PILOT SHORTAGE: THE FUTURE OF REGIONAL AVIATION
One of the biggest game changers recently in the regional aviation space is the introduction of the impressive CRJ550 aircraft. Since launching just a few years ago, it’s raised the bar in terms of comfort, space, and amenities for regional travel. But with the pilot shortage keeping many of these aircraft grounded, what’s next for the future of regional aviation?
The demand to get aircraft off the ground and in the air is ever-present. However, the obstacle of the pilot shortage continues to stand in the way. As MHIRJ remains united with industry partners in lobbying for change, we attended the Regional Airline Association meeting in Washington, D.C. While there, we chatted with Rick Leach, President and CEO of GoJet Airlines—a regional carrier for United Airlines. We discussed what’s on the horizon for regional aviation, and what it’s going to take to get there:
POWERING A PREMIUM EXPERIENCE
The CRJ550 aircraft is the only aircraft in its class with premium seating in two thirds of its spacious cabins, as well as first-class food and beverages—all of which has been overwhelmingly well received by the traveling public. For a regional product to rival the amenities of mainline aircraft is a big deal for the industry in that it’s helped change people’s perspective and created new appeal.
“It has amenities for the first-class passenger that are unmatched. It has leg room, and it has the ability to store ample carry-on baggage so people can bring their luggage on, get it there, grab it and go. They're not waiting on the jet bridge. Customers even want to schedule their flights around the 550,” explains Leach.
POWER IN NUMBERS
In order to keep these impressive aircraft in flight, it takes banding together with other industry players to keep the momentum of change in the air. “Our voice is much stronger together,” says Leach, when talking about how leaders of regional carriers have been working alongside MHIRJ and other partners. “We have aircraft that are sitting on the ground because we can't staff them since we don't have the capacity or the pilots with the caliber needed to be in those cockpits.”
However, as much as these pilots are needed, and needed fast, the industry cannot compromise on safety. Pilots still need to undergo rigorous training to ensure safety measures are maintained to the highest degree. What needs to happen from here on is for pilots to aspire to fly with regional airlines as much as their mainline counterparts. The fact that the CRJ500 is one of the highest-rated aircraft in the United fleet does hold weight, “and we're very proud of that for a regional aircraft to have that kind of a recognition,” Leach continues.
With even more growth on the horizon, they are not only trying to get existing aircraft back in the air. They are preparing to add even more to the fleet. This kind of organic growth presents amazing opportunity for airlines and pilots, but closing the gap in the shortage must happen simultaneously in order for it to succeed.
Stay tuned to WINGSPAN for even more developments in the pilot shortage and the changes that we are helping to leverage together.