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News & Press: Press Releases

REGIONAL AIRLINE ASSOCIATION SUPPORTS DOT’S “FORCES TO FLYERS” INITIATIVE

Thursday, November 16, 2017  

WASHINGTON – (Nov. 16) - Today’s announcement on the Department of Transportation’s “Forces to Flyers” initiative, an innovative research program aimed at supporting the country’s military veterans with airline pilot career preparation and training, marks an important milestone and establishes the DOT as a true partner for smaller communities hit by today’s growing pilot shortage.

Regional airlines are the only remaining source of scheduled, commercial air service at nearly two-thirds of the nation’s airports. Although regional airlines are working hard to attract and support the next generation of aviators, career path barriers and the high cost of training have placed this rewarding career out of reach for many Americans. As a result, too few commercial airline pilots are available to fly all of today’s routes, let alone meet the demands of tomorrow’s air travelers. 

As the regional airline industry contracted under the growing pilot shortage between 2013 and 2016, 156 airports lost at least 20 percent of their departures; 52 airports lost at least half; 29 airports lost at least 75 percent and 18 airports lost all of their commercial air service. The smallest communities have been hardest hit, in turn, contributing to the concerning urbanization of GDP in the United States as the already marked disparity between rural and urban access to air service grows worse. Without intervention, these impacts will deepen further as U.S. major airlines prepare to hire the equivalent of the entire regional airline pilot workforce within the next three years.
 
DOT’s “Forces to Flyers” initiative is particularly apt as both the commercial airline and Defense sectors cope with problematic pilot shortages. As all stakeholders continue to pursue a range of complementary policies aimed at safely resolving the pilot shortage, innovative programs like “Forces to Flyers” can begin to pave a path toward recovery. 

“We applaud Secretary Chao for this initiative and stand ready to support the DOT with its ‘Forces to Flyers’ initiative, a critical first step toward helping a new generation of airline pilots take flight,” said Faye Malarkey Black, RAA president. “As we pursue a range of complementary policy solutions, initiatives like this can help support future pilots and ensure Americans from communities large and small retain access to the safe and reliable commercial air service that links them to the global economy.” 


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