May 18 2023
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) and John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.), members of the Senate Commerce Committee, today introduced legislation requiring the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) to issue a report on the extent and effect of the current pilot shortage on regional carriers.
“The ongoing pilot shortage is causing flight cancellations and service reductions across our country, and Essential Air Service airports here in Nebraska are being hit the hardest. Our legislation is a commonsense approach that would help identify more solutions to these challenges so the flying public doesn’t continue to lose access to such an essential mode of transportation,” said Senator Fischer.
“Pilot shortages affect everyone’s air travel, but rural communities are often the first ones to take the hit. This is the first step in improving reliable air service to our smaller airports so local economies can continue to thrive,” said Senator Hickenlooper.
“Western Nebraska Regional Airport is in support of any legislation that would help alleviate the pilot shortage. If Congress doesn’t make this a high priority, communities like mine may lose connectivity to the national air transportation system and that would be detrimental to our local economy, as well as the economies for all EAS cities,” said Western Nebraska Regional Airport Executive Director Raul Aguallo.
The aviation industry has endured a series of challenges over the past few years, with pilot workforce shortages being one of the most common. Currently, there is a lack of data identifying which factors are contributing to this shortage.
The Senators’ legislation would direct the GAO to examine the extent and effect of the pilot shortage on regional carriers and issue a report to Congress outlining the issue. Regional air carriers, including those who offer Essential Air Service (EAS), have cited pilot staffing shortages as the reason for terminating service to select markets.
Last July, Senator Fischer helped introduce legislation raising the mandatory commercial pilot retirement age from 65 to 67. Senator Fischer also questioned Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg at a hearing last year about the importance of EAS to communities across Nebraska.
Click here to view text of the legislation.