America's airlines are going to run out of pilot to fly their planes very soon unless action is taken, experts warn. More than half of American pilots are over 50 and there are not going to be enough qualified candidates to replace the thousands of pilots who will reach the mandatory retirement age of 65 in the near future, the Wall Street Journal reports. Hiring will be further complicated next summer by new federal regulations requiring newly hired pilots to have at least 1,500 hours of flying experience—six times the current requirement.
New rules mandating more rest time for pilots will take effect in 2014, forcing airlines to boost pilot numbers by around 5%. "We are about four years from a solution, but we are only about six months away from a problem," a consultant on pilot-hiring trends warns. The pilot crisis is expected to be the worst since the 1960s, and experts believe the effects will be felt first at small, regional airlines that will have their pilots poached by major carriers. The smaller carriers "will be creative and have to take shortcuts," an aviation safety consultant says.