Pilot shortage could affect passengers

The Government Accountability Office released a report Friday saying up to 4,500 pilots a year are needed through the next decade.
BAKERSFIELD, CA- The Government Accountability Office released a report Friday saying up to 4,500 pilots a year are needed through the next decade.

In 2007 Congress thought a solution was to raise the mandatory retirement age for pilots to age 65 but aviation analysts believe that has only delayed the shortage problem.

Ryan Crowl is the vice president of flight operations for the Bakersfield Jet Center. He feels there is a disconnect between the younger generation and aviation causing less interest in becoming a pilot.

"You don't have the kid hanging over the airport fence watching airplanes take off and land anymore cause you can't," Crowl said.

Though there is a need for commercial pilots the cost of getting a license is on the rise. Crowl estimates a starter license costs at least $10,000 and says pilot's salaries are on the decline.

"So a senior captain in the mid-nineties for an airline might have been making $300,000, is making half that (currently) if they're lucky," Crowl said.

There is also demand for aircraft support staff especially mechanics.

"Mechanics will probably affect us before pilots do," Crowl said. "That is a little more surprising to me. There is not as big a barrier to entry into that field and they're decent paying jobs."

Crowl thinks if the aviation labor shortage isn't fixed soon passengers could suffer.

"Those that are going to be affected are the regional airlines which serve airports like Bakersfield," Crowl said. "Regional airlines across the country have already started to pull back from routes and destinations because they can't staff it."

Republican Congressman John Mica from Florida requested the investigation by the GOA and said that he does not think Congress needs to intervene to increase the number of pilots eligible for employment.
 
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