exacerbated pilot shortages and left many new pilots in debt, reports Bloomberg Businessweek.
In search of higher salaries, some pilots are turning away from regional airlines and taking jobs with the bigger mainline companies.
Adding to the list of regulatory strains, there are new laws requiring additional pilot rest and the industry has a mandatory retirement age of 65.
Wall Street has taken note of the declining regional airline business. Since the start of 2014, shares of Republic have fallen almost 15 percent and SkyWest stock has dropped 19 percent.
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