Airlines facing pilot shortage, flight school leaders say

October 7, 2009

There is no doubt that airlines are facing a critical pilot shortage in the short term. That was the message that came out of a meeting this week at Delta Connection Academy in Sanford, Fla., attended by leaders of some of the country’s best flight schools, regional airlines, and financial and regulatory agencies.

“Are the airlines prepared to admit there will be a pilot shortage,” asked Captain Mark Libretto, a pilot with JetBlue Airlines and graduate of Delta Connection Academy. Libretto, like others, said he believes that airlines must act now to ensure they will be able to hire the caliber of pilots needed in the future.

The participants also discussed industry-changing events, such as the fatal crash of Colgan Flight 3407 in Buffalo, N.Y., earlier this year. Among the many problems, everyone agreed that training was an issue. “You can go through training, not meet the standard, and still pass,” said Gabe Bruno, a retired FAA Flight Standards District Office manager. Captain Dave Bushy with Cape Air said that professionalism and foundational learning were to blame for the Buffalo accident.

The meeting was the first held at Delta Connection Academy, and while participants weren’t expecting to come to any conclusions on how to fix issues such as the financial needs of students entering training, all agreed it was a good way to get the dialogue started. Delta Connection Academy Vice President of Operations and Maintenance John O’Brien established task leaders to further review the outcomes and continue the action moving forward.