LAS VEGAS (KSNV News3LV) — This past March was the busiest month on record at McCarran International Airport. As tourism flourishes in Las Vegas, dwindling pilot numbers have airlines taking precautions.
The state is short about 200 pilots according to the Governor’s office of Economic Development data, but the valley needs them to keep up with demand.
“I'm afraid over the next couple years we're going to continue to see cuts until we can get more people in the pipeline to fly airplanes again,” said Mulder.
Mulder says part of the problem is a wave of retiring pilots. Pilots can only fly until the age of 65 before they must retire. Another driving factor pilots must have 1500 flight hours to fly commercially. Mandated flight hours changed in 2013, prior to that pilots were required to fly 250 hours. The measure was taken to improve flight safety and security.
As bigger airlines seek to fill their cockpits -- smaller airlines may feel a crunch.
Allegiant Airlines Eric Gust said they have yet to see a pilot shortage, but already have plans in place to fill any void. Allegiant set up flow through agreements with local airlines like Scenic, Grand Canyon, and Ameri-Flight. If necessary, qualified pilots from those airlines could fill vacant spots.
“We're still going to see the impacts for several years until we can catch up and really it's going to take quite a recruiting effort,” said Mulder.
And as airlines try to keep the industry up and moving scooping up resources might mean competing with other industries as well.
"I know the military itself is trying to retain the pilots as well because they are concerned with them leaving."