The regional air cargo industry enjoys healthy demand for its services but faces ongoing challenges in recruiting pilots and maintenance technicians to fill available jobs. That was the message this week at the 16th Annual Spring Conference of the Regional Air Cargo Carriers Association (RACCA) in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Of course, that issue is hardly unique to the RACCA membership comprised of companies flying Part 135 and Part 121 cargo operations, and even some passenger service. The association welcomed Capt. Warren Christie, senior vice president for safety, security, and training for JetBlue Airways, to offer attendees perspective on the carrier's approach to the matter.
JetBlue uses seven "gateway" paths for potential pilot candidates, including recruitment from other positions at the carrier to its ab initio program operated in conjunction with training provider CAE. "We all have a vested interest in having pilots fly airplanes, whether you're a supplier, an OEM, or an operator," Christie noted. "This is about ensuring we continue this healthy pipeline we have today, rather than using hope as a strategy."
RACCA president Stan Bernstein hopes regional carriers recognize the potential benefits from adopting a similarly multi-faceted approach to the issue, noting pilots may become captains at RACCA member companies at 1,200 hours, flying turbine aircraft often in a single-pilot environment.
"We like to think RACCA members offer a path to an airline pilot job in perhaps the most experienced way possible, which best prepares the candidate for the job,” he told AIN, adding the association is "hopeful" the FAA will soon allow logging of second-in-command time in aircraft certified for one pilot.
The RACCA conference also included operator sessions with OEMs such as Textron Aviation and Pratt & Whitney Canada, a TSA sensitive security information update, and progress towards regulations governing the use of unmanned cargo aircraft. Retired USAF SR-71 pilot and event keynote speaker Maj. Brian Shul led a separate presentation focused on operational safety practices.
Bernstein reported record attendance for this year's event, with about 360 attendees from across the U.S. and overseas.