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Rural Air Service Recommendations Delivered to Capitol Hill
Pierre, S.D. –Resolve the nationwide pilot shortage and bolster the Essential Air Service program.
That’s the message delivered to members of Congress this week in a report developed by the U.S. DOT Working Group on Improving Air Service to Small Communities. Pierre Mayor Laurie Gill and South Dakota Department of Transportation employee Jack Dokken were appointed to the committee late last year.
Gill and Dokken worked with 23 other industry and government employees from across the nation to find solutions for stabilizing commercial air service in small communities.
“All of us on the working group view commercial air service as a lifeline,” said Mayor Gill. “For small communities, commercial air service isn’t just about convenience and leisure travel, it’s necessary for modern business, accessing advanced medical care, and tapping additional economic development opportunities.”
That’s why Gill and the rest of the working group are strongly urging congress to consider ways to increase the number of commercial pilots and to continue the Essential Air Service program which subsidizes commercial air service to small communities.
“We have a supply and demand issue on our hands,” said Gill. “There aren’t enough pilots to meet commercial air service needs. When there aren’t enough pilots to go around, flights to places like Pierre get eliminated.”
To address the pilot shortage, the working group recommends the Federal Aviation Administration broaden its view of what qualifies as experience worthy of credit hours. The working group believes this might streamline the licensing process and make commercial aviation a more appealing profession.
In the meantime, the Essential Air Service program is keeping commercial air service to small communities afloat. Without the federal subsidy, it is very difficult for airlines to provide affordable commercial air service to small communities.
To access the full working group report, visit cityofpierre.org