(Neb)-PenAir COO Tells Airport Authority About Pilot Shortage
SCOTTSBLUFF - When the Western Nebraska Regional Airport Authority Board and the Scottsbluff and Gering city councils last year recommended PenAir be awarded the federal Essential Air Service subsidy for service to Denver, they saw the Alaska-based airline as a big upgrade from Great Lakes Aviation, which suffered from reliability problems caused by a shortage of pilots.
Instead, PenAir has run into the same type of pilot shortage issues. The result has been a reduction in the number of Scottsbluff-Denver flights as well as repeated pilot-related flight cancellations that threaten to leave the Scottsbluff airport short of the passenger total needed to qualify for a million dollars in federal improvement funds instead of just $150,000.
PenAir Chief Operating Officer Dave Hall told the Airport Authority Board Wednesday that the situation has become very challenging since the airline started service in the Midwest last fall and adding Scottsbluff, Kearney, and North Platte.
Hall said PenAir has lost 27 pilots in the last 7-to-9 months, which he called "a pretty significant hit for an airline our size." The challenge since then has been to hire enough fully trained new pilots to restore the original flight schedules. Hall said that since the first of the year, the airline has hire a full time pilot recruiter and added many incentives for pilots, including signing bonuses.
And if a shortage of pilots wasn't bad enough, Hall says PenAir has been short a plane ever since a huge wind storm in Kearney a few weeks ago blew a set of movable stairs 75 feet into the side of one of their aircraft, which is still out of service.
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