Worldwide pilot shortage impacts La Crosse Regional Airport

There is an aircraft pilot shortage worldwide and it’s already impacting the La Crosse Regional Airport.

Local representatives met with airport officials on Monday to find new ways to answer the need for new pilots.

“It’s really a perfect storm is what has happened,” said airport director Clinton Torp. “The national pilot shortage really affects everybody from the ground up.”

He said the mandatory retirement age for a pilot is 65 and 50 percent of pilots are from the baby boomer generation.

He said there are not enough new pilots ready to fill the gap left by the retired ones.

“On top of that there were some regulatory requirements that were put into place to increase the amount of flight time a pilot needs to operate a commercial airliner from 250 hours to 1,500 hours,” Torp said.

Kelly Colgan is the president of Colgan Air.

“We manage corporate business jets for local companies in the area,” Colgan said.

Even though private aircraft companies don’t require the same training, she said there are not enough people pursuing aviation.

“When you can’t find quality individuals that obviously makes it challenging to operate a safe flight department,” Colgan said.

Boeing estimates that aviation worldwide will need 790,000 new pilots by 2037 to meet growing demand.

Colgan said the path to a pilot’s license isn’t easy.

“It’s expensive and very time consuming and almost comparable to getting a medical degree,” Colgan said.

Torp said the solution is to get the government to loosen training requirements.

“We need to get some regulatory relief on the number of hours that the pilots need, the type of training that counts toward those hours and then we also need to get the youth interested in aviation,” Torp said.