When a major airline needs a pilot to fly planes, they often look to the regional airlines. But when pilots for smaller commuter planes move over to the majors, it’s getting harder to find their replacements.
Since 2013, Yuma, Arizona, a largely agricultural region of about 200,000, has seen airline departures drop more than 50 percent. Now, the only flights out go to Phoenix.
The Yuma to Phoenix route is operated by a regional carrier, just like 42 percent of the nation’s air service. The smaller airlines are being hurt by pilot retirements and the expansions of bigger carriers. Recent studies predict a shortage of more than 14,000 pilots by 2026.