Pilot Shortage Threatens FedEx, UPS, DHL - Global Trade Magazine
  May 27th, 2016 | Written by

Pilot Shortage Threatens FedEx, UPS, DHL

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  • Airlines that connect small-town America to package hubs have been forced to downsize for lack of pilots.
  • “Millions of Americans are not going to get their online purchases delivered to their front door.”
  • Airlines have opportunities for growth but can’t find the pilots to accommodate that growth.

A growing pilot shortage is disrupting small package delivery services in hubs at Atlanta, Memphis, Cincinnati, and Fort Lauderdale of Fed Ex, UPS and DHL carried out by members of the Regional Air Cargo Carriers Association (RACCA) on behalf.

These airlines, which connect small-town America to the large package delivery hubs have been forced to downsize for lack of pilots. RACCA members who serve all three giant small-package-delivery airlines, report being forced to abandon routes, furlough dozens of employees, and forego millions of dollars in revenues because of the pilot shortage.

“Millions of Americans are not going to get their online purchases delivered to their front door if the situation does not improve,” said RACCA President Stan Bernstein. “Everyone is talking about pilot shortages at the passenger airlines and all the communities that are losing service but they are going to be surprised when what they ordered online isn’t delivered in a timely manner. The issue also has an immediate impact on manufacturing as well as medical testing and devices which our members have as part of their mission.”

“We have talked to a lot of companies and there is one over-riding comment,” RACCA Board Chair Tim Komberec said. “They have a lot of opportunities for growth but can’t find the pilots to accommodate that growth. The good news is demand is out there.”

At the heart of the problem, according to RACCA, are congressionally-mandated pilot requirements that became effective in 2013, which tightened the pilot supply by increasing the number of hours required before a pilot can fly in the right seat of an airliner. Despite the fact that the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration oppose the new 1500-hour requirements, it will take an act of Congress to change the rule.

RACCA members indicated they are woefully short of pilot staffing requirements and will need hundreds of pilots within the next year because they expect to lose two thirds to attrition during that time. That means airlines can only keep up with current services leaving the many growth opportunities offered by small-package carriers on the table.

The new rule, the escalating costs of flight training and the disruption in the airline industry since 2000 has compounded the situation, according to a recent Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association survey of student pilots. That study found that only 29 percent of new pilots intended to pursue a career in aviation.

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