A shortage of pilots after on Aug. 1, US based had to comply with the new Airline Safety and FAA Extension Act, which lengthened the time for pilots and co-pilots to earn their ATP flight school certification.
The law raised the minimum requirement of flight hours for pilots from 250 to 1,500 hours of flight time before being hired by an airline.
This new law ultimately caused a shortage in pilots at every level and this effect is being felt at GLA and the airport, leaving customers unhappy with their services.
Great Lakes Airlines has canceled nearly two dozen flights out of Scottsbluff over the past few months, and Western Nebraska Regional Airport officials are looking for a solution.
WNRA Director Darwin Skelton said the airport is aware of the cancellations and is worried that the airport might not reach a target of 10,000 annual boarding numbers by the end of the year in order to receive federal funding for the airport. Failure to reach the threshold could cost the airport $850,000 in federal funding.
In October there were 22 canceled flights. The airport operated 120 flights with 796 passengers. There have been nine canceled flights in November as of Nov. 9. WNRA Chairman Don Overman said GLA works hard when there are issues to re-accommodate passengers on other airlines and flights at the airport.
Total boarding numbers this year with GLA through the end of October are 8,035 plus 176 on charter flights. Skelton said continued cancellations could leave the airport short of the boarding goal.
In October there were 22 canceled flights. The airport operated 120 flights with 796 passengers. There have been nine canceled flights in November as of Nov. 9. WNRA Chairman Don Overman said GLA works hard when there are issues to re-book passengers on other airlines and flights at the airport.
“The staff works very hard at Great Lakes,” Overman said. “They are customer friendly and they know the problem and they can’t control it, but they sure do the best for the customer that they can.”
Overman said he is very concerned about the GLA cancellations, but the shortage of pilots is due to the trickle down affect with pilots choosing to take jobs with larger airlines, causing the shortage. Overman added that even the military is having a hard time keeping pilots since they can make more money at major airlines as a captain. In October, GLA lost an estimated 12 pilots.
“We have been in contact with the top executives of Great Lakes and they well know our concern,” Overman said. “I think they’re are as frustrated or more so maybe than we are because they can’t do anything about it when a pilot quits.”
Skelton said he didn’t want to cause any concern for passengers who have booked future flights with GLA out of th airport, but it is an issue that officials want to resolve soon.
“I don’t want anybody worried that Great Lakes is going to pack up and go away because that’s not going to happen either,” Skelton said. “They’ve got some issues they’re working through and they’ve got to fix, we agree, but they will be here tomorrow.” Skelton said.